You know you want to work in the national security space but you don’t have one of the most important qualifications – a security clearance. Don’t fret – there are many companies willing to sponsor candidates so don’t count yourself out of that cleared job before applying. And with security clearance processing times going down, you may be able to obtain a clearance in a few months.

Do Your Homework

First, be sure to indicate yourself as willing to obtain a clearance and clearable on your resume. Research the adjudicative guidelines and if you have any red flag issues, address them before you apply for a job. For some, this can take a little more time than others. Financial considerations are the currently the number one reason for clearance denial. Murky financial practices or unpaid debt needs to be clarified and/or addressed. It doesn’t mean that your debt balance needs to be zeroed out before applying, but applicants should be prepared to display a payment history that points to the fact that you live up to obligations and are trustworthy.

Make Connections

Next, network. Connect with companies, and look for friends working in the national security space. Join professional associations. There are companies willing to sponsor your security clearance and put you on the path to a cleared job. You simply need to find them. The point of networks is to grow your career and to help others grow theirs. If your skills aren’t translating well into the cleared organizations that you’d like to call your employer, then don’t ignore all of the tools at your disposal.

Analyze Open Positions and Hiring Organizations

When you’re looking for open positions, keep your eye on hiring timelines and size of the organization. The larger the organization, the greater the ability to provide alternate unclassified work while you’re waiting on the bench for an interim clearance.  If the start of contract is imminent or they are trying to backfill a position, the organization doesn’t have time to wait for a candidate to obtain an interim clearance. In order to avoid street adjudication, it’s important to simply respond that you are able to get a security clearance. If your skills and education line up, apply for the position, but be ready to provide ways that you can support work in the organization while waiting for your clearance.

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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.