Have you ever met those people who have everything going for them but still can’t seem to get hired? You know who I mean, the Honorably-discharged veterans who’ve got perfect credit scores and clean backgrounds and designer resumes, but still aren’t getting “the call” for their first overseas contract? It doesn’t seem fair that these guys are still unemployed, especially since they’ve done all the right moves, but as it turns out, timing is everything.
For better or worse, a couple of timing considerations are always going to play a huge role in your career as a security contractor. Unlike your last job at McDonald’s where it seemed like there was a new opening at your restaurant every week and your manager was always rushing to get the vacant fry cook slots filled as quickly as possible, defense contractors working overseas face a couple of unique challenges that are sure to impact how quickly you get hired.
You should always keep in mind that while a company might be continually accepting applications, this isn’t necessarily because they have any current vacancies. Most of the time they’ll be building a pool of qualified applicants in anticipation of a future contract award, or else planning ahead to replace employees who leave through normal attrition. In any case, once you send in your resume you probably shouldn’t expect to hear anything back anytime in the near future. You should be keeping a running log of where you applied and for what position, but keep your job hunt rolling along until you actually land an offer.
Even when you do have a bona fide job contract offered to you, keep in mind that companies will try to deploy large numbers of employees overseas at the same time to cut down on costs associated with travel and training. You’re likely to get a “start date” that’s anywhere from a week off to several months out, so plan accordingly and remember that this is always subject to change. I’m trying to bring on one new employee myself who had already given two weeks’ notice at his old job, only to find that his start date with my company got pushed back by at least a month due to some security clearance issues. Unemployment sucks, but it’s a fact of life in security contracting.
The hiring process for security contractors is always going to be frustrating, but the actions you take will have a direct impact on your success. Here’s a couple of thing to keep in mind when you’re “in the pipeline” for a particular job opening:
-Once you’ve made contact with a representative from a company, make the effort to keep in contact. Keep a record of who you talked to and when, and make sure to get good phone numbers and email addresses from them. Check in every week or two, just often enough to let them know that you’re still interested in the job but no so often that you become a pest.
-Remember the old saying that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. If you’ve applied to a couple of different jobs, it’s probably a good idea to take the first one that’s offered rather than holding out for a future opening that may or may not come. Tentative job offers can disappear in a matter of minutes, and no matter how much it sounded like a recruiter was promising you a job, as a contractor you’re never actually employed until you sign on the dotted line.
-Think back to your old military days. Remember that old game of “Hurry Up And Wait”? Well now it’s more like “Wait, Then Hurry Up”! Expect a mad rush in the week before you fly out when the Human Resources people are scrambling to get all of your paperwork together so you can deploy on time. On the bright side, this is your chance to snag a job away from someone else if you’re all squared away ahead of time and some sucker scheduled for an earlier deployment can’t leave because they’re still waiting on a passport or some other holdup.
If you don’t take anything else away from this article, remember to save some money for a rainy day! Even though it’s possible for you to make all the right moves during a hiring process, sometimes the timing of a job opening is completely beyond your control. That’s a reality of working as a security contractor and the quicker you come to terms with it, the more successful you’ll be in the long run.