Almost every weekend I have travelled to a different part of Buenos Aires and a different city to be able to get to know the country, its people, and its culture. I have gotten a lot of heat on that post so I wanted to follow up with what I have experienced in the last few weeks.
I became an intelligence analyst at DIA after undergrad. I was there for about three years, and after that, I did a few years of consulting for various intel agencies.
The below is a gist of that advice.
It is heavily biased by my own experience, and none of the below is meant to be universal. What is it like? Before I tell people how to get a job in intelligence, I make sure they actually want to.
Many people are attracted to the Intelligence Community because of its depictions in popular culture. But if you want a lasting career in intelligence analysis, you need to get past the superficial intrigue and be happy with the desk job that remains.
Intelligence analysis is a research job, pure and simple. Popular depictions of intelligence analysis—just like popular depictions of police work or emergency rooms—exaggerate the frequency of dramatic, nail-biting case work.
The work can be dramatic at times, but most of the time, it is routine and ordinary. You do it from a cubicle. It will waste your time and your taxpayer dollars. You might work on terrorism.
Then again, you could end up working on something like Ukrainian ethnography. Why would the U. Government devote resources to Ukrainian ethnography when the current threat is Islamic extremism? The reason is important to understanding your role as an intelligence analyst: The primary point of intelligence analysis is not to defeat current threats.
The Intelligence Community works for policymakers and military leaders. First, the intelligence apparatus produces assessments about global security threats—some immediately critical to US security, some not. Policymakers read the assessments of the immediate threats, then decide on a course of action: The assessments about the non-critical issues are mostly ignored by policymakers.
These people are very busy, and have time only for two things: Everything else gets largely ignored.
Some of these subjects may never get widespread attention during your career. This means that in addition to liking the slog, you have to be content knowing that your hard work may never get any attention from policymakers.
You are, in effect, being paid a professional salary to write doctoral theses that few people will ever read. Another way to look at it is that the US Government is subsidizing your intellectual curiosities in order to keep you on retainer, just in case your subject becomes the root of a national security threat.
Develop the right skills The sole requirement.
If intelligence analysis is a research job, that means you have to be able to write well. I entered college ignorant to the importance of writing. A few key classes changed that, simply by forcing me to compile primary sources, state a thesis, and write a paper supporting that thesis.
If you are in college and you want to be an intelligence analyst, focus your curriculum on classes that require you to do this—seminars, laboratories, independent study, etc—as opposed to test-driven, lecture-based courses. The exact subject matter is less important. If you can gather facts and communicate what those facts mean, you can be an intelligence analyst.The best opinions, comments and analysis from The Telegraph.
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