I have been wanting to change careers from being in the restaurant/hospitality industry for a few years now, but I did not want to choose a new career path without being absolutely sure that I was entering a field I truly had a passion for. I had an "epiphany" about a year and a half ago, realizing that I was extremely passionate about cybersecurity for a number of reasons. With my work history being heavily weighted in restaurant management in New Orleans, LA and having a bachelor's degree in psychology, is there any strategy I should take to market myself to potential employers? I am taking a few courses at the University of New Orleans...I have completed the Java I and Java II OOP sequence, Discrete Math...I am enrolled in Assembly Language and Data Structures. Any tips from anyone on how to break into the industry ASAP? I have to work while taking these courses, but being in a restaurant environment is killing me and taking me out of the headspace I need to be in to keep up a good momentum in learning computer science/IT stuff. I am not above taking help desk jobs or any entry level positions and working my way up. I feel like my age shouldn't be as much of a negative factor compared to other specializations within the IT field. Any feedback is appreciated.
Any time a person is planning the next step in their career, the advise is generally the same (even if you're switching industries or jobs):
- Determine your ultimate goal. You want a career in cybersecurity. Check off this step.
- Determine your next step to reach that goal. You've correctly identified that you likely won't be hired into a high level position with no background, and you may have to work "starter jobs" like helpdesk support in order to get your foot in the door. Start looking at job adds for these positions - determine if any opportunities are leaning in the right direction to get you to your ultimate goal - for instance, maybe a helpdesk position that specifically supports security or user maintenance.
- Figure out what it takes to reach that step. Reverse-engineer the job posting - look at the requirements. You probably don't meet them. Determine the gaps and form an action plan on how to fill them. Most entry level positions are tailored for people who do not have much hands-on job experience, but in it's place they will typically require at least some level of education.
- Carry out your plan. Set aside time in your work or personal schedules to do what it takes to get yourself to a point where you can confidently apply for those entry level positions and take the first real step towards getting your dream job.
Perhaps you can identify a local tech school that provides shorter-term programs in cybersecurity or even in general IT concepts. Ask these schools about job placement or career coaching opportunities - the better programs will be able to help you get your first job, versus just giving you a nearly-meaningless piece of paper.
Don't let your own impressions of what your age or current background does or does not mean to a potential employer fool you into not following your dreams. The best employers will understand that people change directions in life, and will be happy to see that you've put effort into planning and achieving your goals. That, in and of itself, is valuable in terms of "showing off" your ability to perform.