Monday, July 27, 2009

Part 5 -- Beyond The Big Three: Jobs In Commercial Intelligence Agencies, Think-tanks And NGO's (How To Get A Job In Intelligence)

Part 1 -- Introduction
Part 2 -- The Intelligence Job Market From 20,000 Feet
Part 3 -- The Good News!
Part 4 -- Even Better News!

When most people think of jobs in intelligence, they immediately think of the CIA or other national agencies. A few think about law enforcement positions and even fewer think about the place, oddly enough, where most of the jobs actually reside -- in business.

This breakdown is mirrored in a survey I have been running on another of my websites (more on that later) for the last couple of years. You can see the current results below:

Only about 3% are looking for jobs beyond these three categories. My theory is that most people just don't know about all of the opportunities in intelligence analysis or intelligence analysis-like jobs in commercial intelligence agencies, think-tanks and non-governmental organizations.

Commercial Intelligence Agencies

The "commercial intelligence agency" is my neologism for all those entities out there who are essentially doing what intelligence agencies do but they do it for profit. The granddaddy of this type of organization is, of course, Jane's. Jane's has been around since 1865 and produces some of the best information and analysis on defense and defense industry matters for business and national security clients.

Jane's is also on almost every desktop in the national security community (which is one of the reasons we offer an nearly complete subscription to their service to our students here at Mercyhurst). A quick search of IHS, Jane's parent site, shows 22 jobs with the word "analyst" in the title.

There are others, of course. STRATFOR and IJet are two more "cia's" that are extremely well respected. Other firms are more specialized, such as the Economist Intelligence Unit and Cyveillance (which focuses on cybercrime). All periodically offer jobs through their sites.

Beyond the growing number of cia's, there are also the large consulting firms such as PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte and Accenture. Most of the jobs in these fields require specialized business backgrounds, so entry-level opportunities might be limited for pure intel analysts but not impossible. For example, Mercyhurst intel studies graduates work or have worked at two of the three companies listed above. All of these companies have robust internship programs which, in turn, could lead to what would be a very good job.

Think Tanks

There are a ton of think-tanks, such as The Carnegie Endowment For International Peace, The Cato Institute, the RAND Corporation and The Heritage Foundation, that do analysis. The truth is, however, that there are often some high barriers to entry into these types of positions and not all of them will be a good fit for a generic analyst.

If you do not have the special skills required of these high profile positions, an internship might be the best way to get a job with one of these institutions. Most of these organizations offer robust internship possibilities (although many of them are unpaid).

Likewise, while the ones mentioned above are among the most high profile institutions in the country, there are a number of other think tanks -- often at a state or local level -- that would be an easier "fit" for an entry level analyst.

Non-Governmental Organizations

This category overlaps, to a certain extent, with the think-tank category but is often characterized by an explicit advocacy position. Analysis is often a core product of these organizations but it is articulated from a particular point of view.

This does not necessarily mean it is biased, but it is focused, and if the job seeker does not share that focus, the fit is unlikely to be very good. For example, the Sierra Club produces analysis but if you don't accept climate change as fact, I would predict that any job involving analysis you might get with the organization would be pretty unsatisfying.

Even more so than with think-tanks, the jobs here are not as plentiful and internships are more likely to be unpaid. The work can be enormously rewarding, however. Two good examples of organizations that examine topics that would be fascinating to many analysts are the Federation Of American Scientists and Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project.

Just A Few More Thoughts...

These three broad categories are really just that: Categories. There are obviously many more opportunities in these fields than I can catalog in these few paragraphs.

Furthermore, virtually any job from any of the organizations listed above will require a deep search of their job listings (jobs in these categories, if available, are unlikely to be titled "intelligence analyst", for example. A more nuanced and time consuming search strategy will almost certainly be necessary to find a job that is a good fit for a particular set of analytic skills).

My primary purpose is to encourage job seekers in "intelligence" (and, particularly, "intelligence analysis") to think more broadly about their field and where they might fit into it.

Next: Beyond Borders
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