We recently spoke with Trent Rhodes, a career coach manager with tech education provider Fullstack Academy, about how to brand yourself when looking to enter or level-up in the cybersecurity industry.
Amid America’s “Great Resignation,” workers are quitting their jobs and considering career changes at an incredible rate. Nearly 9 out of 10 company execs say they’re seeing higher than usual turnover. And 50% of U.S. workers intend to make a career change, according to an Oct. 2021 report conducted by Harris Poll. Fullstack Academy has seen this firsthand, as many of its students are career changers looking for a flexible way to learn new tech skills.
Check out these insights and tips from Trent:
As career coach at Fullstack Academy, what is the number one challenge cybersecurity graduates face when searching for a job?
The main challenge tends to be internal rather than external: developing confidence transitioning into a new industry. The program technicalities and requirements are straightforward. The certifications to acquire are known. The hard skills are explicit.
What isn’t so clear is how the job search will develop, who that right contact will be, if they feel good enough to apply for the job when it comes, how well they’ll perform on the interview, which company will make the offer, etc. This deals directly with the alum’s mindset.
What does it mean to brand yourself and why is it important when making a career change?
Branding for individuals is similar to company branding; it’s an activity that cultivates a reputation, being known or associated with something and building relationships centered around it.
Before a professional commits to a new line of work, their reputation already exists. If the individual excelled as a sales manager for the last seven years, it’s likely their existing relationships acknowledge this. Colleagues, friends and peers associate the career changer with their former work life, including all of the skills and accomplishments that entails.
Making a career change asks a professional to take charge of realigning their skills and abilities within a new career frame. Doing so will take work to also convey this shift to those who are already familiar with their previous profession(s) and confidence to connect with new people about competence in their new career.
We’re in an advantageous time where we have access to platforms that can serve as our personal media resources. Using these tools wisely, we can more effectively direct our reputation and re-establish relationships in our chosen self-image.
When we actively take part in this process, we also help recruiters and employers who are trying to find us, whether through search engines or social media or events, by signaling our strengths, contributions and how we can be assets within an organization.
What should someone seeking a job in cybersecurity have in their portfolio?
It’s important to first understand the purpose of a portfolio. While a resume’s role is to secure an interview, a portfolio’s role is to show your value and relevant experience through a body of work. This can be presented on a website or in a document, similar to a detailed CV. For those who have neither, LinkedIn can act as their first portfolio. If the portfolio is a website, provide a downloadable PDF.
As for what to include in the portfolio, an “about” section will help the viewer understand your purpose, or your reasoning for investing time and effort in this industry. It can be personable, explained as if speaking to someone directly in the first person. This is also a valuable opportunity to share your written elevator pitch.
A “project section” is vital, as it is where you share your work or demonstrate your skills. This section can also include events and hackathons you have participated in.
Be detailed about the who, what, where, when and why for these experiences. Because online portfolios act as passive branding tools, they are going to work for or against you when you’re not around. Give your best effort to make this a quality section. The details give attention to your thought process, problem assessment, learning and problem-solving capabilities.
Lastly, a “contact section” will help visitors know how to message you should they want to connect further.
Why are transferable skills so important, particularly to the cybersecurity industry?
Their transferability makes them valuable across industries and roles. For cybersecurity career changers, carrying transferable skills into the industry is inherent in their experience.
Whether your previous career was in accounting, administration, finance, sales or engineering, the time invested in past roles likely helped you develop skills and character strengths that are applicable to work in cybersecurity.
Because cybersecurity involves deep work in analysis, foresight, reflection, pattern recognition, and conveying relevant information within team settings, any experiences that strengthen communication skills and critical, agile thinking are particularly appreciated.
How do you recommend career changers identify and convey their transferable skills?