Soft Skills for Cyber Security (Employers Want to See)

Soft Skills for Cyber Security

You need more than technical skills to be a cyber security professional. 

You can be competent in all the latest cyber security tools, but if you don’t have the right soft skills to accompany your technical ones, you’ll struggle to make the desired impact. 

Luckily, even if you have relatively little experience in cyber security, you likely have the soft skills required to appeal to employers and make an impact in your next position. 

Which soft skills for cyber security should you be refining and putting on your resume for companies to see?

Read on to find out. 

The Importance of Soft Skills for Cyber Security

There’s a misconception that cyber security professionals are in front of their computers for nine hours a day, work in silos, and rarely interact with the outside world. 

This just isn’t true. 

Cyber security professionals are in constant communication with fellow team members and stakeholders as they work together to protect digital assets. 

Soft skills, such as critical thinking, interpersonal communication skills, and creativity, are crucial to being a valued member of a cyber security team. A cyber professional who grasps technical tools but lacks soft skills is one-dimensional. 

Combining soft and hard skills makes you a more appealing candidate to employers and will help you grow within cyber security. 

Cyber Security Skills List

Many soft skills will help you succeed as a security professional. However, we’ve narrowed it down to five soft skills you’ll want to cultivate further and highlight on your resume.

Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills in Cyber Security

Arguably, the most important soft skill in your toolkit is your ability to think critically and solve problems. 

Thinking critically means being able to navigate difficult problems and take effective action. We use our problem-solving skills on a regular basis. 

Even if you don’t have an IT or cyber security background, you’ve been honing this skill your entire life. 

Regardless of your position as a cyber security professional, you will be tasked with finding solutions to a range of unique problems. 

Equipped with your knowledge of technical tools, you’ll use your problem-solving abilities to leverage programs effectively. Remember that a tool is only as useful as the professional using it.

Real-Life Example of Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills in the Workplace

Let’s imagine that you work as an ethical hacker and have been tasked with carrying out a black box penetration test of a client’s network. 

Penetration testing is hard enough when you have a company’s credentials but made all the more challenging during a black box pentest where you’re supplied with zero information about a company’s digital assets. 

At this moment, you’ll need to use your critical thinking and problem-solving skills to effectively leverage tools, tactics, and techniques and find unique ways to penetrate the client’s systems and achieve your objectives. 

You may be required to test your OSINT skills or social engineering talent, create custom wordlists for password brute forcing, or examine exposed services that you don’t typically encounter in a standard pentest

Like many areas of cyber security, and perhaps penetration testing in particular, there’s no standard A to B formula, despite having steps and methodologies to guide you. 

You need to think on your feet, approve things from different angles, and if you’ll pardon the cliché, think outside the box.

Ways To Develop This Skill

Critical thinking isn’t a skill you’re born with: like all skills, it can be developed. 

One of the best ways to augment it is by consuming a wide range of information. I’m not just talking about cyber-related information but content from a range of sources that expands your viewpoint. 

If you’re wondering what to consume, start by following these cyber security experts. You can also learn how the brain processes information by reading Daniel Kahneman’s book, Thinking, Fast and Slow.

Bouncing ideas off fellow cyber security professionals in StationX’s community is another great way to practice your problem-solving skills. 

Creativity and Innovation in Cyber Security 

Cyber security is one of one of the most creative and innovative industries. 

This in-flux space changes on a seemingly daily basis, and finding creative solutions to use new tech and innovate will help you thrive as a digital security professional. 

Being creative and innovative in cyber security means addressing obstacles with unique ideas and techniques. 

It also means not only innovating processes but self-innovation in the sense that you’re always learning new skills and reinventing yourself if need be. With technology always being created and updated to become the best tech-professionals you can be willing to learn new technology. 

Real-Life Example of Creativity and Innovation Skills in the Workplace

The cyber security industry requires you to change with the times. To stay current, you’ll always need to innovate in the sense that you’ll be asked to adopt new tools, learn new skills, and creatively figure out how to address the newest obstacles in the field. 

Creativity is required in cyber security because there is rarely one way to do something. If you’re being tasked with setting up a defense-in-depth security approach where you need to apply various security controls to harden your defenses, a healthy dose of creativity will be useful when creating a coherent defensive strategy. 

This is certainly the case when creating a honeypot, which is used to detect, catch, and study adversaries hacking into your network. Not all honeypots are equally effective. You need a bit of creativity to create a honeypot that attracts hackers for a long period, giving you ample time to study them.

Ways To Develop This Skill

There is no direct path to helping you hone your creative and innovation skills. However, some techniques and resources, when combined, will get you thinking outside the box. 

Cyber security can be a bit of a grind. That’s why it’s important that you take a step back, relax, and dedicate time to creative thinking. Brainstorm new ways that you can be more effective at your job.  

Creativity is all about creating new connections in the brain by developing new neural pathways. An easy way to do this is by exposing yourself to new ways of thinking, perspectives, and new resources. 

Learn how to unlock your creative side by reading Tom Kelley’s book, Creative Confidence. Kelley teaches key concepts and strategies anyone can apply in their private or professional lives to grow their creative abilities. 

Collaboration and Communication Skills in Cyber Security 

There are many moving pieces to working on a cyber security team tasked with protecting digital assets. To ensure everyone is on the same page security professionals must work together. Silos and one-man teams are the bane of any cyber security team. 

Collaboration and communication skills in cyber security are vital, but they’re often overlooked in this tech-heavy field.

Working together and communicating with one another is a key skill in any field, but especially one in which the stakes are high. 

Real-Life Example of Collaboration and Communication Skills in the Workplace

A cyber security team does not have an unlimited budget to work with. Generally speaking the person or people deciding how to allocate resources will not have the same technical understanding as the cyber security team asking for those resources. 

All cyber professionals need the ability to articulate the importance of investing in cyber security. 

Whether you’re talking to an executive and lobbying for the funds to invest in new employees, projects, or equipment or trying to convince non-cyber employees at your company to take security suggestions seriously, being able to articulate the importance of digital defense to those who don’t share your tech background is crucial. 

Ways To Develop This Skill

We’ve been developing our social skills our entire lives. But there are always ways to develop this skill further. 

One way is to become a more active listener. Invest more energy in listening and trying to understand the needs of the person you’re chatting with. This is especially crucial when talking with clients and having to suggest security steps they can take to bolster their security. 

Digital security professionals have their own language but sometimes forget that not everyone speaks it. When talking to laymen use language they understand. Avoid industry-specific language that they might not understand to best convey your message. 

Learn to become a better communicator by telling stories. This TED Talk by communication expert Karen Eber shows how telling better stories can inspire change.

Adaptability and Flexibility in Cyber Security 

Even 20 years ago, very few people had ever considered cyber security's value. This new field is changing rapidly as it adopts new technology and strategies to better protect digital assets. 

Being adaptable and flexible means being open to change. Professionals that refuse to grow or learn new skills will struggle to get ahead in the cyber security industry. 

Learning new skills, adjusting to new techniques like the new NIST framework, and being willing to change things up on a dime are behaviors that will only benefit you in this field. 

Real-Life Example of Adaptability and Flexibility Skills in the Workplace

Always be hungry. 

There’s always something new to learn in cyber security. You must be open to learning new skills, tactics, and techniques. This may involve learning tools on your own time, pursuing cyber security certifications, or shadowing someone who has knowledge or skills at work that you wish to acquire. 

Ways To Develop This Skill

The best way to do this is to join the StationX Accelerator Program

Here, you’ll have access to over 1,000 courses and labs. Adapting to a new role or one you want to pursue requires learning new skills. Here you’ll have access to in-depth courses where you can acquire these skills and labs where you can fine-tune skills in a safe environment. 

You can also work on cultivating a flexible mindset by meditating, exercising, requesting feedback, learning from mistakes, and challenging yourself. 

Being humble and acknowledging that you don’t know everything and can learn something new from those around you is also a great way to build this skill. 

Leadership and Management Skills in Cyber Security 

If you’re new to the field, you may consider it less pressing than the other soft skills for cyber security on this list. 

Just because you may not have a more senior role with employees below you doesn’t mean you’re not a leader or don’t need management skills. Anyone can be a leader and should aspire to be one. 

Cyber security is a team-oriented field. Demonstrating leadership qualities serves as jet fuel for your career, as you’ll be considered before others for management positions. 

Mastery of technical skills is important, but this alone will only get you so far. To quickly climb the ladder and move into a senior role you’ll want to showcase your ability to lead others. 

Real-Life Example of Leadership and Management Skills in the Workplace

In this dynamic and fast-paced field, it’s common that you and your team will be tasked with juggling various projects at the same time. 

Your direct boss will appreciate you if the next time a project arises you volunteer to take the lead. Whenever the chance arises to demonstrate your leadership and management skills—and they will—raise your hand and accept the responsibility. 

Ways To Develop This Skill

We love saying that so-and-so is a natural-born leader, but no one is born a leader, they become one. 

Become a leader at work by making yourself available to others. This means assisting those who need help, being willing to teach others, and guiding those who are struggling. 

Also, check to see if your company offers a leadership program that will equip you with the leadership skills you need to move up the professional ranks. 

Join the StationX Career Mentorship Program, where you’ll receive advice from established cyber security professionals. 

Cyber Security Soft Skills on Your Resume

Companies look for applicants with soft skills, but these aren’t always easy to demonstrate on a resume. 

You may be tempted to list a litany of soft skills, but without context, these skills will do little to catch the eye of a hiring team. 

When talking about each position you’ve had, show rather than tell the hiring team reading your resume how you used soft skills within the context of a previous position. 

Let’s see what this looks like in practice. 

Let’s say you previously worked as a retail manager. 

Under your responsibilities, you may write that you supervised a team of five and oversaw the store's day-to-day operations. 

This will convince the person reading your resume of your leadership abilities more than if you had written it under a list of soft skills. 

To showcase your critical thinking and creative abilities in your capacity as a retail manager you may write how you creatively found ways to maximize the store budget by leveraging new technology

When possible, pair your technical skills with your soft skills. If you have experience as a SOC 1 analyst, mention how you found novel ways to leverage Wireshark to troubleshoot network connectivity issues, ultimately leading to a 20% rise in throughput. 

When possible, quantify your achievements as seen in the example above. 

Concisely convey your skills by using the STAR method (situation, task, action, result). 

And remember that it’s okay if you don’t have experience in cyber security, a related field, or even paid experience. Highlight the soft and technical skills you used when volunteering, completing courses and labs, and participating in extracurricular activities. 

Hard Skills Needed for Cyber Security

Now that we’ve identified the most sought-after soft skills, let’s talk about the hard skills employers want to see on your resume.

All employers want to see that applicants have a solid understanding of computer networking and may want you to be familiar with tools such as Wireshark, Nmap, or other network analyzers. 

If you don’t have experience with these tools, you may want to consider either learning them or showing your grasp of computer networking by obtaining CompTIA’s Network+ certification or CCNA.

If you’re aiming for a cyber security-specific role, you’ll need at least a basic understanding of cyber security skills. Depending on your goals, you may look at learning the basics of topics like cryptography, encryption, IAM, Python, and tools like Metasploit, Tcpdump, or virtual machines

Consider also obtaining Security+ from CompTIA. 

Once you understand the basics, you’ll want to acquire specialty skills such as offensive and defensive skills, and a better understanding of certain frameworks. You may also consider taking the exam for the CISSP or CISA certifications. 

Conclusion

Soft skills augment your technical abilities. If you’re bereft of soft skills, you can be the most adept hacker at your company, but you still struggle to perform your duties. 

Acquiring the aforementioned soft skills and artfully emphasizing them on your resume will help you attract the eye of hiring teams

If you don’t feel as though you have these soft skills, don’t fret. We’ve supplied you with a number of ways to acquire them. 

One way we’ve mentioned is the StationX Accelerator Program

Here, you’ll be able to learn from peers and professionals, think creatively and problem-solve your way through the more than 1,000 courses and labs we offer, and team up with individuals dedicated to helping you grow and develop the skills you need to succeed in cyber security. 

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  • Spencer Abel

    Spencer is part cyber security professional and part content writer. He specializes in helping those attempting to pivot into the vast and always-changing world of cyber security by making complex topics fun and palatable. Connect with him over at LinkedIn to stay up-to-date with his latest content.

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