The Homeland Security job market is very competitive, so when employers assess job applicants they consider the person’s degree, grade point average, professional skills and professional experience—in addition to investigating the character of the applicant. It is these character issues that often “torpedo” the success of many job seekers. Long before you ever apply for a professional position in Homeland Security you need to make sure your “character portfolio” is in order.
Items to manage when applying for a job in the Homeland Security field:
- No drug use
While a little sporadic youthful drug experimenting may not hurt your immediate employment chances, any sustained and/or current drug use will result in employers rejecting your application.
- No felony convictions
Anyone with a felony conviction should not apply for a Homeland Security position. Misdemeanor offenses will also be reviewed by employers and depending on the nature or frequency of such offenses may also result in your rejection.
- Manage your “digital footprint”
A large percentage of job applicants are rejected due simply to information about them on social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.). In some agencies the social media checks eliminate as many as 50% or more of the job applicants. Employers will look for anything on social media that reflects poorly on your trustworthiness, reliability or decision-making. You not only have to manage what you post on social media sites, but also on what others post about you. If you plan to seek a career where high-level security clearances are required (federal law enforcement, intelligence community, etc.) you may want to consider not participating in any social media.
- Cultivate professional references
Employers will ask for several personal references who know you and can attest to your general character and trustworthiness. It is best to start early cultivating relationships with your professors, work or internship supervisors and community leaders (ministers, politicians, etc).
- Do not try to hide the truth
Employers in the Homeland Security field will conduct a thorough background investigation of all applicants. One of the last steps in the background investigation is a polygraph. Unlike what you might have seen on television or in the movies, you cannot beat the polygraph. So be truthful on your background investigation forms and with polygraph examiners about any drug use, felony or misdemeanor convictions or other problems they ask about—then let the employer decide if your character meets their standards.
Knowing the above job application pitfalls now will help you in preparing and applying for later employment in a Homeland Security position.
By Dr. Michael W. Collier
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