University of Maryland University College is committed to helping our students succeed beyond the classroom. That includes providing our military students with information and resources to help make a successful transition to a civilian career.

As part of that commitment, UMUC hosted Spotlight on Security, a panel discussion held at the Army Education Center at Fort Meade, Maryland, featuring leaders in cyber security recruitment from both government and the private sector sharing their insights on the keys to success in pursuing a cyber career.

Panel members included Major General Gary S. Patton, U.S. Army (Ret.), vice president of veterans outreach at CACI International; Caroline H. Jones, management and program analyst at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; Adrian B. Williams, senior federal recruitment advisor at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management; and Erich Fronck, Region 4 information security director at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The conversation was facilitated by Nora Graves, UMUC's director of stateside military operations for the Hampton Roads region, who posed a series of questions to the panel about developing and training cyber talent and what jobseekers can do to improve their chances of being hired. Here are some highlights.

What are employers are looking for?
PATTON: There are entry-level and mid-level positions we're hiring for right now, including junior vulnerability researcher, cybersecurity specialist, junior cyber capabilities developer, and others. My company (CACI) requires two to four years of experience for entry level positions—not zero! Where can you get that two to four years of experience? In the military.

JONES: We're seeking talent at a rapid rate. [DHS] is looking for the next generation of top-tier cyber talent. We're looking for folks [who] are committed, who understand the threats, who use existing skills are willing to learn. If you're interested in criminal justice, law enforcement, and are willing to cross-pollinate skill sets with technological skills, that's what we're looking for.

WILLIAMS: I would agree with that and add that we're looking for people with security clearance and certification. We won't call you if you don't have your clearance.

FRONK: For years, the term "cyber war" indicated that cyber security was only a government or military thing. But the need is there in the private and nonprofit sector, too.

What can applicants do to make their résumés stand out?
JONES: Some jobs have 40 to 50 applicants. Make sure you produce a résumé that includes your skillset, your clearance, and your certs. If we have to call you back for these, you'll fall to the bottom of the list.

WILLIAMS: On your résumé, make sure you address every requirement they're asking for [in the job listing]―not just to say you can do it, but show how you've done it.

PATTON: Highlight your clearance, your certifications, and your relevant skills. Remember, your résumé is not your bio. Don't use that space to list every little thing. Rather, use it to highlight what best applies to that position. You can actually have a different résumé for each job [you apply for].

I once interviewed a retired Army veteran. He was a military intelligence man for 30 years in the field of physical security, which is what we were looking for. Although his résumé glistened with career highlight, it didn't have the words "physical security" anywhere. Moral of the story: Tailor your résumé to the job you're after. You're apt to get a more favorable response.

How should one approach a job interview?
WILLIAMS: Take the time to research the company you want to work for. Be sure to prepare some questions for when they ask if you have any questions. When you have no questions of your own, it could be interpreted as a lack of interest. 

PATTON: Use the interview to exchange information. Condense and compress your value to the company in a five- to seven-minute spiel, and be prepared to answer questions. Particularly, be able to answer the question, "What do you want to do?"

JONES: Don't forget to highlight your soft skills: critical thinking, communicating, translating technical skills into actionable results. Make it clear to the hiring manager that you have those skills.

Where do see the cyber security field headed?
FRONK: I've seen it go from viruses, to malware, to social media, which is so prolific. Social media is where the real challenge is because everyone is so interconnected. Now we're dealing with the "Internet of Things," and, as a professional, I'm aware of the latest threats. We have to be aware and make others aware of safe computing. The most secure computer is the one that's not on.

JONES: One of the main areas of concern now are those devices you're holding. Learn how to be not just a user of these types of devices but a protector. That is, learn the coding, etc.

PATTON: The cyber industry is changing at a great rate. It's mutating. Now it's entering areas like psychology―using behavioral science in designing cyber technology. It's a whole new world.

Is there any other advice you can offer?
WILLIAMS: Ask yourself, "How can I be marketable? How can I be an asset?" It's not just about what you can do, but how you can be of value to others.

JONES: If you're seeking a position with the Federal Government, USAJobs is a great place to start, and you cannot start soon enough. I understand the process is cumbersome and often frustrating, but you must be diligent and persistent.

Also, as you make that transition to civilian, make sure you remain clearable. You'd be amazed at the number of people who cannot enter the cyber industry because they've lost their ability to be get clearance because of their social media activity. In other words, be careful.

PATTON: Keep in mind the organizational culture. Do your homework and position yourself to convey not just the skills but also the values that you bring to the [organization].

GRAVES: Career Services at UMUC has CareerQuest, a database where you can upload your résumé. This is important, because there are some positions, especially agency positions, that cannot be advertised, but they can find you if you're in the database.