Would You Trade Details of Your Private Life for Job Security?

There's no more topical issue in IT right now than job security. If you haven't already lost your job, you're likely concerned about your prospects for keeping it. And if you're looking for a job in the tech field, you're almost certainly trying to figure out how to successfully market yourself. Wouldn't it be nice if there was something you could pull out of your pocket that would practically guarantee your employment? Well, maybe there is. But it's going to cost you.


What may very well be the surest ticket to job security in the technology sector is a security clearance. When I say it'll cost you, I mean you'll have to go through an ordeal to get it. And if it's an especially high clearance that will open doors that others can't even approach, you'll have to be willing to sacrifice some of the freedoms that we Americans take for granted. But at a time when the economic situation is such that you need every tool you can get your hands on to differentiate yourself, that price could be the bargain of a lifetime.


Now, when I talk about having to be willing to sacrifice some basic freedoms for the top clearances, I'm speaking from experience. I began my post-college career with the National Security Agency, and I wound up in a program that required an especially high clearance. Obtaining and maintaining that clearance was no fun. Aside from the frequent polygraph examinations, which are almost unimaginably intrusive, you have to be willing to open your very being up to inspection and analysis by the government. Believe me, there is nothing appealing about having government security operatives interrogate you about the most private details of your life. So appreciate the people who make that sacrifice of their privacy. They give up a lot, and they're doing important work.


Far less intrusive are the more standard clearances, which typically don't even require an initial polygraph examination. I can speak from near-experience here. I have two sons, both of whom are employed in technology jobs with promising futures. Both hold security clearances.


The value of these credentials is difficult to overstate, because they make the pool of potential competitors so much smaller. For starters, foreign nationals are ineligible for jobs that require a security clearance, and these positions can't be offshored. Beyond that, of course, is the fact that there's a certain percentage of the population that's unable to pass the background check for any number of reasons, so a clearance is an impossibility.


According to an article on Computerworld in September, the U.S. government expects to hire something on the order of 12,000 IT professionals over the next three years, many of whom will require security clearances. Particularly noteworthy was the news that the time it takes to conduct a security clearance investigation had decreased from one year to about five weeks.


Hey, it's not the answer to everybody's employment woes, but it's something that many IT pros would do well to consider. If you have any experiences or tips that might be helpful to yours peers who want to look into this, I encourage you to share them.

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