Some of you like myself, may see your workload decrease in the summer months or the pace of life in general slow down enough to work on some new talents or improve old ones that you may find have gathered dust over the years. For example, I was a ‘hella” hand percussionist in high school, but have not beat on a conga, bongo, or djembe since then. Thinking it would be like riding a bike, I jumped in last week when Spring Semester was over and attempted to start playing again. Much to my displeasure, I found it to be a little more challenging than that…yet I will persevere and by the end of the summer should be able to produce a sound slightly better than raccoons attacking a garbage can.

Five Ways to Improve Your Cybersecurity Employment Options

There are several activities that cost little to nothing that you can work on this summer to hone or even become proficient in areas of cybersecurity. Some of these are foundational and some are just improving specific areas you might find interesting.

1. Learn a new operating system.

I have praised the value of understanding and using Linux before. It is open source and very much suited to all abilities depending on how involved you want to be in developing or improving tools. Don’t be intimidated. Many Linux geeks are intense hobbyists who will often spend most of their free time trying to improve on what has already been released to the public. They speak way over my head – as well as the majority of other people The good news is if you simply want to use it for web browsing or basic ethical hacking and testing, I have found these same hobbyists to be very helpful in getting the novice started in forums such as Reddit. Linux can replace an existing operating system or be installed as a virtual machine. While I have not tried any of the other open source operating systems that are available, such as Haiku, ReactOS, and Visopsys, they may be of interest to you as well.

2. Achieve an industry certification.

Whether it be something as entry level like Security+ or as specialized as the Certified Ethical Hacker or Advanced Pen Tester, consider jumping in feet first to study for and pass the respective certification exams. While taking prep courses can be expensive, the study books or practice tests are usually not and can be found in abundance either in physical or digital format. Of course, the test itself is not free to take, which should be incentive enough alone to take it seriously.

3. Learn a coding or scripting language.

I regret not diving into Python more a few years ago when I had more time. It is really a very easy way to understand how cybersecurity tools can be created, modified, or (errr) defeated quickly (you can run each line of code once it is written). The syntax is simple in Python and some of the task automation scripts can be written by true beginners. Two to three hours a day for a week of Python tutorials on Youtube or LinkedIn will make you at least semi proficient in understanding how it works.

4. Go to a conference or workshop.

There are many out there, and you can spend as much as $3,000.00 or more to as little as nothing (if you attend virtually). For example, check out the offerings SANS has for the month of June. Other vendors such as IBM, Palo Alto, Microsoft, and Google also offer little to no cost workshops and information sessions. Finally, CISA and their National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies Division offer a multitude of opportunities.

5. Join a professional organization.

If you are in a big or even medium-size city or near a government installation that relies on the tech industry, national organizations such as International Information System Security Certification Consortium (ISC2), Information Systems Security Association (ISSA), Women in Cybersecurity (WiCyS), and Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) more than likely have local chapters. There are a lot of good reasons to join one of these reputable groups to include discounts on industry certifications, professional development and networking.

This list is not provided to supplant things such as watching your kid play softball, cookouts, or fighting off flies with a tennis racket. It is merely suggestive as ways you can reflect back in the fall with pride in using your time productively to increase your knowledge and self-worth.

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Joe Jabara, JD, is the Director, of the Hub, For Cyber Education and Awareness, Wichita State University. He also serves as an adjunct faculty at two other universities teaching Intelligence and Cyber Law. Prior to his current job, he served 30 years in the Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and Kansas Air National Guard. His last ten years were spent in command/leadership positions, the bulk of which were at the 184th Intelligence Wing as Vice Commander.