Attracting Younger Professionals into the Intelligence Community

By Kathleen Smith
There has been a lot written about the challenges of recruiting, hiring and retaining Millennials. At a recent Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA ) event Millennials, the Community and  Social Media panelists discussed how this generation is impacted and can have an impact in the intelligence community.

Currently there are 80 million millennials with 7% of them making up the federal work force. According to a recent Pew Research Study, more than 47% of the Millennials consider themselves patriotic. Millennials are more racially and politically diverse; more importantly Millennials are digital natives – individuals who grew up with technology – which is highly attractive to employers who are looking to keep technically competitive. For many entering the workforce shortly after 9/11, they desired a position to support the overall mission rather than following the money and flexibility of the commercial community.

While there is interest on the part of Millennials to work within the intelligence community, there are many challenges in integrating them into the workforce.

As the INSA panelists shared, Millennials don’t feel that their contributions are valued and they are only perceived as “tech support”.  Millennials also expect the same amount of transparency they have in their personal lives to be available in their professionals lives and from their employers. Finally Millennials are looking to be mobilized to support the mission even though they may not have the same length of service as their counterparts of previous generations.

What can companies do to attract younger professionals?

Career paths historically have been linear within government service and their private industry counterparts. However younger professionals are looking to learn and move on to newer challenges and leverages their knowledge. To support these efforts, organizations and companies may want to provide a lattice or jungle gym approach to career development, exposing professionals to different assignments teams and challenges.

In the intelligence community, promotions are typically tied to deployments. While deployments are good for gaining experience they can be a limitation to younger professionals, especially women, who are also looking to build a family. Deployments can also be limiting to one of the new realities within the intelligence community – dual IC career couples. Reexamining the career path structure in agencies and companies can open up more opportunities, thus more value to younger professionals.

Mentoring can also play a role in bridging the gap between generations where both parties can benefit.

What can younger professionals do?

Always look for positions where you are constantly learning and that you are passionate about. Find jobs that will challenge you and that you can build a repertoire with your managers to continually find challenges. Several of the panelists asked that younger professionals be patient with the systems as not everyone can be promoted within organizations and that looking at a “lattice” rather than a ladder in career development.

Kathleen Smith is the Chief Marketing officer for You can connect with her on Twitter at @YesItsKathleen. Follow at @ClearedJobsNet