While it remains a candidate’s market for cleared professionals and the defense industry has remained strong despite the COVID-19 economic downturn, even cleared professionals face the regular employment churn of lost contracts, layoffs and turnover. If you’ve recently found yourself out of a job you may be wondering if the lack of an active clearance is a career killer. This is where understanding the nuance of security clearance terminology is important.

A clearance can only be active if it’s in use. That means if you’re laid off, leave a position or are simply moved onto a contract that doesn’t involve cleared work, you no longer have an active security clearance. But that doesn’t mean you can’t quickly return to cleared work. Traditionally, a clearance remained current for two years following a break in service, assuming the corresponding background investigation hadn’t expired. With continuous vetting becoming the norm and more clearance holders enrolled in a continuous evaluation program, more applicants are reporting their not sure of what their most recent periodic reinvestigation date is. The good news is clearance portability remains a key concern for the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). Their recently released Personnel Vetting Core Doctrine outlines the importance of creating easy on and off ramps for cleared professionals.

If you’ve recently left a cleared position, a key date to keep in mind is the date you were read out of a cleared program. Assuming your layoff wasn’t due to a personal conduct issue or security violation (which would result in a flag on your clearance record that would need to be addressed), you should be able to inform new employers of your current clearance, and they should be able to onboard you with no issues – assuming the layoff was within two years.

Don’t let a short break in employment or layoff tank your clearance chances. A layoff shouldn’t be a career killer, and it certainly isn’t a clearance killer.

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Lindy Kyzer is the editor of ClearanceJobs.com. She loves the NISPPAC, social media, and the U.S. military. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email lindy.kyzer@clearancejobs.com. Interested in writing for ClearanceJobs.com? Learn more here.