Making the shift from IT support to cybersecurity can seem daunting, but is an incredibly promising career move. With massive talent shortages in the cybersecurity industry, it has been predicted there will be around 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs globally by 2021.
If you have existing technical experience in IT support and a passion for security, you already have a strong foundation. Using the right strategies to skill up and position yourself can set you on the path to an exciting and stable career in cybersecurity.
This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know, including:
- Assessing your existing skills and interests
- Bridging knowledge gaps with education and hands-on experience
- Networking and making professional connections
- Tailoring your resume and highlighting transferable skills
- Searching for the right entry level roles
Let’s get started!
1. Assess Your Skills and Interests
First, take stock of your current skill set and analyze how they align with typical cybersecurity role requirements. This will help you understand your strengths to leverage, as well as areas needing development.
Most IT support positions require basic competencies that form the building blocks for cybersecurity expertise, like:
- Networking concepts
- Operating systems knowledge
- Hardware and infrastructure troubleshooting
Evaluate your level of proficiency with these, as stronger existing competencies can accelerate your transition. For skills needing improvement, create a learning plan to brush up knowledge gaps.
While technical aptitude is essential for cybersecurity, you also need diverse soft skills like:
- Analytical ability and problem solving: Identify threats and vulnerabilities based on system evidence.
- Communication skills: Clearly explain cyber risks and solutions to technical and non-technical stakeholders.
These translate well from IT support and are highly valued in the cybersecurity field.
Passion for Security
Given the complex and rapidly evolving nature of cybersecurity, having a genuine strong interest is vital for keeping up with new developments and being motivated to continually learn and improve.
If understanding threats, safeguarding systems and out-smarting hackers excites you, that innate passion will fuel your career growth and success.
2. Bridge the Knowledge Gap
Next, identify knowledge and experience gaps you need to fill between your current IT support role and aimed cybersecurity position. A blend of security-focused formal education, self-directed learning and hands-on skills building can equip you with well-rounded capabilities.
Formal Cybersecurity Education
There are now more accessible education options than ever for rapidly skilling up. Some popular routes include:
- Cybersecurity certifications: Industry-recognized certs like Security+, CEH and CISSP validate your theoretical and practical security knowledge.
- Bootcamps or online courses: Short, intensive training like cyber bootcamps efficiently build security skills.
- University degrees: Traditional four-year computer science or cybersecurity programs provide comprehensive technical education.
Research the merits of each option and consider costs, format and time commitments when deciding what makes most financial and logistical sense for your situation.
Self-Directed Cybersecurity Learning
While formal education is invaluable, professionals also need to continuously self-educate to keep current. Some effective techniques include:
- Reading industry blogs, news and research to stay updated on emerging threats and technologies.
- Studying standards like NIST Cybersecurity Framework to understand security best practices.
- Listening to cybersecurity webcasts/podcasts for perspectives from industry leaders.
Allocating just 30 minutes every weekday can ensure you don’t fall behind on the latest developments.
Hands-on Cybersecurity Experience
Complement theoretical learning by intentionally building practical experience through activities like:
- Cybersecurity projects – Create sample vulnerable web apps and practice hacking techniques like SQL injection in a home test lab.
- Bug bounty programs – Hunt for and responsibly report bugs on platforms like HackerOne.
- Hackathons – Join or volunteer at nonprofit cybersecurity hackathon events.
This exposure develops the problem-solving skills and security intuition that only comes from practice.
3. Network and Make Connections
Expanding your professional network within the cybersecurity community can open doors and fast track your transition. This industry thrives on collaboration, with many roles relying on effective communication between governance, technical and business stakeholders.
Consider joining relevant social media groups on platforms like LinkedIn or Twitter to connect with security specialists globally. Follow thought leaders publishing insightful content, and interact by asking and answering questions.
Look for local meetup events or conferences focused on cybersecurity to meet fellow professionals face-to-face. If you connect with the right people, you may discover mentors willing to advise you, or peers who can refer you to job vacancies.
Actively networking is invaluable for learning insider perspectives and trends that job ads or qualifications don’t teach you.
4. Tailor Your Resume
Making a career change without direct prior experience is challenging when companies filter on cybersecurity-specific skills and credentials. Smart resume customization is vital for showing how your IT support background has cultivated transferable abilities.
Translate Your Experience
Avoid simply listing old job responsibilities. Instead, strategically reframe past achievements using language hiring cybersecurity managers understand and value. For example:
- Showcase troubleshooting complex IT issues under pressure as evidence of problem-solving skills suited to a Security Operations Center position.
- Describe experiences learning new systems quickly as proof of adaptability that appeals to employers seeking Associate Security Analysts to rotate across projects.
- Quantify achievements with metrics like volume of service tickets resolved or uptime maintained to demonstrate work ethic.
Highlight Relevant Education
Display cybersecurity certifications, specialized courses or degrees prominently. Even if they’re in-progress, this shows proactive upskilling efforts.
Additionally, include details like thesis topics or projects exhibiting security knowledge – e.g. setting up a VPN demonstrates networking and encryption proficiency.
Customize For Each Application
Avoid blasting generic applications to every opening. Carefully review job descriptions highlighting required versus nice-to-have skills. Then, emphasize specific resume aspects to prove you have the capabilities explicitly wanted from applicants.
Customization signals understanding and interest in the cybersecurity role.
5. Start Your Security Job Search
When ready to make the leap, scout entry-level cyber positions enabling skill building while transitioning from IT support. This pragmatic experience develops real-world expertise faster than academic learning alone ever could.
Target Entry-Level Roles
Junior cybersecurity roles to watch for include:
- Security Analyst: Monitor systems for technical vulnerabilities and suspicious user activity using SIEM tools. Often home-based, offering flexibility.
- Security Operations Center (SOC) Analyst: Similar to above, but stationed onsite at enterprise SOC facilities collaborating directly with other cybersecurity specialists.
- Penetration Tester: Conduct authorized simulations of cyber attacks attempting to infiltrate networks and applications using hacking techniques.
These roles offer abundant scope for learning by exposure. Avoid overreaching for advanced positions prematurely.
Leverage Online Jobs Boards
Managed IT service provider sites like Robert Half Technology are great resources. You can search thousands of technical openings, with filters to specify entry-level cybersecurity.
Additionally, utilize broader boards like LinkedIn and niche IT security job sites like InfoSecurity Magazine.
Tap networks you’ve already made to uncover unadvertised opportunities. With cybersecurity talent shortage, many roles go to internal referrals before wider promotion. Social media groups dedicated to security careers like Breaking Into Security (2700+ Members) on LinkedIn can also yield exclusive vacancies.
Proactively managing your professional brand and connections maximizes exposure to the hidden cybersecurity job market.
Transitioning from IT support to cybersecurity promises immense career upside and security. But the journey requires dedication through continually expanding skills and visibility to opportunity.
Stay patient through temporary setbacks, and leverage existing technical experience combined with cybersecurity upskilling. Before long, you’ll progress from IT support to an exciting inaugural position defending the digital assets of tomorrow.