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EPISODE 73

 
Top Five Things That Will Separate You From Other Applicants
 

TOP FIVE THINGS THAT WILL SEPARATE YOU FROM OTHER APPLICANTS

About this episode

In this episode, the discussion between Kip and Jason is about the top five things that will make you stand out from other applicants. These tips will definitely help you get ahead of the pack and have an edge in your job application.

In your job hunting, you want to be an irresistible candidate from the hiring manager’s perspective. These top five things will separate you from other applicants. These will make the hiring manager want to have you on their team.

While your application starts with a good resume, having the right network coupled with having good people skills will give you a good boost. A lot of hiring managers are also hiring because they need people with experience to tackle some of the gaps and challenges they have in their team. Also, remember to highlight the skills that are appropriate for the position you are applying for.

What you’ll learn

  • Why who you know matters
  • Why you need soft skills/people skills
  • Why it is important to have practical experience
  • Why solving real-world problems will help
  • Which technical skills/profiles will make you stand out

Relevant websites for this episode

Episode Transcript

Kip Boyle:
Hi, welcome to Your Cyber Path. My name is Kip Boyle and I’m here with Jason Dion. Hey, Jason.

Jason Dion:
Hey, Kip. Nice to see you again.

Kip Boyle:
Yeah, it’s good to see you, too. I often open up the show complaining about the Seattle weather. I’m going to do it again, because in the month of May, here in the Seattle area, we had something like five hours, in the whole month, five hours that was 70 degrees or above. That’s it. And that is severely down. People might be saying, “Oh, well it’s Seattle, of course.” But actually the number of hours above 70 degrees in May is typically 120, 150. Usually it’s quite a bit more than five. So anyway, so to me, it’s still March. But you’re doing better, right?

Jason Dion:
Yeah. I’m down in Puerto Rico, so we don’t have that problem of being below 70 degrees, I don’t think, ever. I think it’s maybe dipped below 70 once or twice since I’ve lived here. For us it’s beautiful 80, 90 degree weather all year long.

Kip Boyle:
I know. I came to visit you, it was quite nice. I think about it a lot. But anyway…

Jason Dion:
Any time you have one of those cold weathers and times in a Seattle, you’re like, “Man, I wish I was visiting Jason again.”

Kip Boyle:
Yeah. I know, right? I don’t know if I could live there. I’ve lived in Florida for six years. Couple different times of my life for three years at a time, but for total of six years, I’ve lived in Florida and it was fun, but I don’t know if I could live there full time. I don’t know. There’s something about it. I think it’s the lack of mountains and forests. I really appreciate that part about living in the Seattle area. But anyway…

Jason Dion:
Over in Florida, we definitely don’t have the mountains. We do have forests, but we don’t have mountains. Down here in Puerto Rico, we do have mountains. And that was one thing that surprised me, because I’m used to thinking about like islands being relatively flat. I was born and raised in Florida, so I was used to very flat, hot places. And when I moved to Puerto Rico, I was like, “Wow, there’s these big mountains here.” And you’re 10 minutes from mountains to the beaches and it’s just a very different environment. So it took me a little while to get used to it.

Kip Boyle:
Yeah. It’s similar in that way in Seattle because the mountains and the beaches are very close in that way, as well. But, boy, I don’t have fun hiking around in 90 degree weather with 90% humidity. That’s the part I don’t do.

Jason Dion:
Yes. Yeah. I can agree with you there. Luckily our humidity isn’t usually too, too bad here. Florida, the humidity was definitely worse than it is here down in Puerto Rico, so.

Kip Boyle:
Oh, for sure.

Jason Dion:
But yeah. It’s got its benefits. Everything’s got its pluses and minuses in life.

Kip Boyle:
Yeah. Well, I’ll be going to Florida in early July to go to the House of Mouse with my wife and kids. So I’m going to get plenty of hot and humid, I’m sure. And maybe we’ll meet up with you, too. I think that would be cool.

Jason Dion:
We’ll be in Florida that time, too, so we’ll definitely have to get some dinner.

Kip Boyle:
Yeah, that’ll be great. That’ll be great. Okay. So enough grousing about the weather, Kip. Today is episode 73 and, by the way, just saying episode 73 boggles my mind because that’s a lot of episodes for a podcast that only releases every other week. So we’ve been at this for a while. Thank you. But in episode 73, what we’re going to talk about today, the way we want to help, is we want to share the top five things that will separate you, as a person who’s hunting for a cybersecurity job, separate you from the other applicants. In other words, this is all tied into this theme. Our vision for you is that you are going to be an irresistible candidate to a hiring manager. That’s what we want for you. We want hiring managers to go, “Holy crap. I must have this person on my team.” But today we’re going to talk about five very specific things that are going to separate you from the other applicants. So here we go. Jason, do you want to take number one?

Jason Dion:
Sure. Number one is one of my favorites. It is who you know. This is all about networking, and not the social media networking type, but the real-

Kip Boyle:
And not data networking.

Jason Dion:
… [inaudible] networking. I find that so many of the job opportunities you’re going to have, or the leads you get into a position and an interview, comes from who you know. And if you’re starting out, this can seem unfair because you are starting-

Kip Boyle:
You don’t know anybody.

Jason Dion:
…at the beginning and you don’t really have a big network. But if you actually start thinking about all the people you do know, you probably do know people in the company that you’re trying to work for.

If you are in your major Metro area and there is an employer, for instance, I used to live in the Washington DC, Maryland area and over there, there’s a big hospital chain called John Hopkins, which is made by John Hopkins University. And I could list at least five people that I knew that worked for John Hopkins. Now they may not have been in IT or cybersecurity, but they worked there as a nurse or as a doctor or as a receptionist or in the billing department or something like that. But being able to use that person to get your resume into the right hiring manager and bypass some of the filtering that happens if you go in through the front door, through the website and put apply now, it just really is super, super helpful.

What are your thoughts when it comes to networking in-person here, Kip?

Kip Boyle:
Boy. It’s interesting. How, how often I hear, “People who want to get into cybersecurity are so hyper-focused on the hard skills.” And they think that’s what it’s all about. It’s like who has the best hard skills are the people who are going to win. So they think it’s a meritocracy and everything else is a distant second, but that’s just not true at all. Hard skills are what I would call table stakes. You have to have hard skills to get the job, and you’ll be tested on that. So to me, as a hiring manager, that’s the easy part.

I also think that people who I want to join my team, whatever hard skills you come through the door with, they’re going to get stale and you’re going to have to pick up new hard skills all the time. And so I am interested in people who have more to offer than just these fixed hard skills. And so it’s really the networking. It’s not the meritocracy, it’s really the networking.

And here’s the thing that I think people need to accept. Humans like to do business, or to work with, other people that they know, like, and trust. That’s really what it comes down to. And I think if you reflect on that, as a person who’s trying to break into cybersecurity or transition into cybersecurity, because maybe you already have another career, think about it. You are probably wired that way as well. Think about the people that you spend a lot of time with. Don’t you enjoy spending time with people that you know, like, and trust? And that’s what’s going on here.

Now, the great news is that you can be somebody who’s known, liked, and trusted in a very straightforward way. It’s really not a mystery. We love sharing that information with the people that we, that we work with. So you’d be surprised just how easy it really can be.

Jason Dion:
Yeah. I’ve seen this just time and time again. Again, if anybody’s new to the podcast, Kip has spent the last 20 years working in what I call the civilian industry, or the commercial sector, with banks and sports teams and financial institutions and insurance companies and stuff like that. I spent the last 20 years dealing with the department of defense, the US Navy, and the DOD contractors. And what I saw, time and time again, when people were getting out of the military after their 10 years, 15, 20 years, whatever time it was that they got out, the way they got their jobs was because they knew somebody who remembered them.

I have a guy who I worked with. He was not the best technical guy out there. I can run laps around this guy technically, but everyone knew him. Everybody liked him. And when he got out of the military, after 23 years, people were lining up to throw very high-paying job offers at this guy in cybersecurity, even though he’s not a great cybersecurity person. But he is a person that people knew, liked, and trust. And they knew that he, at the management level, would tell them what it was, tell them how it is, and they would get through it. So I just see that a lot, that networking can really help. And as I said, it doesn’t have to be somebody you knew from your job or somebody that is even in the department you’re going to.

Kip Boyle:
That’s right.

Jason Dion:
But if you are talking at your kid’s soccer game to one of the other parents and you find out, oh, they work at Facebook, Google, Amazon, whatever, that might be your way in into those places. It’s not using your friendships to get ahead, but you are leveraging the things you have to at least get you into the consideration pile.

I can say the last position we just hired for in my company, we’re up to 19 employees now, we just hired six people in the last two months. So we’ve been growing really fast. And the last person we just hired, we hired them specifically because somebody on my team, who I know, like, and trust and really respect, because she’s just amazing, said, “Hey, I have this person. I think she is a great fit for your company. I think you should hire her.” And when it came down, we still went through the process. We still did the interviews. But at the end we had two people who we really liked and we’re like, “You know what? We’re going to hire this person,” because this person I already know, like, and trust told me to, and I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt here. Because they knew this person for years, I just met them in a five minute interview.

So that’s where this stuff can really help get you over the edge or get you into the immediate, like that person, I didn’t even look at their resume. They went right into the two interview pile before even going through the regular system. So it was just one of those things that you really bypass the system and get ahead.

Kip Boyle:
Yeah.

Jason Dion:
Number two, this goes into some of what you were just talking about as well. We talked about hard skills being those technical things, but number two is soft skills. So talk about soft skills.

Kip Boyle:
Yeah. So soft skills, another way to think of it is people skills. If you’re somebody who can be known, liked, and trusted, then that is evidence that you have people skills, or soft skills. And so here’s the thing. If you need to be known, liked, and trusted to actually get into the job, well, you need to keep doing that. Don’t be the person who is incredibly pleasant to deal with during the interviews, but then show up like Oscar the Grouch, and be cranky all the time. As a hiring manager, that drives me insane. It’s like the person shows up, this doesn’t happen too often, but it’s happened enough, where they show up for the first day on the job and then five days into it. I’m like, who the hell is this person? Like, where’s the person I interviewed. Are you the evil twin? What the hell is going on here? Because your attitude is awful. You’re abrasive. And nobody wants to work with you. I don’t even want to spend any one-on-one time with you.

So yeah. And, there’s no way I’m going to send you out to interact with our partners, our customers, people who are not on our team. There’s no way I’m going to send you to have a discussion with my boss. I just can’t do it because you’re going to blow up so much political capital for me and people are going to question my judgment. Like, why did you hire that person? They’re just awful. Would you just please put them in a white lab coat and put them behind two sets of extra thick doors? We don’t ever want to see this person. I’m not kidding. Things like that have been said to me in the past when a person on my team with questionable soft skills was walking around.

Jason Dion:
And this, I think, is one of those areas that is different between your world and my world, as well. Because in the military, especially active duty and uniform, I didn’t get to choose my people. My people were sent to me by somebody in BUPERS back in Millington, Tennessee. They would say, “Okay, here’s the 20 new people you’re getting. Enjoy.” And I didn’t get a choice on who those people were, and they just showed up and I had to deal with them. And I’ve had many people who did not have the soft skills. Some of them had the technical skills, which was great, because at least I could use those people. But basically I had to find a place where I could put them in a corner where they could work on the servers and not interact with people because they were just really mean and ugly human beings when it came down to it. And nobody really had to work with them.

And in the commercial sector, I could find reasons to get rid of you. In Florida, it’s a right to work state. So in Florida, I can just say, you’re not here anymore. Go away. Here in Puerto Rico, we don’t have that. So we have to work with our employees to get them where we want them to be, or we have to go through the proper process to fire them. And every state is a little bit different on whether they’re right to work or-

Kip Boyle:
Or company policies.

Jason Dion:
…or company policy. Right. But those soft skills can really be that thing that really just, it will turn you away. Because as Kip said, when we talked about number one, really, it comes down to hard skills are expected, but soft skills and being able to get along and be a team player and be a good cultural fit and all that stuff, that’s really important, in my opinion.

Number three, we’re going to talk about, is practical experience. So this is a big one, and this is one that I know a lot of newbies get really frustrated with because everyone says, “Hey, I want you to have practical experience. I want you to have hands-on experience. I want you to do be able to prove what you’re doing, because when I hire you, I’m hiring you to solve a problem.” And then I always get the retort from my students is, “Well, I got my certification. Isn’t that good enough?” or, “If nobody will hire me, how do I get practical experience?” And I know we’ve done an entire episode on ways get practical experience beyond just doing it in a job. But practical experience really is critical because when I’m hiring you for a position, I have a problem that I need solved. And I need you to have the soft skills and the hard skills to be able to solve those problems and work with other people on our team. And I have to know that you have done either that thing or something similar to that thing before, because it means you’re going to be able to solve that problem for me a lot quicker.

Now, do I expect you to be an expert on everything? No. Nobody can be an expert on everything. I will tell you, I’ve been doing this for 20 plus years. I’ve been in cybersecurity since 1992 was the first time I had a paid position doing cybersecurity. I was 12 years old at that time, so I’m not actually as old as Kip, but again, I’ve been doing this since I was 12. I’ve been doing programming and networking and all that good stuff. And what I have found is that, even if you came to me today and asked me to do something that I haven’t done before, I can find a way to, yes, I just may not have done it.

Earlier today, I’ve been working on my new website with my web developers. Kip, you know, on my site diontrain.com we just hired a bunch of web developers. We’re building our own LMS. We’re building our own e-commerce platform. We’re building everything from the ground up. And they sent me over the code and said, “Hey, take a look at this. We want to make some changes.” And I code 15 languages, but I will tell you, react and next JS and amplify are not three of the ones I code in. And when I used to code, I used to code by myself. That guy in the basement, on his own computer doing everything. So I really haven’t done a lot of stuff where I had to use a get repository and merge my code with other people’s code and setting up visual studio so that I could actually read their code and pull it from the GitHub and all that stuff.

So today my CTO is like,” Hey, I need you to look at this.” I’m like, “Great. Can you help me set up my stuff? Because I haven’t done this today.” He’s like, “Oh, I’m actually out right now.” So I got on Google, I got on YouTube, I figured it out, and I was like, “Oh, nevermind, CTO. I already took care of it.” But that’s because I have enough prior experience in other things that I could relate to this new thing that I was learning. And that’s where a practical experience, I think, comes into play is you may not be an expert on our particular system, but if you know how to read logs, you know how to analyze firewall ACLs, you know how to set up routing, regardless if I give you a Cisco router or a unified router, you’re going to be able to configure that. Even though they use slightly different languages. That’s the purpose when it comes to practical experience.

What are your thoughts on practical experience? I know I’ve been pontificating for a while there.

Kip Boyle:
No, it’s good. I love the fact that you and I can talk to what it’s like to be in two completely different worlds. The DOD, department of defense, government contractors sphere and then the private industry commercial sector. But this is one of those times where our worlds are completely aligned because practical experience is just so dang important. In fact, I would go so far as to say that practical experience is more important than whether you have a college degree, whether you have certifications, or really anything else. I think the only thing that would trump practical experience, possibly, would be the soft skills piece. Because I can’t teach you soft skills. There’s no charm school I can send you to. But I can, if you have aptitude, I can train you to do some things. If I’ve got a training budget, or however that works, maybe it’s OJT or whatever.

But, I really agree what you’ve said. And listen, that takes us to the fourth of the five top things that will separate you from other applicants, which is, can you solve real problems for the job that you’re applying for? And that’s where the practical experience really pays off. So if you’re applying to be a vulnerability analyst or a vulnerability manager or something like that, well, guess what? You’ve got to be able to find the vulnerabilities on the network. You got to figure out how to prioritize those. You got to figure out how to mitigate them. And then you got to get those mitigations out there so that when the next vulnerability scan happens, you can confirm, yep, that vulnerability has been removed from the network. If you can’t do that stuff, then you can’t help me.

As the hiring manager, it’s not my job to do that stuff. It’s my job to see that stuff gets done. Which means I need help. I need somebody who can do that. So if I’m going to post that job, then that’s the number one thing I’m looking for in terms of your ability to solve real problems. And, man, I’ll put you right to the top of the hiring stack if you can show me in a resume that you can do that. So you can solve real problems for the job that you’re applying for. What’s been your experience with that, Jason?

Jason Dion:
Yeah. Completely 100% agree with you there. I think it’s interesting when you talk about solving real problems, and I love the example you just gave of a vulnerability analyst. Because a lot of people think about IT and cybersecurity as like I’m this army of one, I can do it all myself. And vulnerability analyst is one of the great positions that really demonstrates how you can’t do it all yourself. Because as a vulnerability analyst, you’re going to be scanning the network. You’re going to be finding the vulnerabilities. You’re going to do the research of how to fix that vulnerability and say, “Oh, we need to go into the registry and change this. Or we need to install this patch. We need to do whatever.” The problem is-

Kip Boyle:
Upgrade the OS.

Jason Dion:
…as the vulnerability analyst, you’re not the one who’s doing any of that stuff. That’s all the system administrators. And so I’ve seen this a lot in my work where I would run the security operations center and we would go and tell the IT department, “Hey, go fix all these problems we found. Here’s the list of what you need to do.” And they go, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. We’re busy. We’ll get to that.” And then a month later comes by and we scanned again and all those problems are still there. Why? Because our people who are throwing the list over, they weren’t using their soft skills, and they’re basically saying, “Here’s all your problems. Go fix it,” and threw it out.

Kip Boyle:
Right.

Jason Dion:
Right? And they go, “Eh, I got customers to deal with. I’ll deal with it later.” And they just never got around to it.

So what I’ve seen to people who are very, very successful in this, as vulnerability managers, are the ones who use the soft skills. Who are able to partner up with those system administrators to make friends. So that when I ask, “Kip, will you patch that?” You go, “Oh, for you, Jason? Certainly.” It’s part of your job, but you’ve also got a hundred other things you got to do. So how do I get to the top of your stack for you to do what I need you to do as a vulnerability analyst? A lot of that comes to soft skills as well. So I think that it really is, can you solve problems? And how can you demonstrate this to an employer?

Some ways you do this is in your resume. The other way you do it is in an interview generally in an interview, they’re going to ask you questions like, “Kip, tell me about a time when you struggled getting something done at work. Kip, tell me a time when you worked outside of your team to get something done, cross functions.” And all those things are excellent opportunities for you to go, “Ah, here’s how I solved a real world problem in XYZ last corporation,” or in the Navy, we used to say “USS last ship” and how we do it today, here on USS this ship, right? And by bringing that to the front in the discussion, you can really help them connect the dots that this guy or gal knows how to solve problems and do it in a real way.

And they understand they can’t do it themself. They understand they’re going to have to reach across aisles. They’re going to have to reach across departments. They’re going to have to reach outside of their own skills scope, because maybe it’s… One of the questions I love to ask is, “Tell me about a time when you were assigned a task and you didn’t know how to do it. What did you do?” And then you can say, “Oh, well, I went on YouTube, or I went to Google and I found this and that, and this is how I overcame it.” And I [inaudible] solution, right? Or Udemy, or I took a class or whatever it was.

Kip Boyle:
Well, you’re wearing your I teach with Udemy shirt today, Jason, so…

Jason Dion:
Well, I do teach with Udemy, so…

Kip Boyle:
I figured you wanted a plug.

Jason Dion:
Yeah. But yeah. So I think that’s really the important thing when we start talking about, can you solve real problems for the job you’re applying for?

Kip Boyle:
Boy.

Jason Dion:
Making that evident in the interview.

Kip Boyle:
And I love the way you emphasize something that I think was implicit in this episode, but you really brought it out, which is solving problems is a blend of hard skills and soft skills. You really have to bring both in order to get things done, especially when you’re working in a collaborative environment, in a teaming environment. So yeah, that’s really where those things go together.

Let’s go ahead and talk about the fifth thing that will separate you from other applicants. And this is a skills category, but the technical skills. So while we say hard skills are table stakes and that people skills are more important, we still need to see some technical skills out of you. We still need to see hard skills. And I’ve heard… Listen, I teach hiring managers how to get people on their teams and how to build strong teams. One thing that hiring managers say to me a lot is, “Oh, I need to find an InfoSec rockstar, or a cybersecurity rockstar. Because I have this one open position, but I have to have everything done. This person has to run audits. They have to design controls. They’ve got to do all these things. They got to give the board presentations,” and I’m like, slow down. Wait a minute. The idea that you’re going to find one person with all of that built in is pretty dang low.

So what I want you to do is I want you to redefine “rockstar” to not be one person who can do everything, but I want you to redefine that to be a person who’s really, really deep and expert in one thing. And then I want you to look for a candidate that also has some business savvy, some general business savvy, and some general tech savvy. Because if you can find that person, and this is what we call a T-shaped person, then you can be pretty sure that they can go deep in other areas as well, but maybe that’s something for the future.

Anyway, but technical skills, I think T-shape. The way I described is a very attractive profile for what I mean when I say “cybersecurity rockstar,” but I know there’s other ways to define that term that are still very practical rather than this purple rainbow unicorn type person that I described in the beginning. Jason, do you see any other types of great profiles? I talked about T-shape. What do you see?

Jason Dion:
Yeah. So when we talk about technical skills, and we talk about these special unicorns, and we see this a lot in hiring managers where they say, “I want somebody who has all these years of experience and all these different things.” And it’s like, look, even if you could find that special unicorn, he only comes out on Fridays and every 14th Friday of the month or something like that. And if you could find him, he’s going to be so expensive, you’re not going to want to pay the salary anyway. And so that becomes a challenge, too. So generally when I talk with hiring managers, and myself as well, I look at it as the three different shapes. We have I-shape people, T-shaped people which Kip already talked about and pi-shape people.

Now when we talk about I-shape person. These are the people-

Kip Boyle:
You mean pie like delicious apple pie?

Jason Dion:
No, pi like the Greek symbol, like 3.14. Yeah. We’ll get there in a second.

Kip Boyle:
Okay.

Jason Dion:
But yeah. So we talk about I-shaped, right? I is basically like a capital letter I, it’s just up and down straight. And so when I think about people like, people who have a PhD in something, they tend to be very I-shaped. They are experts in that one thing, but if you ask them anything outside of that, they’re not going to be able to help you because that’s what they’ve spent their entire life focused on.

My cousin, he loves cars, and he could probably tell you the gas mileage for any car made since 1970. He just loves cars and stats and figures and all that stuff about cars. Me, I couldn’t care less. But that’s his thing. Now, if I ask him anything about computers or sports or anything else, doesn’t care. He only cares about cars and how much torque and horsepower and miles per gallon and all that stuff. So he’s a very I-shaped person where he is very focused on one specific thing.

Now, when you get to T-shaped people, that’s like Kip said, you have somebody who is deep in one area, but they can also branch out and do some other things. So, for example, maybe you’re a programmer and you are really, really good at writing code in Java and making apps for Android and things like that. But if I asked you to code me some cryptography stuff, you’d be like, “I don’t know how to do that. I don’t know any cryptography.” But, if you’re a T-shaped person, you can go, “Well, I’m really deep and really good as a programmer. I bet I could research and learn that other thing and then code that cryptography based on what I’m learning.” And so they generally have a very deep area in one area, but then they have a semi-decent spread across the others.

Generally, if you get somebody who has a four year degree, if you have a bachelor’s degree in computer science, you tend to be a pretty T-shaped person. Because going through that four year program, you’re going to get some history and some math and some science and some psychology and sociology and all that stuff, but you also get your very deep programming knowledge. And so that becomes more of this T-shaped person.

And then we have what’s called a pi-shaped person. I tend to think I am a pi-shaped person. And you can see this, even if you go to my website, diontraining.com, that I am the lead instructor and I teach three main areas because I have very extensive experience in all three of those areas. One is IT service management, which is all my idle courses on how do you run an IT organization. I have another one that’s on my project management courses because I spent a lot of years doing project management for IT organizations. And so I have a bunch of courses in that area. And then I have a third pillar, which is my cybersecurity stuff. And I’ve spent 25 years or so doing cybersecurity. And so I have a deep knowledge in all three of these areas. And so I’m qualified to teach and consult on all those areas.

Now, in general, are you going to find somebody who has expertise in all three of those areas? Probably not. But because of my time in the military, they tend to move you around a lot, you do a lot of different jobs, and I got a lot of experience in a lot of different areas. And so I became more of this pi-shaped person. We call it pi because it looks like the Greek letter pi, which if you’ve ever looked at it’s two up and down lines with this little tilde going across the top. So instead of a T with one down, you’d have two downs. Or in my case, I have three downs. So maybe I’m an M-shape person, I guess you’d call it. I don’t know.

Now when you start presenting yourself as one of these people, and you’re writing your resume, you have to know what are you trying to highlight and what message are you trying to send to the hiring manager. So when I write my resume, if I’m looking for a job, I have four different resumes that I use depending on which job I’m applying for. I have one that really focuses on my teaching ability. I have one that focuses on my cybersecurity ability. I have one that focuses on my it operations ability and talking about all the budgets I did and all the people I’ve run and all the large scale networks I’ve done. I have another one for project management, how much money and budgets I did and time and scope and all the projects we did, because I’ve done some 30, 40, 50 million projects. And so, depending on what job I’m applying for with Kip the hiring manager, I would put out my best foot based on which of those shapes I want to show and which skills I want to highlight.

And my whole point in bringing this up is not to pat Jason on the back, because Jason doesn’t [inaudible] he’s always got a big head. But really what I’m talking about here is most of us have a lot of different skills in a lot of different areas. Most of us are T-shaped people. We have that one very strong pillar that we spend a lot of time in, but we’ve done other things, too. For instance, you may have spent the last 10 years doing a lot of marketing. So your marketing is really, really deep, but you’ve got a lot of stuff going across the top as well, where you’ve taken some courses in programming, you’ve taken some courses in cybersecurity, you’ve done some labs, whatever those things are. And so you have some skills in those areas, but they’re not super, super deep.

Now when it comes to applying for jobs, you may want to highlight certain things. If you are a marketing person, but you’re not applying for a marketing job, don’t highlight your deep knowledge of marketing. You want to highlight your cybersecurity stuff, but some of that stuff can be brought over and reworded so that it applies to the area of the job you’re going to. So keep that in mind as you’re going through, and you’re thinking about technical skills because it really, I like talking about technical skills and transferable skills that could apply to the job you’re applying for. Because again, we’re talking about the five things you could do to separate you from the other applicants for that particular job. And so I wanted to make that point because it’s not necessarily just your technical skills, because anyone can learn a technical skill, it’s how you present them and how you show people that you can solve real world problems using those skills that you have.

Kip Boyle:
Yep. Yep. Oh, that’s fantastic. Thank you. So there’s I-shaped people, T-shaped people, pi-shaped people, not apple pie. Although, that gives you a certain shape, right?

Jason Dion:
[inaudible] too, right? I’m pretty shaky there now. I’ve had a lot of apple pie.

Kip Boyle:
And then M-shaped, right? Because you talked about a pi with a third leg, so it’s kind of an M. But yeah, I think that’s fantastic because that is how hiring managers think about the technical skills of the people that they’re considering. So… Well, that’s fantastic.

Jason Dion:
Sorry. One last thing before we move on. When you’re talking about these different shapes. If you are straight out of college and you’ve been working for two years, don’t try to tell me you’re an M-shape person. Because you’re not.

Kip Boyle:
Right.

Jason Dion:
If you have two years of experience, that doesn’t make you an M-shape person. When, I’m talking about an M-shape person or a pi-shape person, I’m talking about somebody who has five to 10 years in those two legs that are falling down.

Kip Boyle:
Or more.

Jason Dion:
That’s why most people tend to be a T-shaped person, because you tend to get into one career field and you go with it for a long time.

Kip Boyle:
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Thank you. That’s a great caveat.

Okay. Well those are the five items. Let me just summarize them quickly for you, and then we’ll wrap up the episode. So the top five things will separate you from other applicants. First thing is, who do you know in the organization that you’d like to go work at? So this is networking. Number two, soft skills or people skills. Number three, practical experience. Now you’re going to combine number two and three so that you can do number four, which is solve real problems for the job that you want. And then number five, you need technical skills, yes, and hiring managers are looking for certain profiles when they are evaluating you. So those are the five, and use those to your advantage as you’re going forward in your job, hunting. Any final words, Jason?

Jason Dion:
Yeah. Before we go, I want to talk about just a couple of things that we didn’t include on the list, because you may think like, “Hey, these are really important. Why aren’t they on the list?” First two, certifications and degrees, I hear people ask about these all the time. Now, certifications and degrees are both important. They’re important in so much as they show an employer, you have a minimum baseline of knowledge in that particular area. If you’re applying for a job and they say security plus required, and you don’t have security plus, well guess what, you’re not going to make it into the interview phase because their system is just going to weed you out because you don’t have security plus on your resume. So while security plus isn’t going to get you the job, it will get you to the interview if that position requires it.

And again, going into the DOD world, a lot of jobs that we have in the DOD, whether they’re for military people, for civilians working for the military, or for contractors working for the military, they have requirements on certifications for those positions. And so if they say security plus required, they mean it. You have to have security plus, or they can’t hire you for that position. If they do hire you for that position, you have to get it within I think it’s three to six months. Otherwise, they have to fire you if you can’t get the certification. So that’s where those certifications will help get you into a position, but it’s not going to be an automatic, hey, you got your security plus, let me give you a job. It’s, now you can at least get to the interview phase. And so you will be filtered out for that same thing.

If they say bachelor’s degree required, master’s degree optional or recommended. In those cases, you must have a bachelor’s degree. And if you don’t, they’re just going to weed you out right off the bat. Because the hiring manager’s job is how do I get the thousand people who applied down to 10 people I can interview. And so they’re looking for ways to throw you out.

Another one we didn’t talk about was security clearances. Now in the civilian world, nobody cares about your security clearance at all. Whether you have a top secret clearance, a secret clearance, a [inaudible] or whatever. Nobody could care because you don’t have a need at that point. That said, if you’re applying for a job at the NSA, CIA, FBI, with the military and you already have a clearance, that actually is a huge step up and that will separate you from other applicants. Because I will tell you, if I’m a contract company, I would rather hire you with a clearance than Kip, who is an expert in a lot of things, who has no clearance. Because it may me a year to get him into this job, whereas I can train you in the next three months to make you really good at your job, because you’re already a clearance I can put you in there. So that’s one of those things that can separate you. But again, we didn’t include it as one of the top five, cause it’s not applicable to a lot of jobs out there-

Kip Boyle:
It’s not universal. Yeah.

Jason Dion:
[inaudible] And then the last one that we had on our list here was low salary expectations. So, Kip, do you want to talk a little bit about that? I know you threw that one on the list when we were prepping for the show.

Kip Boyle:
Yeah. And actually this one’s going to lead to a future episode that you and I are going to record together about the top five mistakes people make when they’re negotiating their compensation. So we’re really going to unpack this one later, but in brief, what I’ll say is that a hiring manager is going to react… Badly, perhaps, is too strong of a word, but we’re going to wonder if you low-ball yourself. So if we know that the market rate for the job you’re applying for is somewhere between 50,0000 and $75,000 a year, and you say to me, “Not a penny less than 35,” then I’m going to be like, “Okay? Are you telling me that because you have the biggest case of imposter syndrome ever? Or are you telling me that because you’re desperate? Or are you telling me that because there’s some defect in your character or you hid something in your background?” These are all question marks that immediately, like a cartoon, shoot from the top of my head and hang over me as I try to understand why in the world, you just undersold yourself.

Jason Dion:
Yep. And I’m not going to throw too many more comments on that because, as you said, our next episode, episode 74, will be the top five things you’re doing wrong in negotiations. And we’ll talk a lot more about what is too low, what is too high, and how you can get yourself into the right negotiation realm. So stay tuned for that. But yeah, for this episode, I think we’ve done a good job of covering the top five things that separate you from other applicants.

Kip Boyle:
[inaudible] bonus.

Jason Dion:
It’s who you know, soft skills, practical experience, how to solve real world problems for the job you’re applying for, and technical skills. Being that I-shape, T-shape, pi-shape, M-shape person. That said, I want to thank everybody for, again, joining us for another episode of Your Cyber Path. We would love to hear from you. So if you have any comments about the podcast feel free to shoot us an email support@yourcyberpath.com. And if you haven’t gone to yourcyberpath.com yet, and on the homepage signed up for our mentor notes, Kip sends out mentor notes by email every other week, just like we release the podcast episodes, and he gives you a lot of great information that we don’t talk about on the podcast that is completely free for you to sign up for. So make sure you sign up so you can get those, and you’ll also be notified every time there’s a new episode of the podcast. So until next time we will see you on Your Cyber Path.

Kip Boyle:
Thanks everybody. See you next time.

Headshot of Kip BoyleYOUR HOST:

    Kip Boyle
     Cyber Risk Opportunities

Kip Boyle serves as virtual chief information security officer for many customers, including a professional sports team and fast-growing FinTech and AdTech companies. Over the years, Kip has built teams by interviewing hundreds of cybersecurity professionals. And now, he’s sharing his insider’s perspective with you!

Headshot of Jason DionYOUR CO-HOST:

    Jason Dion
     Dion Training Solutions

Jason Dion is the lead instructor at Dion Training Solutions. Jason has been the Director of a Network and Security Operations Center and an Information Systems Officer for large organizations around the globe. He is an experienced hiring manager in the government and defense sectors.

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