Marketability and salary are key benefits of maintaining a clearance. Salary and marketability are already high for cleared cyber talent. And it may get higher as Silicon Valley looks to recover from the public relations problem it faces after seeing their platforms used by foreign governments and bad actors.

“We are starting to see platforms in the social-media arena being used by bad actors — in ways for which for they were never intended,” Ned Miller, chief technology strategist for the public sector for McAfee, said in an interview. “So the folks that build those newer platforms are now demonstrating interest in acquiring talent that has a lot more cybersecurity resources and background.”

Companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google are finding it advantageous to bolster their workforce with former government employees holding top-secret and higher clearances. Social media companies are up against defense contractors, the federal government, and financial firms. Whether you’re entrusted with keeping hackers away from millions of dollars or building the next stealth fighter, cleared individuals go through a long process to acquire and maintain the privilege of a clearance.

Bridging the Gap Between Commercial and Government

The primary reason behind the current drive for cleared talent is the need for individuals with the ability to build stronger systems, as well as interact with federal agencies when breaches do occur. Companies need to be more proactive in boosting their security and acquiring cleared professionals is on way to do it. “You have to hunt threats, otherwise threats will hunt you,’’ said Eric O’Neill, a national security strategist at cyber firm Carbon Black.

The more access Facebook, Twitter, and Google have to government information about malicious cyber activity, the more posed they are to go after suspicious accounts. The fight against hackers needs to be a collaborative approach, with all of the right players from government and industry on the same page.

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, now a professor at Stanford University, says that in Silicon Valley, “we all want to protect privacy but we also want to protect the country, and that conversation isn’t going on in a very effective way…from the Silicon Valley perspective, I think these companies are recognizing now their responsibilities.’’

The good news is that cleared professionals have the knowledge Silicon Valley needs. Here are tips for making the transition.

Know your worth.

Find comparable jobs and see how you compare, based on experience. See what industry is paying for your position, and then adjust for your clearance. Are you being paid fairly? You cannot bluff your way through conversations about being paid your worth. You have to come prepared with information or prepared to walk. And there are many pieces of information to consider: your replacement cost, going rate in the industry, and worth of your clearance.


Identify your value-add.

No one loves to sell others on their accomplishments, and those that do love to do this probably shouldn’t! But it is important for management to understand that the knowledge gap you will leave behind is hard to put a price tag on, so they do need to consider carefully the cost of losing your talent. Identify what the ranges are for certifications, clearance levels, and for similar positions, but leave the actual increase for the hiring manager to discuss.

Be slow to speak.

Don’t rush to fill all of the awkward spaces around any offers. Rash words can shut down forward progress so it’s important to be careful with your timing in negotiations. Every industry, and every company, operates a little bit differently.

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Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.