Published in the January/February 2012 issue of print Search & Employ® |
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is more than spies being sent on Top Secret missions to exotic locations. The public’s perception of CIA reflects the organization’s portrayal on television and in the movies — those shows rarely cover more than the clandestine mission. What people don’t realize is that CIA is like any global company. It takes a wide variety of functions to keep the organization running. CIA employees include doctors, lawyers, economists, scientists and engineers, police officers, and linguists – the Agency has over 100 occupations. Many people are surprised at the breadth of opportunities, and at the ability of many employees to switch career paths as their interests change.
The CIA is an independent agency responsible for providing national security intelligence to the President and senior U.S. policymakers. CIA’s primary mission is to collect, analyze, evaluate, and disseminate foreign intelligence to assist these policymakers in making national security decisions. To meet this mission, they hire people from different backgrounds and with a variety of experiences and skill sets. Their strength and effectiveness as an agency depends upon their ability to employ a workforce as diverse as America.
The CIA has four basic components:
• National Clandestine Service (NCS): Collects actionable human intelligence (HUMINT) that informs the U.S. President, senior policymakers, military, and law enforcement.
• Directorate of Intelligence: Analyzes intelligence on overseas developments including HUMINT, and briefs policymakers orally or in writing to facilitate well-informed decision-making in the national security and defense arenas.
• Directorate of Science & Technology: Creates, adapts, develops, and operates technical collection systems and applies enabling technologies to the collection, processing, and analysis of information.
• Directorate of Support: Provides key support functions — to include communications, security, supply chains, facilities, financial services, and medical services, ensuring colleagues have the necessary tools to accomplish their missions. Support officers are often among the first CIA officers into difficult operational areas and the last ones out.
The Agency’s hiring priorities reflect the skills needed to meet today’s national security challenges. It needs foreign area experts who can analyze world events and provide policymakers with data and information to make decisions in the best interest of our national security. The CIA also wants to hire linguists in a number of critical languages from Arabic to Chinese and Somali. Additionally, it needs computer and cyber security specialists to help protect its technology from harm. A job category that is always in demand is Operations Officers: willing to take risks to collect intelligence that can help protect the United States.
Fran, a CIA recruiter (her last name is withheld for security purposes), said that the Agency has a long history of hiring veterans. “Our regional recruiters take every opportunity to visit military bases across the country, providing information sessions and attending career fairs for those about to be separated from the military,” she said. “They also provide guidance in resume preparation and interviewing techniques.”
CIA participates in the Hiring Heroes Career Fairs, which are sponsored by the Department of Defense and are held in locations throughout the nation, usually where there are large military medical facilities. They are specifically for servicemembers who have been classified as disabled and will soon be medically discharged from the military. However, other servicemembers who hear about the career fair stop by as well. Each of the agency’s hiring divisions sends representatives. These career fairs are for veterans seeking full-time employment.
“The Agency also participates in the Wounded Warrior Program and Operation Warfighter,” Fran said. “Both are temporary assignment programs specifically designed for members of the armed forces who are undergoing treatment or rehabilitation at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Fort Belvoir, and Quantico. This program provides injured servicemembers an opportunity for meaningful activity outside of the hospital environment, which assists in their recuperation and allows them a formal means of transition back into the military or civilian workforce. It gives them hope that they can continue serving their country, even though they face new challenges in recovery.”
Veterans’ dedication makes them ideal employees. “Many people join the military to serve, protect, and keep our nation safe,” Fran said. “Joining the CIA offers veterans the opportunity to continue their service, in a different uniform (civilian). I think the most important things veterans bring to the CIA are the sense of duty, strong leadership abilities, and patriotism.”
Whether veterans and active-duty servicemembers are interested in working at the CIA or at other defense-related agencies and contractors, Fran said they need to take advantage of their opportunities. “The most important piece of advice I can share is to take advantage of the new GI Bill and go back to school,” she said. “The bill will pay for tuition and your books for four years. Then, I would advise them to prepare a good resume. Take every advantage to attend workshops that the base offers. They often have workshops in resume writing, dress for success, interviewing techniques, etc. There are many opportunities for those who are getting ready to leave the military. Attend as many career fairs as you can. Many federal agencies and private industry companies are represented at these various career fairs and are anxious to talk to them.”
That advice gets even more focused if they are in interested in joining the CIA. “Most of the jobs in our organization require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree with a GPA of 3.0 and better,” Fran said. “Because CIA is represented at many of the military career fairs, go and talk to a recruiter. Also check the CIA website often. All of our jobs are posted there. The website is extensive. Become familiar with it. All applicants must apply online.”