You Can’t Pay It Back, You Can Only Pay It Forward

The journey to landing your first cybersecurity job can be a tough one. Some companies won’t have the courtesy to even send you a simple, rejection email. You’ll have interviews that you feel like you nailed, but they don’t go anywhere. Despite the headaches, eventually you’ll land your first cybersecurity job. And when you do, it’ll feel amazing. You’ll want to jump in the air and shout with excitement. You’ll yell “YES!” to no one in particular. It’s a pretty awesome feeling.

When you get to that celebratory, fist pumping stage, you’ll undoubtedly have someone to thank for helping you get there. We like to believe that we’re self-made professionals, who depended only on our own hard work, intelligence, and perseverance. Sure, that’s true... but it’s not the whole story. We all get some help along the way.

We All Get Some Help

You might have a friend or an acquaintance in industry, who gave you feedback on your resume. Likely some people sat down with you for informational interviews. Maybe a cybersecurity professional that you reached out to on LinkedIn gave you some time. If you’re really fortunate maybe someone referred you for a cybersecurity job. Whether it be something big or small, we all get help along the way.

You can email those people to thank them—and you should—but you can’t really pay them back. The only thing you can really do is pay it forward.

Pay It Forward

What does it mean to pay it forward? As you get established as a cybersecurity professional, people will reach out to you for help getting into the industry. A friend will want to introduce you to a nephew or a sister, who’s considering a cybersecurity career. A student or alum for your alma mater may contact you on LinkedIn hoping for a 30-minute chat. Take the time. That’s paying it forward.

In the beginning it’ll be easier to make the time. You’ll have fewer responsibilities at work as you get started in your cybersecurity career. Then something ironic will happen. As you progress in your career you will have 1) more insight to share with aspiring cybersecurity professionals and 2) less bandwidth to share it. Make the time.

Remember what it’s like being on the other side trying to get into the industry. You can accomplish this without becoming a full-giver of advice. You can go to the occasional Meet Up to share some insight with people trying to get into cyber. You can participate in career panels at your alma mater or another local school. You can start a newsletter to help people get into cybersecurity (wink).

Stay Motivated to Help

Everyone in cybersecurity is busy, but we can all find at least a little time to help others get into the industry. Each time you help someone find their first cybersecurity job, you have a long-term impact on their economic livelihood. That’s not a small thing.

Anytime that you feel too busy to have to have that phone chat or review that resume for an aspiring cybersecurity professional, remember that fiery fist-pumping emotion from when you finally landed your first cybersecurity job. It’s an amazing feeling. In some way—big or small—you can help someone else have that feeling. You can spread the joy.

Remember the ecstatic feeling of landing your first cybersecurity job and how thankful you were to everyone who helped you. You can’t really pay it back to those people who helped you... but you can pay it forward.

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