Okay, to clarify the clearance that the employers are asking for is threefold. TS/SCI w/Poly means 1) Top Secret, 2) Secure Compartmentalized Information and 3) taking the polygraph. Each of these is one more step up on the clearance ladder. The police force that protects the compounds have TS clearance because they have to go everywhere, but they (probably) don't have SCI because they have no need to see the details of any operation. There is a bunch of stuff that is not compartmentalized (in fact, the vast majority of it). They just need to keep the compound secure. The SCI level lets people see the uber nifty things that is sensitive enough that they need to be very careful about the number of people who have access. Finally there is the polygraph, which pretty much narrows down your customer list. Some agencies/departments/organizations/bureaus require a polygraph, some do not. Having it qualifies you for just about all of 'em.
The good news is that the clearance process, including the polygraph, are not looking for perfect and/or boring people. The best description I have heard about the process went "They are not looking for perfect people. There was only one perfect person, he died 2000 years ago and he doesn't want the job, so we can't use him. What they are looking for is trustworthy
A DUI will not disqualify you from a position of trust. Embezzlement. Now that will disqualify you immediately. As will major plagiarism, fraud, certain areas of the tax laws, extra marital affairs, insider trading and a few other things. The common theme is that if you abuse your position of trust, they're really unlikely to put you in a position where they trust you with valuable information. That said, the other thing they are looking for is leverage. Guilty secrets, severe financial debts, mistresses, closet homosexuality, etc. They're looking for vulnerabilities that could be used against you to make you violate the trust of your position. A single DUI several years ago is a mistake. Several DUIs is a condition and that can be used against you. Note: The exact list of what they're looking for and what disqualifies you is a secret, so the above is conjecture drawn from first principles.
Okay, that's all the good news. The bad news is that it is really difficult to get a clearance these days. It has never been especially easy, but it has gotten worse of late. The clearance process that they're looking for is about a year long. If the company is going to sponsor your clearance, they need assurances that they're going to get their investment back. It used to be the way this happened was that you would work for the company and show you were a valuable/loyal employee. The company would approach you about the cleared position and if you said yes, they would start the process while you did other work for them. When the clearance came through, you would transfer to a cleared contract. (As an aside, this explains why companies love to hire out of the federal agencies. They're already cleared and can start fulfilling contract roles immediately) With this long lead time in place for the clearance and a scarcity of jobs for non-cleared personnel to perform while waiting for the process to complete... it's a rough market. My old company (oh yeah, new job for me!) had a policy of not hiring people but sponsoring them for a clearance. They would continue to work at whatever job they had (one guy was giving tours at the Smithsonian for nearly two years) until the clearance came through. If/when it did, the company would give them an offer letter with the clearance attached. If you didn't take the job offer, you didn't get the clearance. (This is not actually shady. The company owns your clearance, not you. When you switch companies, they transfer the clearance to the new company.)
Hz so good wrote:
the only guy in my family who didn't join the military, since ALL my male relatives have TS clearances. They were "less than encouraging" when I asked about how the DUI would screw things up
To be fair, all of your male relatives were in the military where a DUI has severe consequences. Their perspective is a little off from the civilian marketplace.
just brew it! wrote:
Yeah, my understanding is that your employer (or possibly a customer of your employer?) must sponsor you for the clearance. When you leave that employer the clearance goes inactive, but can be re-activated by your next employer.
Yes and no. As I mentioned above, your company owns the clearance. If you leave the company without a place to go, the company holds on to it and your clearance becomes inactive until you find a new cleared position. At that point, they transfer the clearance to the new company. The sponsor program is twofold: The company not only must sponsor you for the clearance, but they have to have a cleared position they're trying to fill when they start the process. A company doesn't just tell the gov't "Yeah, we want another six cleared people, just in case." Usually, they put a cleared person in that position by the time the process is complete, but by that point another position is usually open that is similar enough to make it work.
I know jobs are scarce out there, but see if you can land something where they are looking for a Public Trust certification. It's basically a light background check, but it is much faster to get one than the TS/SCI stuff. It would look good on the resume and possibly help with applying for the clearance sponsorship. It's a standard requirement for a lot of federal jobs (Census Bureau, HHS, HUD, etc.)