How to be a Zebra in a Field of Cleared Unicorns

Posted by Chrissa Dockendorf

Unicorns and purple squirrels (terms recruiters use for job seekers that match a job opening’s requirements perfectly) are hard to find. In this field of mythical creatures you have to find a way to be a zebra. A real animal with high contrast stripes that doesn’t look like anyone else.

As a Recruiter that has worked most of her career hiring security cleared IT professionals, I can tell you the single thing I hear most from cleared job seekers is that because they have a clearance, they can get whatever job they want. The higher the clearance the easier it is to get a job. They don’t have to apply to jobs because jobs fall into their laps, and therefore they don’t need to talk to a recruiter.

Getting a security clearance, regardless of level, is a time-consuming process. Right now, there is a backlog for obtaining a clearance and even for reinvestigations. So if you do have a clearance and particularly the clearance level I need to fill my role, yes you will have an edge over someone who does not have a clearance. Customers are not willing to wait 18 months to 2 years for us to get someone through the clearance process. When weighing a cleared vs non-cleared candidate, the cleared candidate will win.

This is the main reason that finding cleared talent can be difficult. If you fall into that category you may be one of the lucky ones. But just because a job falls into your lap doesn’t mean it is the right job for you. Nor does that mean it will be this way forever.

Nothing Lasts Forever

At some point, you may find yourself having to put together a resume and find a job. This can be a hard process, particularly if you are someone who has been able to follow whichever prime takes over the contract, or able to move within your client’s organization without much fuss.

Now is not the time to rest on your laurels and assume you will get tons of calls from companies because you have a high-level clearance. You need to figure out the best way to be that zebra in a field of cleared unicorns.

superstarBe a Superstar                      

The best way to stand out is to continue to make an impact in your current role. That may sound easy enough, but sometimes we become complacent in our job duties. Especially if we’ve been doing the same thing for a long time.

Often we forget how to make a bigger impact because our duties are pretty cut and dried based on the contract. Onsite you often work with subs. If they see that you are trusted on the contract and someone they work well with, then they might be your biggest advocate when the time for a job search comes.

All of these people have a network of other cleared professionals that they can connect you with. However, referrals reflect back on the people who refer them. To be a candidate that others feel comfortable referring, you have to make the impact now.

Strut Your Stuff

When putting together your resume, for the love of all that is holy, please do not copy and paste the labor category over and over. Yes, labor categories are similar and if you were an incumbent that was carried over to the new prime you are probably doing the exact same job. I get it. But this is not the way to be a zebra!

Take some time to revamp your resume and show off a little. Color in those white stripes with rainbow colors. Puff up your chest and dive into communicating your accomplishments. Be sure to use action words but try to mix it up. No “assisted with” or “helped with”. Did you do it? Then tell me so.

Make sure your resume meets the qualifications they are seeking on a job description when you apply. That includes specific tools that may be required for the work. It doesn’t have to be super dense, but enough to make sure you come up in a key word search for the job you are seeking. After you’ve done that, spice up the rest of your resume with how awesome you are.

Now Is Not the Time to be a Hermit

Recruiters who work in the cleared community know that heading straight to social media to find a candidate isn’t the best option. The higher the level of clearance, the less likely a cleared candidate is hanging out on social media. At least not in a discoverable way.

If you updated your LinkedIn profile in hopes that you will get a lot of opportunities that you will be interested in, I wouldn’t put all my eggs in that basket. Do update your profile. More exposure is better, but you will most likely have to weed through InMails for opportunities that are of no interest to you to find one that you like.

Some recruiters do Google searches to find candidates, so if you set up website with your resume, accomplishments and preferences that would come up in a Google search. In the cleared community you have to be careful doing this. The internet is a scary place.

But if you hide completely and no one can find you, then you may never find a job. Post your resume on niche clearance sites like ClearedJobs.Net and apply directly on a company websites. Do both to increase your odds.

If you insist on staying in the shadows online, then you will need to do more work applying to opportunities and networking.

Speaking of Hiding in the Shadows

If you are hidden away in a dark room saving the world all day, then you can’t respond to emails, texts or calls from recruiters during regular business hours. Be sure to let recruiters know on your resume the best way and best times to reach you to ensure that you connect.

Delays in being able to contact you may result in losing out on an opportunity. While the government’s motto is “hurry up and wait”, the hurry up part is on the onus of the recruiter. If we can’t get in touch with you, we have to move on.

Prepare Now

The time to prepare is when you don’t need a job. You may have easily transitioned from one contract to another in your career. When that comes to an end, you’ll be at a disadvantage.

Put effort into networking and your career tools now, for your future. Attend a job fair. Familiarize yourself with what’s available while you don’t need it. You’ll be better prepared for when you do.

Chrissa DockendorfChrissa Dockendorf is a recruiting resource manager and employment branding specialist for G2, Inc., supporter of transitioning military, a coffee addict and BoyMom to 4. Follow Chrissa on Twitter @MissionHired.


This entry was posted on Friday, May 12, 2017 2:39 pm

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