How To Advance Your Job Search Without A Security Clearance

July 2005


Randall Scasny

I am asked this question by military veterans several times a month: "I have an information technology (IT) background and would like to seek opportunities in the Defense Industry but I do not have a security clearance. What can I do?"

When I tell them you can't apply for a clearance (employers must initiate the application process), they feel shut out of the game. This is understandable. While the defense industry has many needs for IT professionals a clearance is a necessary requirement for many but not all positions.

When the security-clearance issue fades to the background of our discussions and we begin talking about how to advance their job searches, they reveal themselves as a special group of military veteran job seekers.

While they are all veterans, they generally are not recent ones. I would say they served between 10 to 15 years ago and lost their jobs as a result of the IT industry's restructuring since the recession of 2001.

And that is where we begin our work: we spend time discussing the changes in the IT industry. To move forward, they need to understand the changes in order to adapt their job searches to new industry needs.

Over the past ten years, the IT industry has seen changes in the following areas:

Changes the IT industry has experienced in the type and variety of products it delivers to customers would be more than enough to challenge any job searcher.

Ten years ago, the IT industry was essentially PC-based. Since that time, the industry has gone through an Internet-centric phase to now a Wireless phase.

Computing power has skyrocketed over this ten-year period. So has the telecom distribution system. It has gone from a narrowband, switch-based technology to the ever growing broadband and rapidly evolving IP-based technology.

About ten years ago, the Windows 95 operating system (OS) debuted, with little market threat. But today, the open source OS, Linux, is becoming an important competitor to previous standards.

I could mention many more changes within the IT industry's products. (See References.) But I would be overstating my point: changing products require either new skill sets or adapting old skill sets to new products.

Consumers of IT products have changed immensely over the past ten years. Back then, being computer-phobic was common; today, most anyone can operate a computer well enough to use a web browser to read the news, download music or buy a book.

In many ways the IT industry has matured in the U.S. causing IT vendors to seek new, virgin markets to generate revenues. Many of these new markets are in Asia. China is quickly turning into a significant global customer as well as a producer of technology.

Without even discussing the sensationalistic headlines of Americans losing jobs to India or China, we can see that the IT industry has had enough change to uproot seasoned professionals from what were perceived a decade ago as stable career paths.

So, what productive actions can IT professionals take to advance their job search in a changing environment? What follows are 3 approaches to use.

Simple Approach: Review Job Ads and Resume Re-Write: This approach is the quickest and simplest way to get your job search going again. It works when there's a simple mismatch between what you have written on your resume and what employers are seeking.

To begin, you should take the time to read job ads in your area of expertise. Read plenty of them. Note what skills they are seeking. Compare these requirements to your resume. If you have forgotten to include something, then edit your resume. If you do indeed have some skill gaps, some re-training will be required.

Intermediate Approach: Target Organizations That Need Your Skill Sets: This approach requires more work than the simple approach. You are looking for organizations that need your type of skills. My guess is that, if you have experience in older systems or had lost your job due to outsourcing, you are looking for smaller, privately-owned companies who are serving stable, older, and long term customers. There are plenty of resources on the Internet for you to conduct this kind of company research.

Advanced Approach: Industry Sector Breakdown: The Industry Sector Breakdown Approach attempts to create new opportunities for you through sector knowledge. The approach is implemented in the following way:

1. Develop The Industry Sector Flow Chart (See Figure 1). This breaks the industry down into its associated sub-sectors.

2. Research the industry to eliminate sub-sectors that are overly mature or hold little promise for re-employment.

3. Choose industry sub-sectors which are "hot" and re-write your resume to recast your job skills for these industry sub-sectors.

4. Develop potential employer company lists of major and minor companies within these "hot" sub sectors. Be sure to include original product vendors AND suppliers to vendors.

5. Apply to the companies.

This technique, while time consuming, opens new opportunities nearly all the time.

IT FlowCart
Figure 1: Breakdown of IT Industry into its associated sub-sectors.

Experimenting with fresh approaches and different strategies is key to advancing your job search. As time goes on, you will learn where you now are deemed competitive and valued by employers who have new requirements.

I'll end this article with a recommendation. If you feel you need other approaches to advancing your job search, I'd suggest you read Matthew Moran's book, The IT Career Builder's Toolkit, which focuses on valuable IT information and emphasizes the skills needed for long-term professional growth and stability.

Good Luck In Your Job Search!


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All opinions, advice, statements or other information expressed in this article are solely the author's and do not necessarily express the opinions of or the publisher.