Cybersecurity has become the hot industry – tips and tricks on how to get the most out of your cybersecurity internship (and land a job after graduation).
Students today are faced with grueling course loads, pressure to get real-world experience and a looming competitive job market. The need for hands-on knowledge and a developed resume is crucial, making internships a necessity. However, once you nail your interview and land your position, how do you prepare and make the most out of the opportunity?
The goal of an internship is to prepare you for your future career. While earning a college degree in computer science is quite an accomplishment, in the cybersecurity field, a theoretical knowledge and your required coding and science classes just aren’t enough. It’s critical to supplement those courses with real experience tackling a variety of threats in the cyber landscape, not only to gain new skills, but also understand what it’s really like to work in cybersecurity to decide if that career path is right for you.
According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, companies and government organizations are beginning to lock in contracts with cybersecurity job candidates younger than ever before–during junior, sometimes even sophomore year. Often, these early recruits are individuals who interned for the company in the past and proved themselves as an invaluable member of the team; securing a good position and acing your internship have never been more crucial to future career success. There’s no better feeling than having job security heading back to college for your senior year or being able to focus your electives on skills that will immediately translate to skills you’ll need for your upcoming role.
Be Eager and Ready to Learn
While pursuing a major in cybersecurity provides the background necessary for your internship, you won’t know it all. You should walk into your internship everyday ready to learn the ins and outs of the field and be eager to take on new experiences. Say “yes” to everything.
According to William W. Dyer, director of the Corporate Affiliates Program for the Jacobs School of Engineering at the University of California San Diego, “Students study theories, case studies and learn both fundamental and advanced coding, but are not able to work on threats and breaches in real-time. They have structured work with a finite ending (quarters are 10 weeks long), whereas hacks and threats can happen at any time and require immediate response and solutions.”
A simple way to learn (and network) is to reach out to a few professionals who are working on a project you’re interested in or skilled in an area you’d like to further develop. Grabbing a quick coffee with someone who has been working in the cybersecurity field will allow you to gain valuable insights and real-world anecdotes. Not only will these people be able to mentor you, but they could even be a reference when the time comes for you to apply for jobs after graduation.
Be Up-To-Date on All Things Cybersecurity
Before your first day, it’s important to be well versed in the latest cybersecurity news, trends and data breaches. Taking the initiative to keep up on the latest in the industry and to provide an educated opinion on these issues will not only set you apart from other interns, but it will impress your managers and allow you to have a deeper understanding of your tasks and assignments. Every security incident is an opportunity to learn and ask questions that will serve you well later.
When pressed for what cybersecurity students should do to prepare for a future career in the space, Fred Yip, manager of software development at Webroot said, “Follow cybersecurity news and podcasts to understand what problems the industry is facing.”
Listening to a security podcast on your morning commute or setting up simple Google alerts for topics such as, ‘data breach,’ or ‘cybersecurity,’ will keep you up to date on the conversations happening in the space. Lots of great discussions happen on professional LinkedIn forums and Twitter too.
Continue to Grow in Cybersecurity, Even After Your Internship Ends
Once your internship has concluded, it is important to keep growing and honing your arsenal, especially that crucial developer knowledge. According to Dyer, “We encourage our students to participate in any and all extracurricular activities that enhance their skills.” Taking online tutorial courses or participating in hackathons or coding challenges are a great way to put your new skills to the test.
Also continue following industry news and engaging with professionals through social channels. The network you create during your college years with classmates, professors and folks you meet during your internships will be instrumental in securing future opportunities. Check in with your internship managers, what’s their take on the latest data breach, acquisition or trend?
In today’s competitive job market, setting yourself apart through quality work is important and can be the key to a future at that company. While the classroom provides you with the concepts necessary to succeed, real-world experience will not only help you decide if a career in cybersecurity is something you want to continue to pursue, but you will gain invaluable knowledge and begin to grow your professional network that will be so crucial upon graduation. It is important to connect with colleagues and other interns, keep up with cybersecurity news, engage with professionals and accept as many opportunities as possible to learn about your chosen career path, allowing you to get the most out of your internship.