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Moving from Military to Cyber: how to make it work

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Cyber security has become increasingly important on the global stage, and many countries are investing in the industry as damaging cyber-attacks become a growing concern for businesses in all sectors. The UK is not exempt from this, and the national cyber industry is moving at a phenomenal pace, growing at a rate of 14% year-on-year and swelling to a workforce of over 52,000 skilled professionals. With around 6,000 jobs added every year, the cyber market has shown itself to be resilient in an inflationary and economically disruptive environment.

This has made it an attractive proposition for professionals looking to move into the sector, and one of the main groups we’ve seen wanting to make the jump are military veterans. With our two founders, Josh Keeley and Charlee-Ben Ryman, along with several team members, starting their careers in the armed forces, we have first-hand experience of how daunting this transition can be, but we’ve also seen how many opportunities there are for the ex-military network in this sector.

In fact, the security training, experience and skills you develop in the military actually make you an ideal candidate for a range of cyber and information security roles. Although many advertised jobs will have technical experience as an essential requirement, a lot of cyber businesses recruit from the ex-military talent pool because of the soft skills these candidates possess and the fact they are adaptable, trainable and capable of learning new skills.

If you are considering making the leap from the armed forces to the cyber industry, check out our top tips for securing your dream job:

1. Understand your pathway

Before you even consider applying for jobs, you need to understand what it is you want from a career and what skills you can bring to the table. Not everyone can be a hacker, and a large part of our role as recruitment consultants is to advise individuals on what jobs would be best for them. Ask yourself some key questions, we frame this as “People, Purpose and Pay”:

  • People: Are you introverted or extroverted? Would you prefer working in a busy office or alone? Do you want to use more inter-personal skills or would you prefer to work with technology? This will help you to understand what sort of environment you’d like to work in.

  • Purpose: What interests you about a career in cyber – is it building resilience into a company, understanding the technology behind innovations, managing risk or making sales? Decide what will motivate you in the industry and what career will allow you to explore that passion.

  • Pay: It’s important to manage your expectations, as you may have to retrain or enter the industry at a junior level – be clear on what you will and won’t accept.

Although a large percentage of the opportunities within cyber security require technical skills, it’s important to remember that there are also many sales-based and business development positions in the sector that you may be less aware of. In our latest Trident Talks video series Josh Keeley spoke to industry leaders who have made the move from the military to cyber sales and recruitment, discussing the benefits of looking for roles in this area and the kind of skillset suited to the positions. The series also examines how veterans with a passion for problem solving might be perfect candidates for Software Development, and how to use your unconventional experience to get ahead in this field.

Once you’ve decided on your route, you’ll notice that each role requires different qualifications, training and experience. It’s important to do your research on what employers are looking for and consider if there are any gaps on your CV preventing you from meeting these. Many companies offer cyber training, insight days and work experience specifically for military veterans, so do your research and capitalize on the available opportunities.

2. Translate your skillset

The soft and hard skills gained in the military make veterans great candidates for cyber security jobs. In many cases, they will have experience in protecting multiple assets, giving them a great appreciation of the security mentality needed for cyber roles. You’ll also likely have experience of some of the most in-demand soft skills: teamwork, leadership, communication and discipline.

Once you’ve identified the skills displayed throughout your military career it’s time to translate these into “civvy-speak”. Even if you have a wealth of experience from your military training that would be useful for commercial employers, it’s of no use if the hiring manager cannot see this on your CV. Ask friends and family to look at the skills you have drawn out and ask for their feedback on how to best present these. It’s also beneficial to search through job descriptions for the roles you’re interested in and see how the requirements are worded – do you have examples from your experience that would match what is being asked for, and if so can you use some of the phrases or buzzwords on your application?

As one of our ex-Royal Marines colleagues Ben Adams puts it: “an oppo once told me that in the civilian world, “nobody cares if you can shoot a target from a mile away”, and it turns out he was right!”. Having joined Trident following a stellar military career, Ben struggled with how to translate his experience into CV format, and had to rely heavily on his network for help:

“When I sat down to write my CV last year I had absolutely no idea where to start. I reverted to a tried and tested system that I frequently utilised in my school days to complete my homework…I copied somebody else! Obviously I didn’t plagiarise, but it was really helpful to have a basic structure and format to follow and to get some ideas of how to reframe my military experience for civilian employers.”

3. Network, network, network!

Arguably the most important stage of the transition process, you can even begin building your network before you leave the armed forces. The ex-military community is a great place to start, as many veterans are happy to share their experiences and insights with those in a similar position. It’s worth linking up with former colleagues or friends who have gone on to roles in cyber and getting their opinions on jobs in the sector or the skills to highlight in interviews. There’s also a large social media community who are able to offer guidance and support – TechVets, the Forces Employment Charity programme designed as a bridge for veterans and service leavers into information technology careers, is a good starting point.

“Use your network; once a soldier, always a soldier!” comments Ben. “When you’ve earned the right to be part of that elite club, you’ve got a membership for life, and from my personal experience veterans will dig out blind to help fellow members of the network.”

There’s also a range of targeted military-into-cyber conferences, events and networking opportunities specifically designed to help you make connections within the industry. At Trident Search we run a quarterly Waterloo Cyber Club networking event in central London to bring veterans together throughout the cyber industry.

Lastly, do not underestimate the power of LinkedIn as a networking tool. As Ben says, “LinkedIn is a fantastic place to find groups within your niche; don’t be afraid to reach out to EVERYONE.” The channel is a very effective way of building a network and reaching out to others in the military or cyber communities.

4. Add qualifications to your portfolio

Getting some qualifications on your CV, even if they are basic, will make you a more competitive candidate in the cyber market.

There are plenty of courses and qualification programmes available so consider carefully which are going to be the most relevant to you. Research what types of training are required for the roles you are interested in as not all positions will require the same level of skills development. Although a lot of roles in cyber will require some form of qualification, it’s important to be aware that there are scammers out there who will want to take advantage of your situation. Don’t waste money on something that might be irrelevant to you – do your research and ask your network for advice, they may be able to point you to some free resources or the most worthwhile training courses.

5. Speak to a good recruiter

Recruitment agencies are there to support you through this transition. A good recruiter who has a solid understanding of the sector will be able to help you translate your skills and experience into relevant commercial speak, and advise on what roles might be the best fit for you. Through our in-depth industry knowledge, at Trident Search we have supported many military leavers to decide on the right path for them and have worked as a dedicated partner to help land their dream job.

Aside from assisting you through your job application, they may be able to make introductions within their network, connect you with relevant people in the industry or advise on ways to improve your application before putting you forward for roles.

To discover more ways Trident Search can help you to make this transition into your new career, or to discuss your options in the industry, contact us today.

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