Inside the intelligence community, part II

Monday - 7/18/2011, 9:39pm EDT

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By Andrew Mitchell
Federal News Radio

So you want to live the life of Reilly, Ace of Spies?

Or perhaps your desire is simply to be an analyst at one of America's 16 intelligence agencies?

Whether you are in college, at mid-career or even retired, Uncle Sam may well be looking for you, according to Ellen McCarthy, president of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance.

Speaking with host Bob Leins on this week's edition of For Your Benefit, broadcast live Mondays at 10:00 a.m. on Federal News Radio, McCarthy said the intelligence community, which includes civilian and military agencies as well as a host of private-sector companies, is always seeking qualified individuals to fill various positions.

"The intelligence community is looking for a variety of skill sets," McCarthy explained, "everything from engineers, mathematicians, to art history majors."

She added that the latter, for example, "tend to look at things a little differently than, say, an engineer, and some of the best analysts I've met have been art history majors who can look at large amounts of data, who can look at photos, imagery, and see things entirely differently."

"And that's a huge benefit for the intelligence community," she said.

Age, according to McCarthy, is also not a barrier to employment in the intelligence community.

"I don't want to discourage anybody from applying for a job," she said, adding that retired military and law enforcement officers "are very much wanted in the intelligence community."

The trick, she said, is to start networking. People do get jobs by applying for advertised positions and sending in resumes, McCarthy said, "but really the best way is to make some sort of personal connection."

To accomplish this, McCarthy suggested that people attend intelligence-related symposiums, conferences, job fairs and other public events and get to know those who already work in the field.

One such networking opportunity comes in November, when INSA will host the American Security Challenge, which McCarthy described as "speed dating for technologists."

She said that the web site of the Director of National Intelligence can be very useful for those who are interested in getting a job in the intelligence community.

"Of course," she added, "I would suggest you come to me first."

Ellen McCarthy can be reached at emccarthy@insaonline.org.

Email us or call the show live at (202) 465-3080 to have your questions answered by the experts.