Tips for hacking into the cybersecurity industry

Looking to learn about what it takes to break into the cybersecurity field? Look no further - Candice MacDonnell has a good story to share from Fortreum.

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Tips for hacking into the cybersecurity industry

If you have hopes of becoming an analyst, SOC defender, or penetration tester you’ve probably heard horror stories about how impossible it is to land your dream job in cybersecurity. While it’s definitely hard to find entry-level positions, THERE IS HOPE! As an adult who went back to college after having children, it was super intimidating applying for jobs in sectors I’d never worked in. I knew I didn’t want to start in Tier 1 (which is a great pathway for many people, and worth considering). I’ve always been a little stubborn and was determined to find a junior penetration testing role even if it meant a LOT of hard work on my part.

Figure out your career path

Cybersecurity is a HUGE field. There are different sectors (application, cloud, network, endpoint, data, etc.) and many different roles. Do you want a customer-facing role? A business/management position? Or are you a techie like me who wants to work in small group settings behind the scenes? It’s OK to be undecided — but researching the different areas can give you a better understanding of potential jobs, day-to-day work environments, and hiring pathways.

Be Bold

Most job postings will ask for 500 working skills, a pile of certifications, and years of experience. While having these things would be amazing, a good percentage of these jobs don’t require everything listed in the description. Look for jobs where you have a good portion of them (50% or more) and go for it! The worst that they can say is ‘No thanks,’ but you may be more competitive than you think.

Being a woman is a strength, not a weakness

While more and more roles in STEM fields are being filled by women, many computer science positions are far behind the curve. Just because you’re a woman doesn’t mean you can’t be a software engineer, penetration tester, or analyst. Consider what you really want to accomplish in your career and go for it. Let’s pave the way for others to follow in our footsteps and show them that it’s no longer a boys-only club.

Fill in the gaps in your education or experience

If you are applying to jobs and notice a certain skillset keeps showing up, take an afternoon and complete a LinkedIn learn or Udemy course on the topic. You may not end up an expert, but you’ll be familiar enough with it to show potential employers that you understand the concepts and are willing to learn new skills. Most jobs in cyber will require continuous learning since technology and attacks are constantly evolving, so having a natural curiosity and willingness to learn is very important.

Get help with your resume

There are tons of services available to help create a professional resume. If you’re a veteran or military spouse check out, a free service that will connect you with a specialist who can help curate your current resume to be more streamlined and suited for the roles you’re applying for. Other paid services exist that cost less than $100 and are well worth the investment. 

Learn about keywords

Before you apply, carefully read the description and desired skills. Look at your resume and see if you can change any words to match the posting (but remain truthful!). Highlight the experience you have in the areas that the job posting focuses on and cut out irrelevant fluff.

Get on LinkedIn

Be sure to also update your LinkedIn profile, getting rid of irrelevant information and focusing on experiences that can translate to your new career. I had never worked in an IT job but made sure my prior work experience highlighted skills like problem-solving, customer service skills, and technical writing. Update any certifications, courses, and relevant education you might have that will help show off your abilities. I ended up finding my job via LinkedIn – more and more companies are using it to recruit talent.

Research your goal career and be prepared for interview questions

Interviewing for a technical role? Be prepared to walk an interviewer through a process and explain in detail the tools and methods you’d use. If you’re looking at a position more customer-facing, have plenty of success stories from prior interactions. Be current with industry news and know the tools and topics important to the jobs you are applying for.


The most important part is to BE CONFIDENT! Prepare as much as possible before interviews and learn key skills so well that you could do them in your sleep. A hiring manager will usually be able to tell after asking a few questions if you really understand concepts or are just trying to fudge your way through an interview. If you end up getting a rejection email, thank them for their time and move on. With today’s digital hiring process, it’s not uncommon to apply to TONS of jobs and only hear back from a small percentage. Don’t take it personally and know that the right opportunity IS out there!