Obtaining a security clearance can be a pain, but the career benefits are worth it.  As someone in his or her twenties, putting together a security clearance package presents unique problems. It’s said that millennials are great at multi-tasking – their memories seem to be less clear, if you ask security clearance investigators, as many seem to have trouble digging up exact addresses, employment histories, and references for their applications.

Don’t take the risk of having your clearance denied or delayed. Here are a few of the top issues, and tips for answering the tough questions (because ‘I don’t remember’ or ‘I’m a millennial, it’s not my fault I’ve had five jobs before I was 20’ won’t cut it for a security clearance investigator).

Previous addresses from how long ago?

I think all would agree that remembering where you have lived for the past ten years is challenging.  College graduates most likely move every year.  I don’t know about you, but I cannot remember ten addresses.  And does living in my mom’s basement for six months count as an address? (Answer: yes).

When I got my first clearance at the tender age of 18, I had two addresses to remember.  After my most recent clearance change, I had to remember EIGHT different locations, to include military posts that lasted less than six months. Thank goodness for Amazon.com for keeping track of half of them.  This might be a good way to track down some of these addresses.  And my mom said online shopping would get me nowhere!

Add to this the dreaded question of “please list someone that knew you at this address” and the heat is on.  Do you call your long lost roommate from freshman year that seldom showered and had dramatic phone calls at odd hours of the night?  Is working for a government agency really worth rehashing that train-wreck of a relationship?  Well if you’re frequenting Clearancejobs, and you love America, then the answer is most likely yes.  So suck it up, dig up some fond memories of the smelly drama queen, and get that clearance! As painful as it may be, it’s a good idea to contact them ahead of time if at all possible, to confirm you still have their correct information. If you’re applying for a top secret clearance, it may be a huge time saver.

Cyberstalking…even employers do it

Ever since the internet was invented… okay, more like social media, job seekers and clearance holders have had a new enemy… Facebook.  Unfortunately, the Internet is forever.  Just like an elephant that never forgets, Facebook often logs the times of your carefree youth, when making questionable choices was your favorite hobby all the while capturing the whole mess on your Facebook page. Thank you Facebook for reminding me of past mistakes.  Yes, because the only thing important to this social media giant is the day you were born, the date you joined Facebook, and that one time you had too many mai tais and danced on the bar.

Ladies and gentlemen, employers will search for you, and it’s up to you to create a positive online perception that will foster the kind of attention you want, and not the kind that will get you banned from landing a great job.

When it comes to crazy things that will be found on your Facebook page, the critical thing to remember is transparency. Past indiscretions won’t cost you a clearance – failure to report them, will.

Crazy ex-boyfriends

To be clear, this refers to all crazy people in our past.  We all have them.  Whether it really is a crazy ex-boyfriend, or a friend that makes questionable decisions, you’re better off listing someone that understands the importance of carrying a clearance.  So do yourself a favor, and make sure that those who are interviewed attest to your character and are not the same ones that you had “super fun” with in college, or a loose cannon who you’ll just never know what she’ll say next.  An interviewer is more concerned with how you would handle certain professional situations, and less concerned with what your record amount of drinks in one sitting was in college.  Those people are great for reality television… not your professional livelihood.

If you have an ex or other individual who you have to list on your application, who may reveal dirt (real or made-up) that wouldn’t reflect well, do your best to mitigate it with other character statements or clarifications – and do so in your application, not just at your personal subject interview.

Getting and maintaining a clearance is a valuable asset to have when trying to land a government or defense industry job.  You need it, so clean it up online, and be prepared to fill out that in-depth application accurately and carefully.

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Erika Wonn is a communications analyst and proud veteran in Washington, DC.