Friday, September 11, 2009

Part 11 -- Advice From Veterans (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!
Part 5 -- Beyond The Big Three
Part 6 -- Beyond Borders
Part 7 -- Beyond Borders: India, Europe And South Africa
Part 8 -- Going It On Your Own
Part 9 -- The 5 Things You Must Have
Part 10 -- Advice From The Trenches
Special Report: Where The Jobs Are, 2009

As I was doing research for this series, I reached out to a number of my colleagues for advice. I received some very good answers back. There was a surprising amount of agreement among these public and private sector veterans of intelligence work. Generally, their comments broke down along three lines, however: Specific areas to look for jobs or specific skills needed to get a job, the importance of internships and, finally, general advice to the job hunter.

(Note: All of the people quoted in today's post are intel veterans. They are trying to be helpful by providing the benefits of that experience to young analysts looking for their first job. These comments should not be construed, however, as the "official position" of their respective agencies, companies or organizations.)


Deborah Osborne, who writes the popular crime analysis blog, Analyst's Corner and has a consulting business with the same name, provided some very specific guidance for entry-level analysts interested in pursuing careers in law enforcement intelligence.

"Certain parts of the country," she said, "have many more local level crime intelligence analysts jobs. The most concentrated areas for local level law enforcement analyst positions in the United States include the following states: Massachusetts, Virginia, Florida, Texas, Kansas, California, Arizona, Washington, and Colorado. This doesn't mean that other states don't have such positions - just that the concept of crime intelligence analysis is well-established in the listed states."

Drew Perez, of the Lockheed Martin Center For Security Analysis and the author of the also popular national security focused blog, JIOX, took a slightly different but no less useful perspective when he outlined the "hot" areas for analysts seeking employment today: "Competitive Intelligence, Information Operations, Perception Management, Prediction Markets."

Drew goes on to say, "Another area identified in the market research I conducted 2-years ago for Lockheed Martin showed that significant opportunities exist outside the traditional intelligence community (IC). Secretary Napolitano's recent speech at the Council on Foreign Relations addresses these opportunities outside the IC. Here are some excerpts: 'And so we're constantly looking for ways to better share information up and down the response ladder I just described, from individuals and communities to local law enforcement, to the federal level and then at the international level. In other words, as we build the fusion centers, we need to move analytic capacity from the Beltway to the country. In addition to the 70 current fusion center sites, the department will be collaborating with the Department of Justice and the FBI in more than 100 joint terrorism task forces across the country as well. So you see how we're creating the network—individuals, private sector, now among fusion centers and the law enforcement community.' "

What Drew is highlighting seems to be confirmed in the recent report on where the jobs are going to be in government over the next 3 years. That report indicated considerable growth in intel analyst positions within federal law enforcement.

Finally, another intel veteran, Cecilia Anastos, highlighted some particular skill sets that she thought would be useful, including mastery of analytic software (such as Analyst's Notebook), mastery of white hat hacking skills, and language skills (specifically, according to Cecilia, "Arabic, Farsi, Pashtu, Chinese and Spanish….I would include also Portuguese and Italian").


Virtually all of the intel veterans indicated that an internship was important. Drew was emphatic: "Get an internship with ODNI, CIA, DIA, NSA. The point is someone (an agency) has to sponsor your security clearance to get in the door. "

Deborah offered some good advice to those more interested in law enforcement careers: "Internships can be arranged by your universities and colleges. You may also approach police agencies yourself. Do research on the web to see if they have an analytical unit. Contact the unit staff and ask about opportunities. Some agencies use volunteers to help analysts. Look into these options because developing relationships with analysts and agencies is your number one best bet to getting a job."

Howard Clarke, of Toddington International, a commercial OSINT firm, in outlining some of the problems with intelligence as theory and intelligence as practice, also provided what turns out to be a pretty good checklist for interns when examining a company, agency or organization as a place for potential employment. Specifically, Howard recommends that young analysts, "do their homework on the agencies to which they are applying: as regards organizational culture, use of analysts, relevance and quality of training, etc. To make my concerns a little more concrete, I would point to issues such as:
  • Problems with analyst tasking (does this function work well in the prospective hiring organization?)
  • Is there coherence between the training provided and the actual work in which analysts are engaged?
  • Is the organization analyst-friendly? Are there clear roles and reasonable expectations and a supportive or hostile organizational environment?
  • Are systems in place to support the analysts or are the analysts in place to serve the data processing functions?"
Howard's list is a good one in my estimation, even if, in this economy, entry level analysts may not be able to be very picky. At least, they will be able to go into a job with their eyes open.

General Advice

There was quite a bit of just general good advice from all respondents for entry level analysts. Much of it has already been outlined in other parts of this series but some of it, at least, bears repeating and some of it is brand new.

For example, I thought Mats Bjore, the Director of Silobreaker made some excellent points when he stated, "Intelligence analysts need to be able to learn and unlearn at high speed. They also need to have a deep cultural and social understanding for the area or subject they analyze. Furthermore, they need to be able to do their own collection of data and information embedded in the analytical process. I have seen to many examples of "academic" and "IC" methods that give the individual a sense of a proven and accepted workflow, but, for the consumers of intelligence, just produce an overflow of words that they get too late."

Deborah adds that young analysts should make a point of attending "the International Association of Crime Analysts and International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts conferences if you are able. Besides the quality training you will receive there, networking opportunities abound. Make an effort to meet people who head analytical units and don't be afraid to market yourself." I would say the same holds true for the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professional's annual conference as well.

Cecilia recommends picking a specific topic or region of interest as soon as possible, studying as much as one can about it/them and actively writing papers or other documents to help develop your expertise but also to use in a portfolio. Another of her recommendations that made sense (either from an internship or a job perspective) was to "apply to organizations like the Council on Foreign Relations, think tanks, etc. This will brand your name with a region and an expertise, which you can use later to get a job at government agencies."

Next: The Ultimate Intel Job Search Link List
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