Where to Work: The CIA

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Where to Work: The CIA

Home / WORK WORLD / Where to Work: The CIA
Three officers share their experiences and thoughts on the job.
"We look for people who are flexible, motivated, self-starters, and problem solvers.”

Along with tech juggernauts like Facebook and Google, young professionals have long dreamed of being part of another team– the CIA. Founded more than sixty years ago as a result of the National Security Act of 1947, the CIA’s exact budget and number of employees remain classified to this day.

But there are a few things we do know.

We know the agency has plays a significant role in capturing hundreds of wanted criminals and foiling potentially catastrophic terrorist plots through the years. The agency is also rumored to be responsible for some of the most important technological breakthroughs of our time– including the development of a stealth helicopter in 1970.

On Working for the CIA

But what is it like to actually be a CIA employee? Though it took a significant amount of time for responses to be cleared and the individual identities of the employees had to be concealed, the CIA was willing to give us some insight on what it’s really like to work for America’s most revered and often controversial agency.

While some young employees are struck by the glamorous reputation of the CIA, others simply view it as an opportunity to serve their country.

“I have to admit the first time I drove through the main gate at CIA headquarters as an employee, I had the theme song from the movie Mission Impossible going through my head,” says one collection management officer. “I could not believe I was actually going to be working for the CIA.” 

On the contrary, one staff operations officer wasn’t quite as enamored by the job title: “I have been with the CIA for 26 years and I’m 52 years old. At my age, ‘cool’ is not how I would describe working for the agency. For me, it’s how I serve my country. I’m honored to be one of the chosen few.” 

Here are a few things you should know:

The CIA is looking for the intellectually curious 

“Some personalities and temperaments are a better fit than others,” says one operations officer. We look for people who are flexible, motivated, self-starters, and problem solvers.” 

A collection management officer added: “I find that those officers who have a high level of intellectual curiosity are able to think on their feet and really go the extra mile to obtain intelligence that is harder to get. These officers have a stronger internal drive that pushes them to keep asking questions. There may not be one distinct quality of all CIA employees, but the ideal candidate will probably demonstrate the ability to solve difficult tasks in stressful environments.”

Finally, You have to be a team player 

Given the importance of the missions that the CIA works on, it makes sense to expect an emphasis on teamwork and collaboration in the field. The agency may employ particularly talented individuals, but the ability to gather large amounts of information relies heavily on teams that work well together. One female operations officer noted: “In terms of teamwork, understanding what role each position plays in the collection of intelligence can help an officer make the most of their team/office.”

“As would apply in any office, getting to know the strengths and weaknesses of the officers around you helps everyone work most effectively to complete the mission.”

Think you have what it takes to work for the agency? The CIA is looking for bright, talented young professionals like you. Apply here.

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