Re: So many jobs want CURRENT security clearances

Subject: Re: So many jobs want CURRENT security clearances
From: "Brautigam, Curtis" <cubrautiga -at- state -dot- pa -dot- us>
To: "'TECHWR-L -at- LISTS -dot- RAYCOMM -dot- COM'" <TECHWR-L -at- LISTS -dot- RAYCOMM -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 14 Aug 2003 08:03:14 -0400

I understand the frustration of those who are looking for technical writing
work who see the countless job ads for technical writing jobs requiring
security clearances. It is a reality of the post-9-11 world that a lot of
positions have opened up that require security clearances. When I was job
hunting about 1 1/2 years ago, I came up against a large number of technical
writing positions that require a security clearance. I remember seeing a lot
of job fairs in the D.C. area on national security job search sites that
were almost exclusively for people with security clearances. The frustrating
thing for me is that most of the jobs that are out there that involve the
use of the skills for which I was trained in college and graduate school
(political science, national security, international relations, Russian
studies) require a security clearance. Quite a while back (in the 1980s), I
applied for jobs that required security clearances. Unfortunately, I was
turned down even before the employer began the security check.

Another observation about this type of job market is that a lot of the
positions are for project and contract work. The question is what will
happen when the project or contract is completed. In addition, there is
always the question of what will happen in the even of defense cutbacks,
although this would probably be unlikely in the post-9-11 world.

During my job hunt in 2002, which was also a year when the technical writing
job market was lousy, I also saw positions that required a security
clearance for which employment would be conditional on the selected
applicant passing the security clearance check. It seems like some employers
are willing to wait for the applicant to get the security clearance before
they offer them the job. However, the problem with security clearances is
that they can take anywhere from 6 months to a year, and this is too much
time for someone who is drawing an unemployment check for a period of less
than that. Back in the 1980s when I applied for jobs involving security
clearances, I had to fill out a very detailed application form that asked
for information about such things as residences over the past 15 years,
neighbors during those times, detailed financial information, foreign
residence, study, or travel, U.S. citizenship, and the like. I found out
that if your credit rating is less than stellar or if you have spent
extensive time abroad, even in countries friendly to the United States, you
would not get the clearance. If one had even traveled to countries deemed
hostile to the United States at the time, you would not get a top secret
clearance (you would have to settle for a secret clearance, which would
close the door to a lot of positions).

There are good reasons why employers want only people with security
clearances. The reality with employers for technical writing positions is
that they want someone who can hit the ground running the moment they are
employed, and someone who could involve a waiting period before they can do
the job (this also applies to employers who do not require security
clearances). These employers do not want to wait for a potential employee to
pass the security check, and they do not want to take a risk of waiting 6
months to a year on somebody who has a possibility of failing the check.

The plus side of all of this is that technical writing positions with
security clearances are not likely to be sent offshore or be doled out to
H1Bs or L-1s. Unfortunately, they can become victim to the budget ax, as
what happened at the end of the Cold War. The best way to obtain a security
clearance is the following:

-- Apply for positions where employment is conditional on passing a security
check. You cannot apply for a security clearance unless the prospective
employer submits your name to whoever performs the security check.

-- Some people on this list mentioned joining the military and applying for
MOSs that require some form of security clearance. Of course, there is
always the risk of being sent off to armed combat.

It does not hurt to try to obtain a security clearance--you may be
unemployed for a while, but once you get it, you will not have to deal with
stuff like offshoring and H1B/L-1 visas. The job pickings will be a lot more

Chaim Brautigam
Descriptive Statistician 1
Center for Workforce Information
PA Department of Labor and Industry
cubrauti -at- state -dot- pa -dot- us

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