Internships are one of the best ways for college students to start building their professional careers. Companies are always looking for students to fill intern roles and build them up to be well-groomed professionals that can take the company to the next level.
In this blog, I'll be specifically talking about Cybersecurity Internships and how you can turn one into a Full-Time Job/Offer either at your current company or at another company, but first things first you have to get an internship.
Finding an Internship
The first step in this process is finding an internship. Internship opportunities are always open all year round for various semesters. However, most internship opportunities come during the summer when many students are on break and can commit to a full-time work schedule.
In order to successfully score an internship, there are 5 major things you need;
Understanding the Fundamentals of Cybersecurity
Building your skills
Having a solid resume
Developing your soft skills
Building your network
For more details on this, read my blog on How to land your first Cybersecurity Internship or Strategies for your Cybersecurity Internship Search by Charles.
Honing your skills
Now that you've successfully landed an internship, the real work begins. Your goal should be to continuously learn both on and off the job. During your internship, ask to be a part of every project or task even if you probably wouldn't be able to participate, you can still learn a lot from watching. This will allow you to become very versatile and knowledgeable in various aspects of the team or organization.
Furthermore, develop yourself on the main tools and skills required for your internship. For example, if your internship involves you triaging security alerts using Splunk, you can work on improving your Splunk skills at home by Building a Home Lab or pursue some Splunk training using the Splunk Fundamentals free course or by sitting for the Splunk Core Certified User Certification. Just by doing any of these, you've increased your value both on your internship and on the job marketplace!
Strong Work Ethic
As a young professional, this is something I've learned and developed. Your work ethic really determines how far and how fast you can move your career. As an intern, expectations are usually set low, however, this is not an excuse for mediocrity. A rule of thumb is to underpromise and overdeliver. Be enthusiastic about any tasks and be ready to put in your very best effort.
Now you don't have to be excessive or take this extreme by working 24/7- you're still an intern. However, be ready to put in the extra time when necessary and always put your best foot forward. Be sure to display this enthusiasm and work ethic to your Supervisors and Colleagues in everything you do and I promise you it does wonders.
Willingness To Learn
Your willingness to learn is perhaps the single most important thing that will separate you from the crowd. It's important to realize that in the first place your purpose as an intern is to LEARN. The company hired you as someone with no experience or limited experience to train you up and teach you new things so utilize this to the fullest.
Always ask questions and always ask to be taught how to do things. For example, if you primarily work on analyzing phishing emails and you have an interest in Vulnerability Management, ask on your next meeting with your manager or your team if you can shadow the Vulnerability Management when you have downtime. This shows that you're willing to learn, improve and diversify your skillsets.
Make Yourself Valuable and "Missable"
Have you ever felt the absence of someone that left your life? Yeah, me too. Well, you can also apply this to your internship experience. Work hard to be "missable" in the sense that your presence will be felt if you were to leave the company. Learn parts of your senior colleagues' jobs and relieve them of it (in a sensible manner so as not to overwork yourself). For example, I learned how to create mail flow rules to block malicious IPs or Domains so I could relieve my Senior colleague of their job- Find a way to do the same as it applies to your internship.
Build Your Network (Within & Without)
This is one of the important things you should be doing already as a professional. If you plan to get a full-time offer from the same company you interned at work on networking with people who can make that happen. Your goal should NOT be to network to get the full-time job, rather you should network to BUILD relationships that can eventually get you the full-time offer.
On the other hand, if you intend on getting a full-time offer from another company, you should start networking outside of your internship with people in positions to refer you or even interview you for full-time positions in their company, and once again your goal should NOT be to network to get the full-time job, rather you should network to BUILD relationships.
Branding Yourself as a Full-Fledged Profesional
As you continue to grow in your internship, one of your goals is to start growing out of the intern mindset to a full-fledged professional mindset. If you've been following all the steps I highlighted above you've surely been learning a lot, building your skills, gaining more credentials and experience and so much more. At this point, you're exponentially better than when you came in you're ready to take on bigger challenges because you worked like a full-fledged professional and not just an intern.
Present yourself as a professional but do NOT lie about your experience or skills - you'll get caught easily. However show that during your internship, you did REAL work and if you're brought on as a full-time employee, you'll be able to deliver.