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5 soft skills needed in cyber security

The acute cyber security talent gap continues to challenge organisations across Australia and New Zealand. We recently spoke to over 200 cyber security professionals and business leaders who shared their insights on this critical issue in our Hays Cyber Security Talent Report.

Our report reveals that a lack of in-house expertise and difficulty finding the right talent were two of the top five cyber security challenges organisations face. In fact, 61% of employers said it is ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’ to recruit cyber security talent.

What’s interesting is that this skill shortage is not solely focused around highly specialised technology expertise. There is an equal shortage of cyber security professionals with the appropriate soft skills.

The message for anyone looking to pursue a career in cyber security is clear: elevate your soft skill-set, focusing in particular on the following five soft skills:

1. Adaptability

With cyber security trends constantly evolving, one of the biggest challenges is the unknown. As a cyber security professional, you must be aware and responsive to the rapid changes occurring in the industry and continuously adapt your skills accordingly. Be prepared to also adapt to the changing priorities of your employer as cyber security increasingly becomes an integrated discipline within organisations.

2. Interpersonal and communication skills

It’s important to remember that cyber security does not exist in isolation. There is a very strong human factor involved – look how many breaches are initiated by a phishing exercise. As a cyber security professional, you must be able to effectively interact with all levels and departments within the organisation and educate staff about cyber security threats.

3. Passion

Employers look for candidates who can demonstrate their passion for cyber security and therefore their eagerness to learn and continuously develop their skills in the field. But consider this also – given the dire shortage of cyber security skills, the industry also needs cyber security professionals who are willing to be champions for the industry and get involved in the cyber community to share their passion. It is particularly important to engage with school children and young adults to build and grow the next generation of cyber security professionals.

4. Be curious and inquisitive

From the industry leaders we interviewed in our report, it’s clear that an inquisitive nature and a natural curiosity are highly sought-after skills by employers. Good cyber security professionals have a desire to know how and why things are done. So, don’t be afraid to ask questions, or find an industry mentor who you can go to for advice. The industry needs talent who are inquisitive and willing to ask questions to meet the evolving challenges cyber security presents.

5. Business acumen

Cyber security is no longer just an IT problem but has the potential to affect the whole business. To be an effective cyber security professional, you need to understand the interaction between IT and the business. With digital transformations continuing to sweep through organisations, it’s essential to keep up-to-date on what roles various systems play in the business and how that affects cyber vulnerability. This then further extends to understanding how these cyber vulnerabilities translate to business risk.

For more advice or to read our full Cyber Security Talent Report

About this author

Adam Shapley, Managing Director, Hays New Zealand and Hays IT Australia & New Zealand, began working at Hays in 2001 and during this time has held significant leadership roles across the business including responsibility for multiple specialisms in various locations across Australia & New Zealand.

In 2018, he was appointed to Hays ANZ Management Board and made Managing Director for Hays New Zealand.

Adam is also responsible for the strategic direction of the Hays Information Technology business across Australia & New Zealand including driving growth across Digital Technology, Projects & Business Change and IT Operations & Support.

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