How to gain experience without a Job

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Cybersecurity is one of the most in demand fields of the 20th century, with over $6 trillion dollars expected to be spent globally by 2021. In addition to that approximately 1.8 million cybersecurity jobs are expected to go unfilled in 2022 due to lack of skilled labour. However, there is a catch. Cybersecurity is a very technical field, it requires a solid understanding of IT systems, network protocols, legal requirements, coding, security related technologies and more. If you’ve tried to find an entry level position you may already know this, but most positions require at least 3-5 years of experience. If you want to take advantage of this market, you’re going to have to be creative in ways to find relevant experience, which will enable you to get your foot in the door and take advantage of unsatisfied market:

1) Internships, Coops and New Grad Programs

If you’re in high school, university or recently graduated internships can be a great way to get relevant work experience and build contacts that can help you get into the field. Many schools offer coops programs, where part of your program involves working so you can make some money and get work experience at the same time. The competition for these positions won’t be as fierce since you’re only competing against people in your same stage of education. Also, many schools will place you, so you are guaranteed to get some experience. 

2) Blog, Podcasts and Online Portfolios

These are great ways to showcase your knowledge of the industry and build an online presence and authority within the field. If you like to write, use platforms like Squarespace, WordPress or Wix to create a blog and write your ideas. If you prefer to talk, start a podcast and talk or do tutorials on new technologies to teach other people. This will force you to learn and showcase your knowledge to potential employers or clients at the same time. Online portfolios include things like writing code and posting it to Github to showcase programming ability or using websites like hack the box or vulnhub to showcase your hacking ability. The idea here is you want to have tangible things to prove your value, the less talking you have to do to convince someone the better.

3) Certifications

Many people think certifications are not a valuable asset and don’t prove you to be an expert. While I don’t think a certification proves expertise it does show a few things, firstly it establishes a baseline level of knowledge, especially very technical certifications. Secondly, it gives people assurance because someone outside of yourself is vouching for your proficiency in an area, which has definitely helped me. Thirdly, it shows people that you’re willing to invest in yourself and that you take your career and future seriously. Which is very important when recruiters and employers are trying to evaluate who you are. For an entry level person I would suggest security+ it covers a wide range of topics and has no experience requirement.

4) Volunteer

I would suggest caution when using this option because you don’t want to get into the habit of working without getting paid, but when done correctly this can definitely be a good long term investment. I would suggest if you can’t find paid work to do, reach out to places like charities and volunteer to help them with their tech issues. Many charities don’t have a big budget to hire qualified people and they will be willing to have someone come in and help out, also if you choose a charity you really believe in you get to make a positive impact on other people and hopefully the community overall. 

The key here is you need to be creative, if you want to get into this field or any field you need to start as soon as possible. Don’t wait for someone to hire before you begin your career, start showing value, start making yourself an expert and you will find success. There’s more than enough jobs to go around in this field.