If, in 1960, you asked a kid from a blue-collar town in New York to name the top 10 places where he would like to work when he grew up, I will bet you a sack of doubloons, the CIA would not be one of those places. That is how I felt when I was asked that question. I would have never thought of choosing the CIA. You might say, the CIA chose me. I was on active duty in the Marine Corps. I had no prospects for a job back home, nor did I want one there. I was not job hunting in the Washington, DC area, either. I had been house painting, part time in the Quantico area, and knew I could do that until I found something better. I had no college degree or any real skill to negotiate with at a job interview. I gladly took what the CIA offered - a records control clerk position, with a low starting salary. Even that entry clerical position meant waiting more than a year for my background investigation and clearances. As I look back, almost 50 years later, I realize how important to my entire career that first wait was worth. I sincerely believe that too many young people today are missing great opportunities if they do not look into federal employment. The federal government is always hiring, and the demand for people who can pass a Top Secret security investigation has increased since 9/11. I read recently that in 2013 over three-million people hold top secret clearances. I have heard all the arguments; from not wanting to work for “Big Brother,” to fears of having one’s creativity stifled. My answer to the people spouting these objections is - get real! If you have a job, you are always going to have a “big brother” or “big sister” watching and controlling you progress and production. If you fear having your creativity stilted, you may want to study government and industry a little more closely. Creativity is a key ingredient In the corporate world and the federal government. Getting the job done and staying ahead of your competition is critical; be they other companies, or foreign organizations plotting your early demise. Creativity is a force from within that can be applied to the most mundane of jobs. It’s up to you to figure out how and when to apply that creativity properly and effectively. Some federal agencies have summer internship programs for high school seniors. Some have co-op programs with major colleges and universities, where you can work for the government and get your degree at the same time. These agencies not only pay for your tuition, they also give you a salary while you are in school. Federal employees, including those in law enforcement and intelligence, receive some of the highest salaries and best benefits of anyone working those same jobs in the corporate world. I am not forgetting the people who have a trade and like to work with their hands. Who do you think tunes-up the limousines and follow-up SUVs used by the White House and the Secret Service? It is not the auto repair shop around the corner. Who maintains all of the utilities in those top secret buildings at undisclosed locations? Who installs and maintains the electrical and plumbing systems, paints the lobbies and offices, installs the computers and maintains the software, and cooks in the cafeterias? Every one of the jobs I mentioned is identical to those you would find in your phone book’s yellow pages. The big difference between the guy who changes the spark plugs in you car and the mechanic who changes the plugs in the President’s limo is a security clearance. So whether you would prefer to be an agent, artist or analyst, log on to some agency websites and take a few minutes to see what they have to offer. If you like to work in coveralls with a hammer hanging from your hip, log on the those same websites and discover that they are looking for your talents and skills as well. Whatever you do, do not just sit there. There are opportunities and good jobs out there. Start digging. You may find a whole new world of good work and great pay. If you would like to see a few of the stories of how I went from a GS- 4/1 to a GS-14/4 ($115,731 - current rate) federal employee, scan a few of the pages on this website. I had fun, got great satisfaction out of what I did, and retired at 52 with a great annuity. Not bad for a punk kid from Niagara Falls. Now it is your turn.
Not So Secret TOP SECRET
So what’s the big deal about getting a security clearance? If you are in high school and have not been arrested for a felony, your prospects for getting a clearance are good. Keep your nose clean. That is all you have to do. Here are a few tips. Do not do drugs, including pot. Stay away from illegal drinking. Treat your friends and neighbors with kindness and respect. Do not hang out with people who break the law. Guilt by association often is just as serious as committing the crime yourself. Stealing, shoplifting, assault, vandalism and other illegal activities can destroy your chances for a great job, even if you have never been caught committing any those crimes. Polygraph examiners are very hard to beat, and you may not get a second chance. Be smart about what you write and show on the Internet. Everything you put there is there forever, and cannot be retrieved. Facebook, chat sites, blogs, and websites are all fair game for your background investigators. Do or say something stupid at 16 on You-Tube and find yourself trying to explain that long forgotten action to a federal investigator years later. That is it for the big stuff. Getting a security clearance does not have to be a big deal. Remember, keep your nose clean. What could be simpler?
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