We’ve run a few articles on the site about how and why the right friends and coworker relationships can make or break you in the clearance process. The number of references required in the SF-86 can feel staggering to the socially awkward (or the average person, quite frankly). Add in a two year global pandemic where walking cookies over to your new neighbors was often frowned upon, and many security clearance applicants today are in even more dire straights.
The basic question is often – what do I do If I literally have no friends to list on the SF-86 in the ‘people who know me well’ section. The answer is often to look beyond the question itself and consider what the government is actually looking for. Is there anyone who can potentially vouch for your reliability, trustworthiness, and credibility? Ideally this is a person you’re in going contact today. If no one of that regard exists, consider coworkers, teachers, or persons of authority in your life who may have formed a favorable value judgment. We all have different definitions of what it means to ‘know you well.’ If you chat monthly with a college friend or email semi-annually with someone from high school, that may be sufficient – if you have enough time of friendship under your belt.
Keep in mind that for a basic Secret investigation, most of the checks are automated. Your references only really come into play if you have a complex investigation or skeletons in your closet. For a Top Secret clearance investigation, the investigator won’t just be sticking to the folks you list – so consider those individuals a springboard into other relationships.
If you truly are the antisocial type and have a year or more before you begin the security clearance process, it may be worth considering how you can get out there and build your network. Is there a professional networking organization you can play an active part in? A club or sport you could join? These connections are less about your job prospects and more about your mental health. If you truly can’t come up with three people who know you well, it’s time to find some.
Keeping Contacts After the Clearance
And lest you think you can drop your new friends and affinity groups after you get your first clearance, keep in mind that keeping your coworkers happy can go a long way toward keeping your clearance eligibility if you face a violation down the road. If you are faced with a Statement of Reasons or clearance revocation, it can be hard to fight without a supervisor and/or coworkers to vouch for why the issue or incident was an anomaly and not a reflection of your character.
So, get out there and be social again. Your clearance may depend on it.