Check it out, I’m working on a reboot of The Graduate, set in 2013. Simon and Garfunkel are out, Skrillex is in, and that scene at Dustin Hoffman’s graduation party where everyone’s giving him advice and is being all out of touch and stuff goes like this:
“Come with me for a minute I want to talk to you. I just want to say one word to you. Just one word. Are you listening? Cybersecurity. There’s a great future in cybersecurity.”
Cybersecurity, as an industry, is booming. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs as network systems and information security professionals are expected to grow by 53 percent through 2018. Yet, just like Hoffman doesn’t have any interest in plastics in 1963, young people today aren’t interested in getting jobs in cybersecurity.
By all accounts it's a growing and potentially secure, lucrative job. But according to a new survey by the defense tech company Raytheon, only 24 percent of millennials have any interest in cybersecurity as a career. Forty percent of respondents would want to be a "TV or movie entertainer," while 26 percent had interest in being a lawyer. (Respondents could pick multiple careers.)
Like many new tech fields, there was a conspicuous gender gap—just 14 percent of young women as compared to 35 percent of young men were interested in a jobs in cybersecurity. A survey among those already working in the field found more than 80 percent of people they interviewed were male.
The pay is actually pretty good. A Semper Secure survey found that workers in cybersecurity were pulling down an average of $116,000 a year. Given that job prospects are otherwise exceedingly grim for young folks, why aren’t they all packing lecture halls on Cisco Systems?
Part of that is that it probably just doesn’t occur to them that “cybersecurity person” is a job that you can have. The survey found 82 percent of millennials reporting that no high school teacher or guidance counselor ever mentioned careers in cybersecurity.
But also the survey found that millennials are prioritizing “Interesting work” above things like “competitive pay” and “security clearance.” Not only does “cybersecurity” sound like an amorphous field to many young folks, it has a ring of tedium to it, of sitting in windowless rooms, listening to the fans on the servers whirr.
Of course, some millennials do love computers, and that Semper survey states that people working in cybersecurity found it to be challenging and interesting work. Problem is, for whatever reason, the type of person who’s really into hacking, like apt to go to hacking conferences like DefCon, aren’t interested in being the digital era’s wall-builders.
The cybersecurity industry’s focal point is in DC, and you can guess what that means. Recent recruiting efforts by the federal government to recruit young hackers straight out of high school and at hacker conferences like DefCon have done little to assuage suspicions that cybersecurity means hacking for “The Man.” The summer of Snowden has reinforced the idea that there’s something inherently pernicious in doing so; an informal Motherboard survey at DefCon found that when asked if attendees would work for the NSA, the overwhelming response was "Hell no!"
In summation, the problem is that millennials either haven’t heard of careers in cybersecurity, or, if they have, it sounds like a boring and potentially unethical boy’s club. Not a great combination.
So what do young folks wanna do? The survey found they want to be entertainers, and failing that, entrepeneurs, which opens the possibility that they’ll become cybersecurity personnel once life beats hope and aspirations out of them and they’re willing to say “Hello darkness, my old friend.”
Until then, I’ve got plenty of people to audition for my reworking of The Graduate.