Career advice: When that job you want requires a security clearance

Premier 100 IT Leader Srini Koushik also answers questions on selling yourself as a quick learner and connecting with a boss on social media.

Ask a Premier 100 IT Leader

Srini Koushik

Title: President and CEO

Company: NTT Innovation Institute Inc.

Koushikis this month's Premier 100 IT Leader. If you have a question you'd like to pose to one of Computerworld's Premier 100 IT Leaders, send it to

My husband and I moved to the Washington area for his job. I'm a network engineer looking for a job. I have found that a lot of the jobs around here require a security clearance. How do I clear that hurdle? A security clearance is required for defense contractors but it doesn't stop there. The medical, telecommunications, education, and financial fields have an increasing number of jobs where a security clearance is desirable. With more than 500,000 background security investigations pending security clearance approval, most companies will look for candidates who already have an existing clearance. Your best option is to find a role that doesn't require a security clearance with a cleared contractor or government department that is willing to sponsor your clearance. Once you have a clearance, you become more competitive, and the options to grow your career are greater.

I often see ads for jobs in IT that require a wide range of specific skills. I have a lot of skills myself, as well as certifications and eight-plus years of experience, but I never have all the skills on one of those lists. Even when I have three-fourths of them, I don't get an interview. Here's the thing: I don't think my particular skills are all that relevant. What should matter is that I have many skills, which shows I am able to learn. But how do I get that point across on my résumé? The truth is most job postings have hundreds of responses from candidates who have the skills directly related to the role. Businesses are operating faster and leaner than ever before. Most managers don't have the time to fill their open roles with, let alone interview, candidates that think they can do the job without the training and experience the role demands. In other words, don't waste their time. That's the hard truth. But there is hope. If you're upfront about your skills, are motivated, and have a vision for your career, you may find a manager willing to invest in training you or find a junior role that is a better fit. The bottom line: Be honest about your skills, respect the hiring manager's time, clearly describe your goals and, most of all, be patient. Finding the right role always takes effort.

My new boss sent me friend requests on social media. I accepted on LinkedIn but not on Facebook, but I'm worried that he might be offended. What should I do? Bosses should never ask to connect on Facebook. Facebook "friends" can be confusing enough without the complexity of adding your manager. In fact, you should be careful about "friending" other colleagues. One promotion could put you in the same position you find yourself in now. Now that your boss has put you in this uncomfortable spot, what should you do? If you ignore him, he may feel disrespected or offended. Accepting his request, though, guarantees that your Facebook life will be an unpleasant chore of self-editing and pleading with your real friends to remove last weekend's posts. I suggest that you talk to your boss and tell him that you're happy to be connected to him on Linkedin, but that you use Facebook strictly for your personal life. Perhaps he will realize that it wasn't a good idea to begin with, and both of you can concentrate on doing your jobs.

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