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Cybersecurity, privacy, and risk is an exciting, essential field that is immensely rewarding and pays awesome. You don’t need to a computer science major to work in this blossoming field (although we love computer science majors, too!). No matter your passion, there is a place for you in the industry.
Mentorship is one of the best ways to establish and grow your career. Here’s how to find someone to take you under their wing.
There is a place for you in cyber…and privacy…and risk
No matter your talents or interests, there is a career for you in cybersecurity. The field is way more than computer science – we need people who are experts in communications, business, science, and pretty much every other subject area because a diversity of skills is highly valued by the industry. Having people from more diverse backgrounds helps us solve some very complex problems.
Cyber careers are fulfilling and pay great – plus, there is a massive demand for qualified workers right now! There are currently millions of unfilled jobs globally and the field is growing exponentially every year. If you haven’t thought about working in cybersecurity, you should! Many people working in security find it personally very rewarding to know they’re fighting global cybercrime and protecting their organizations.
Not sure where to start? Finding a mentor can help you decide if a career in security, privacy or risk is for you. And a mentee/mentor relationship is an awesome way to start your networking journey.
A mentor can kickstart your career’s engine
Ignite your skills
1. Technical skills
If you are trying to break into the technical side of cybersecurity, a mentor can help you understand what technical skills you should focus on and give feedback. While you shouldn’t expect a mentor to give you an in-depth education or give intense feedback on your projects, it isn’t out of the question for a mentor to give you some context on which skills are needed most for the different disciplines in security.
2. Soft skills
Cybersecurity is way more than knowing tools and technology. No matter what jobs you apply for, you will have to show off “soft skills” like communicating effectively, taking feedback, and problem solving. A quality mentor can help you understand what soft skills you’ll use the most in your chosen field, and they can provide feedback to prep you for the workplace.
3. Professional skills
A subset of professional skills involves knowing how to act when you’re hired. Professional etiquette in many cyber workplaces includes writing succinct emails, responding to questions in a timely manner, time management, and public speaking. A mentor can help you understand what will be expected of you.
Examine your career path
A mentor will help you understand what sort of jobs you should focus on, and how to build a career over the years. A great mentor will help you think about your career goals five and 10 years into the future, as well as what you should do in the next six months or a year.
Expand your network
While a mentor cannot guarantee you introductions or a job at a specific company, they can help you expand your professional network. Maybe they can send an introductory email to a colleague, or they have contact information for a potential employer in their network. A mentor can also help you get your own fledging network growing.
Where to find your mentor
First look for mentors in your professional and personal network. This includes professors, family members, and friends, as well as coworkers and managers, both past and present. Understand that a person doesn’t owe you mentorship, but people are generally open to helping the next generation get started in cyber. Having a preexisting relationship makes the mentorship process much smoother to start.
If you don’t know anyone who works in cybersecurity, look online. Search for executives at companies you respect — you can probably find some contact information online. Also, leverage social media. Don’t just friend or follow randomly. Start conversations and engage with posts. When you find someone you think will be a great mentor, shoot an instant message, or email. All they can do is refuse or not respond.
If you want to find a mentor in cyber and you’re having trouble, let us know! We have initiatives specifically tailored for mentee/mentor relationships.
What to look for in a mentor
Beyond an attitude of openness and patience, there are several factors you want to consider when evaluating who you want to be your mentor.
Has enough experience
First and foremost, you want a mentor who actually has experience. Getting mentored by an entry level worker who was hired in cybersecurity six months ago will not be very informative. While mentors don’t need to be CEOs or have decades of experience, you want someone who has worked in the field for at least a few years. You want someone who has wisdom and experience to share.
Related to your goals
Base your mentor search on your career goals. If you want to go into the technical side of cybersecurity, a marketing exec might not be the best match for you. Ensure that a potential mentor match has experience like your ultimate career goals.
While some mentorships are structured and formal, the majority will be free form. You want to be flexible and want a mentor with flexibility. Maybe you go into the mentorship thinking you want one type of job, but then discover a related career that sparks your passion – a great mentor will be able to evolve with you or pass you off to someone with related experience. Both of you should understand that schedules can change suddenly, too. Remember that your mentor is a volunteer who likely has a full-time job that is demanding, as well as other commitments.
What to know about mentorships
As you embark on your mentorship journey, there are some factors about this sort of relationship you should be clear-eyed about:
- Mentorship does not equal a job placement program
- You can seek out mentors no matter your age or career level
- Mentorships can be informal and agenda-less
- You can have more than one mentor
- Mentorships aren’t forever (although some can span decades)
- Your mentor has responsibilities – respect their time