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Derrick Dortch
Career counselor
Wednesday, May 2, 2007 11:00 AM

Derrick Dortch is a career counselor who specializes in government job searching and military transition. Currently, he is president of The Diversa Group, a firm that focuses on career counseling and development, entrepreneurship, leadership and organizational consulting, training and development. He also runs The Career Success Group as well as Targeted Resumes.

Find more career-related news and advice in our Jobs section.

The transcript follows below.


Derrick Dortch: Good morning, Good morning! It is truly a beautiful Wednesday morning and a great start to the month of May. A great deal has been happening in the federal government in terms of increased hiring initiatives including job fairs, direct hire programs, and increases in federal agencies paying student loans. If you are a government job seeker this is an exciting time because agencies are definitely looking to hire good candidates. I know it can be frustrating at times but the key to winning this government job search is developing a good career success strategy and plan, implementing it effectively, and being persistent and patience while you continue pursue the dream of working for the federal government.

Well on this beautiful day we are going to answer your questions about the government job search, security clearances, military transition and any of your concerns or questions about succeeding your career, work and life. So if you have any questions please do not hesitate to send them in. I will do my best to answer as many of them as possible.

Next month I will be having a special guest on my show. Max Stier, President of the Partnership for Public Service (PPS) will be on to talk about their recent report on "The Best Government Agencies to Work For". He will also talk about where the jobs are in the federal government and will take your questions. So please stop by on Wednesday, June 6th at 11 AM for a great show.

Well without further delay let me get to your questions. As usual I have included some interesting news for you as well as some events to attend. Also Stephan Barr from the Federal Diary will follow my show at noon. It would be good to stop by his as well.

Thank you for stopping by and ENJOY THE SHOW!!!!!


Attracting Graduates by Helping Pay Their Debt

By Stephen Barr, The Washington Post

Tuesday, May 1, 2007; Page D04

Criminal investigators. Lawyers. Intelligence analysts. Engineers: The U.S. government wants you, and federal agencies are offering student loan repayments to attract and keep these highly qualified employees.

Agencies report rise in student loan repayments

By Brittany R. Ballenstedt,

Federal agencies significantly increased their use of student loan repayment programs in 2006, according to a report released Friday by the Office of Personnel Management.

OPM proposes new rules on higher pay for hard-to-fill jobs

By Brittany R. Ballenstedt,

The Office of Personnel Management has proposed new regulations to help more agencies use a flexibility allowing higher pay for hard-to-fill positions.

OPM's proposal, published Wednesday in the Federal Register, provides a regulatory framework for agencies to obtain permission to offer better pay for positions that require specific expertise in the scientific, technical, professional or administrative fields.

Diplomatic, intelligence agencies win praise for recruiting

By Brittany R. Ballenstedt,

The intelligence and diplomatic communities are effectively recruiting the highly skilled employees they need, a high-ranking State Department official said Thursday.

Federal recruitment campaign expands with three new ads

By Brittany R. Ballenstedt,

The Office of Personnel Management launched three new advertisements in Raleigh, N.C., last week, opening a new front in its campaign to attract top talent to the federal workforce.


Congressman Al Wynn's

Monday, May 07, 2007

9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Prince George's Sports and Learning Complex

8001 Sheriff Road

Landover, Md.

TechExpoUSA Career Fair

Tysons Corner, Va. - May 10, 2007

Date and Time: Thursday, May 10, 2007 - 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Location: Tysons Corner Ritz Carlton - 1700 Tysons Blvd. McLean, Va. 22102

Phone: 703.506.4300

List of exhibitors: on website

Security clearance required ? -> Yes

Service Academy Career Conference (SACC)

Friday, May 11, 2007

7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Marriott Wardman Park

Washington, DC

SACC Candidates are exclusively service academy graduates who are making career transitions after their military obligation, as well as alumni who are simply making a career change. These individuals range in experience from junior military officers to senior officers. The company recruiters attending the SACC come prepared to interview the full range of candidates.

Intelligence Careers Career Events

TechExpoUSA Career Fair

Baltimore, Md. - May 17, 2007

Date and Time: Thursday, May 17, 2007 - 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Location: BWI Marriott - 1743 West Nursery Road Baltimore, Md. 21240

Phone: 410-859-8300

List of exhibitors: on website

Security clearance required ? -> Yes

Institute of World Politics Open House

Washington, D.C. - Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Graduate school focused on diplomacy, military strategy, opinion formation, public diplomacy, intelligence, counterintelligence, economic strategy, and the principles of leadership will hold their open house.

For more information go to:


D.C.: Is the NGA considered an intelligence agency? If so, why do most of the positions there only require a TS/SCI, without the Full Scope?

Derrick Dortch: Thanks for your question. The quick answer is YES! The NGA also known as the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is a major part of the Intelligence Community (IC).

Here is more information on NGA:

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is a major intelligence and combat support agency of the Department of Defense. It supports U.S. national policy makers and military forces by providing timely, relevant, and accurate geospatial intelligence derived by the exploitation and analysis of imagery and geospatial information to describe, assess, and visually depict physical features and geographically referenced activities on the Earth. As the Intelligence Community's functional manager for baseline geospatial intelligence, NGA provides critical support to the national decision-making process and the operational readiness of America's military forces.

Here is more information on them at

In terms of their clearances various intelligence agencies offer different type of security clearances. The type of clearance really depends on the agency. There is no one set of standard rules.

NGA is a definitely a great place to work and they have been hiring so if you have a background in GPS, GIS, research and analysis, computers, mapping, geography, satellites, photography/imagery and other areas then it definitely an agency to consider.

You can find them on the Web at:

I hope this helps.


Washington, D.C.: Mr. Dortch: I am a 35-year-old attorney looking for a new career. I've long thought that I might enjoy helping my country in an analyst or similar position with FBI, CIA, DIA or some similar agency. What advice would you give someone in my position regarding how to begin a serious job search? How harmful to my search is my lack of prior experience in the field?

Derrick Dortch: Hello, Washington, D.C.

Thank you for your question. Being 35 you are right at the age before the 37 cut off of becoming a special agent. The FBI is one agency that loves lawyers, accountants and former military and I would suggest you begin looking at Special Agent positions with them and other law enforcement agencies within federal government including Secret Service, DEA, U.S. Postal Inspectors, ATF, and others.

I am not sure what background you have and what area of law you are working in but if you are dealing with anything international, financial, business, or criminal then your background in research and analysis during the discovery process, your experience in interviewing and interrogating people, and your writing experience and skill could all be used to make the case that you would be a good intelligence analyst.

You may also want to take a look at positions working as an attorney for these agencies. Here is an attorney position I just saw on CIA's website:


Work Schedule: Full Time

Salary: $59,701 to $139,774*

GS-11 to GS-15

Location: Washington, D.C. metropolitan area

The CIA Office of General Counsel is recruiting highly qualified new and experienced Attorneys at the GS-11 to GS-15* range to join its exciting and challenging legal practice. Our practice provides the opportunity to interact with a wide variety of US Government agencies, Congress, Federal and state courts, and the private sector. OGC lawyers have regular contact with other Intelligence Community agencies, the White House, the National Security Council and the Departments of Defense, State, Justice, Treasury, Commerce, and Homeland Security.

OGC handles a wide variety of legal issues, including, among other things, both civil and criminal litigation, foreign intelligence and counterintelligence activities, counterterrorism, counternarcotics, nonproliferation and arms control, personnel and security matters, contracting, finance and budget matters, tax, immigration, international financial transactions, corporate law, copyright, intellectual property, foreign and international law, and legislation.

More info:

Your strategy to work for one of these agencies will very much depend on what you want to do with your career. Do you want to stay on the legal side and work for FBI, CIA, DIA or others. If so they always need good lawyers in their general counsel office, EEOC office and inspector generals offices. If this is what you want to do then you have to target your material accordingly and show why you are the best candidate for these positions.

If you want to work in more of the field of intelligence analysis you will have to target yourself differently. As I mentioned above you will have to relate your experience to the field of intelligence. You may also want to consider taking graduate courses and pursuing a graduate degree or certificate in intelligence, national security, homeland security or a related field. Programs at Georgetown University, the Institute of World Politics, John Hopkins, George Washington, American Military University, USDA Grad School and others all offer various courses on intelligence, national security, terrorism/counter-terrorism, etc.

Either path is very achievable you just have to put the right career success strategy in place. I could go on and on but if you need more direction contact me at

Take care and I wish you much success. Definitely pursue those government careers!

_______________________ Check out Derrick's recent article featured in our Grad Guide series on how to land a government job: Make a Start in Public Service, (Post, April 19).

Derrick Dortch: This a great article for new graduates as well as working professionals on how to start your career in public service. As you read it take a look to see some of the areas that will experience the most growth in terms of hiring. You may want to consider targeting your search to agencies in those sectors. I hope you enjoy and find the article informative.


D.C.: What is the budget approval cycle for the CIA? I recently started a job with a contractor, and haven't been able to do any real work yet due to budget issues.

Derrick Dortch: Hello, D.C.

Thanks for your question. CIA is one of the agencies where you will never see a published number of their budget. Much of the government is having budget issues because resources are strained due to funding the war and other critical areas. The CIA has been hiring so they have allocated monies in certain places. I can only assume that monies have not been allocated to your area of work and your contractor.

If you are a contractor for CIA then I am sure you have your clearances at least on the Top Secret level and above (TS/SCI, etc.). If this is the case and your company is still not working yet you may want to consider doing a passive search and putting your resume online at,, and other security clearance job sites. Or you may want to become more active and attend some job fairs or start sending out your resume. If you have your clearances at a high level then trust me there is work out there for you to get start on immediately.

If you do decide to stick it out with your current employer then I would just talk to the person in charge of the project and find out what is going on in terms of start times for the project or has something changed. Based on the answers you receive you can determine if you should stay or leave the company to pursue work elsewhere.

Take care and I wish you the best.


Fairfax, Va.: My husband was hired and cleared recently to work for one of the agencies in a capacity as an analyst. He has school loans, and I had heard something about the government offering loan repayment assistance for federal loans? is that true? There doesn't seem to be a lot of information available about the process. Thanks!

Derrick Dortch: Hello Fairfax, Va.

Thanks for your question. This is very true. Agencies are offering these programs as incentives to hire good candidates. The agencies who have used the program the most have been: Department of Defense (DOD, Department of Justice (DOJ), State department, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

In a recent report from OPM it did mention that 22 agencies reported that budgetary issues were one of the major concerns and barriers to them utilizing the student loan repayment program as a recruitment and retention tool.

Since your husband recently was employed by this agency I would tell him to talk to the HR personnel and find out if they do have a student loan repayment program. Sometimes agencies do have certain programs but you have to ask about them to find out the details and how to get enrolled in it. Some do not advertise the information so you have to be proactive and find out for yourself.

If they do not have the program then he can ask them if it is coming soon and will he still be eligible to enroll in the program after working at the agency for a certain time period.

I hope you hear good information and I hope this was helpful. Take care and I wish you both much success.


Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.: Thanks for taking my question. I am a recent graduate with a master's in library science. I am looking to get my foot in the door with a librarian job down here in Florida and then eventually work my way to D.C. The problem that I am encountering is that there are very few librarian jobs here in Florida. Is there a way to find out which agencies have this position and then send out resumes? Or, should I just wait until they are posted on USAJobs? Any advice would be appreciated.

Thank you.

Derrick Dortch: Hello Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

I am sure it is beautiful down there. Your area as well as Miami are two of my favorite parts of the country. In terms of library jobs with the federal government I would suggest the following. First take a look at a list of all federal government libraries. See if there are any in your area. Here is a list:

Second. If you can not find any federal libraries in your area I would suggest you begin looking at City, County and State Libraries to work for. Begin developing your skills in terms of being a librarian in your area and keep your eye out for openings on USAJobs. Usually the federal government will hire more experienced librarians so if you get a good 3 to 5 years experience you will be ready when the opportunity strikes.

Keep monitoring positions at the Library of Congress (LOC) as well as the other libraries in the area. Determine what libraries are the ones you really want to work for. Based on those make sure you develop and maintain expertise on those subject areas. I would also recommend that you find and join and association that represents librarians. Find one that has people nationwide in the organization and has members on the federal level.

When the association has its conference make sure attend and network. I would even recommend that you present. The more success you have in the profession the more opportunities will open up for you and it will mean that you will have a powerful targeted federal resume and KSAs with many great success stories to tell that will win you the interview.

I could go on with more advice but I hope this gets you started. Please contact me at if you have more questions.

Take care and I wish you much success.


Chantilly, Va.: What are different levels of clearance? How long does it take to process them? Do companies hire and initiate the clearance process or new hires have to wait until cleared?

Derrick Dortch: Hello, Chantilly.

Here is a basic breakdown of the different types of clearances.


Positions accessing information with the potential for exceptionally grave damage to the national security.


Positions accessing information with the potential for serious damage to the national security.


Positions accessing information with the potential for damage to the national security.


This type of security clearance provides access to all intelligence information and material that require special controls for restricted handling within compartmented channels and for which compartmentalization is established.

Now in terms of who can initiate a clearance let me answer your question. Only federal agencies can provide anyone with a security clearance. They include all national security agencies and intelligence gathering agencies (CIA, NSA), federal law enforcement agencies (FBI, Secret Service, DEA, NCIS), civilian military agencies (DOD, DIA, DSS), certain occupations in the U.S. military, diplomatic agencies (State Department), certain scientific government agencies and a number of others depending on their mission and role in national and homeland security.

There are also many companies, think tanks, research facilities and other organizations that have contracts or grants with the federal government that require them to access sensitive information. These are called "Government Contractors". These companies or organizations are required to have their employees cleared by the federal government. No company without a contract with the federal government can independently give or seek a security clearance, and no individual who is not working for the federal government or a contract organization can get a security clearance.

So you have to be hired by a federal agency or government contractor in order to get a clearance. There is no other way to get a security clearance.

In terms of time it takes to process them: It can take anywhere from 30 to 60 days to up to 2 years for a full clearance to be process. There are many variables that go into this including your the type of clearance (TS, TS/SCI, Secret) background, any travel, any financial issues, credit issues, as well as any backlog the agency may be experiencing.

Many agencies are trying to clear people within 1 to 9 months but it really depends on the agency.

I hope this helps. Take care and I wish you the best.


Anonymous: Hi, Mr. Dortch. I've just seen this discussion and have a quick and desperate question. How do I overcome the hurdle of looking for a job when I am presently unemployed? For a variety of reasons I haven't worked since 2000 and I think this has made success at my search nearly impossible.

Thanks very much for your time.

Derrick Dortch: Hello Anonymous,

I hear your desperation and let me first assure that you every thing will be okay. I always say that everything is possible with the right strategy and it is possible for you to get back to being gainfully employed as well.

I am not sure of your circumstances but I do know at one time you did work in some type of job or career. I would suggest the following and then I am going to suggest you contact me so we can talk about your individual circumstances and I can advise you from there.

First: Reach out to Family, Friend and Network Contacts

Talk to people and let them know that you are ready to get back into the job market. Touch base with family members who can possibly help you. Reach out to friends from school or from the work place. Reconnect with old network contacts and let them know you are in the market again. Those who may know your situation for the past several years may be more than willing to extend a helping hand to see you get back on your feet. Those who do not know any details but are contacts you can tell them that you were out of work for certain reasons (you can discuss or choose not to discuss) but you are not itching to get back into the workforce. I believe someone from this group will be willing to help and at least try to put you in right direction.

Second: Analyze yourself

Take a good look at yourself and figure out what are your strengths and weaknesses. Evaluate your current skill level. Figure out what are your short term and long term goals. Short term will be to get back in the workforce. But also think about your long term goals. You will base your career success strategy on these goals.

Third: Begin a targeted job search

Look for jobs that fit your skill level, experience, qualifications and education. Do not target jobs you wish for or want but are not qualified for. Only target jobs that are a match with your background. Begin using various search engines like, The Washington Post Jobs Section, Career Builder, and others and do a keyword or career field search and find jobs that match you.

Fourth: Develop a targeted resume that will sell you

Develop a targeted resume that is powerful and persuasive. Focus on your last employment experiences and tell any success stories and achievements you had while there. Focus in on telling about your duties as well as the results you had in terms of productivity and performance.

Fifth: Seek Free Job/Career Assistance

This is fifth but it goes hand in hand with every step. Seek free assistance from the government (city, county, state, federal). There are many One Stop Career Centers around the nation that have free seminars, career counseling and resume assistance. Also many states, cities and counties have job assistance programs to help you get on your feet. Here is a link to find some centers:

Sixth: Target Temp Agencies

Find temporary employment agencies and see what their needs are and try to get back started in the workforce through them.

Seventh: Be aggressive and dedicated with your search. A job search is a full-time job.

If you are really trying to get back into the world of work and you are unemployed your job is now your job search. You have to be aggressive and look for as many opportunities as possible. You have to be dedicated and work your job search just like you would do a regular job. You should put in at least 8 hours on your job search a day.

I hope these are some good starting points. If you need more assistance please contact me at

Take care and I wish you much success. You can do it!!!


Northern Va.: Does it make any difference if you hire a lawyer for your security clearance denial appeal than by doing it yourself? What is the success rate for successfully overturning a denial?

Derrick Dortch: Hello, NOVA.

During a security clearance appeal you can either do it yourself or hire a lawyer to help you write the appeal and represent you. I am caught right in the middle on this issue and it really depends on the person and their case when I advise either them doing it themselves or that person seeking legal counsel. Some situations involving a clearance denial will require a lawyer to help you others more involve a person getting certain issues fixed and then documenting how they fixed them and presenting their efforts to the appeals board.

So to answer your question I would have to say that you have to look at the severity of your situation and why you were denied. If it was credit issues then you know if you need to get those issues corrected and then show the board that you are working to pay off all of these debts or have done so. You can do this yourself.

If it is criminal, involves deception, mental health issues, or something that has some severity and you may need a lawyer to make sure you are saying, presenting, and doing the right things to win the case.

So take a good look at your situation and then based on that honestly ask yourself if this is something that can be easily rectified by me doing something, documenting it and then showing it or does this require much more. Based on your answers will determine is a lawyer is needed.

If you do get a lawyer then I would recommend you get one who knows what they are doing and has experience with security clearances.

In terms of success. That often times depends on you. If you take an appeal serious enough and work to correct any issues or you show the board that they have nothing to worry about then often times you can succeed in appeal. Many take the appeal process to lightly and it inevitably hurts them when they are fully denied their clearance. If they took it more serious and took the right steps they could have gotten their clearance back.

I hope this helps. If you have any questions please contact me via email at

Take care and I wish you much success.


Reston, Va.: Good morning. There has been a lot of discussion lately about the pay gap between men and women. It is said that's because women just don't negotiate. I am currently in salary negotiations with my employer. I was hired on a temp to perm basis. They've made me an offer for a permanent position. I answered an ad for a certain salary level and they offered me considerably less. When I asked the for more they seemed stunned! We've had a few meetings to go over what my responsibilities will be ( I am already doing everything they've discussed - and doing it well!) I've asked for a six percent increase in the original offer which still comes well short of the salary in the ad that I answered. I just don't understand why they are behaving this way and why I feel like I am begging for money. It's no wonder more women don't negotiate better salaries for themselves. What is your take on the pay gap and what can be done?

Derrick Dortch: Hello, Reston.

This situation is truly a horrible one and very unjust. I am even wondering if their are some EEOC and discrimination issues that need to be addressed. If you fit all of the qualifications then you should be offered the position at the minimum of what was announced in the posting. If this is not the case it needs to be justified why you are not being offered what was advertised. You need to begin documenting this situation immediately.

I really do not have the time to go into all the details of what you should do but contact me at and we can talk more. This is truly unacceptable.

Hang in there and I will look to hear from you.


Clearance and experience: Derrick: I worked for a company that builds for the government. I have a secret clearance also. I left the company voluntarily to move for my husband's job (in healthcare). I was told that my clearance is active for two years after I left the company. Then, if it is not picked up -- it will be cancelled or otherwise removed from my profile.

I was a first line worker in an analyst role. Where can I learn more about available jobs for people that are NOT government employees, but are more contractor employees and have a clearance?

Also, the government application process looks horrifically cumbersome. Why is that? I considered applying for a very low level IRS job making ridiculously little money and they wanted answers to a good 30 questions. Is that normal?

Derrick Dortch: Hello. Here are a few places to look:

Also look at The Washington Post,, Monster and Careerbuilder. For these do a search under clearance. I would also try to find a list of government contractors in your area and do a search by individual contractor.


Derrick Dortch: Well I have to get going. As usual time flies but I do hope that my answers to your questions have been helpful. Let me thank my producer Andrea Browne for all of her help and let me also thank you for stopping by. We will be back next month and I will have as my special guest, Max Stier, President of the Partnership for Public Service (PPS) will be on to talk about their recent report on "The Best Government Agencies to Work For". He will also talk about where the jobs are in the federal government and will take your questions. So please stop by on June 6 at 11 a.m. for a great show.

Enjoy this great weather and all of May and I will see you in June. Stay safe and I wish you much success in your career, work and life.


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