Many young people make bad decisions which may follow them the rest of their lives and close doors to great opportunities as they progress through the work force. The bad decisions which seem like a "fling" at the time now have disastrous consequences when the young person has an interest in a job that requires a security clearance with a background investigation and polygraph. While employed as Applicant Coordinator for the FBI, I observed that about 50% of very highly qualified applicants could not pass the polygraph. They found out too late that they had closed doors to a great career by making bad decisions that had unintended consequences.
1. A young man with a law degree, MBA, and foreign language capability was one of the best applicants I had ever processed. When I started to ask him about any illegal drug use, it quickly became clear that he would not be working for the FBI. He exceeded the FBI drug guidelines while living and studying in Europe and would be unable to pass the polygraph so his processing was terminated.
2. Another applicant with an MBA and extensive work experience with a well known and large company looked like a very good candidate until it became apparent that he had little or no regard for traffic laws since he had extensive traffic violations over the past three years. He could pass the polygraph with no problem but the extensive traffic record disqualified him for further processing.
A high school counselor once told me about a young man who came to his office after getting in trouble in school. The counselor asked the young man what he wanted to do when he grew up. He responded that he wanted to be an airline pilot or doctor. The counselor then asked him how getting in trouble in school was helping him to achieve that goal.
When confronted with a decision about an activity which you think is questionable and might result in problems, ask yourself two questions.
If the answer to both questions is no, then you might want to find some other activity.
1. A friend asks you to attend a party. When you arrive, you realize that illegal drugs are being used. You decide to stay at the party but not to use any illegal drugs. Several hours after you arrive, the police raid the party location and take everyone into custody. You tell the officers that you were not using any illegal drugs. Their response is that they will let the judge make that determination.
2. Since you don't use alcohol you become known as the designated driver. You willingly accept this responsibility so none of your friends will be driving while under the influence of alcohol. You go to parties just so you can safely drive your friends home. One particular friend has a reputation for being a little wild and it is rumored that she uses illegal drugs. You still allow her to ride in your car. One night while taking everyone home, you are stopped by the police for a minor traffic violation. The police realize that everyone but you is under the influence of alcohol. The friend with the wild reputation and possible illegal drug user is acting especially strange. The police ask to search her purse. She refuses. The police ask if it is OK to search your vehicle. You say yes, since you don't want to appear to be uncooperative and are confident that they will find nothing since you do not use drugs. A search of the vehicle locates some white powder in a small plastic bag near where your "wild" friend was sitting. The powder is field tested and found to be cocaine. Everyone denies knowing anything about the white powder. The police take you into custody for transporting illegal drugs and seize your vehicle. You spend the night in jail and bond out the next morning. You now have to hire an attorney to defend you in court and attempt to get your car back which belongs to your parents. Even if the charges are dropped and you get your car back, you still have an FBI record for the arrest which will show up in any background investigation.
The above situations are presented so that you will realize that activities that start out very innocent may result in unintended consequences that could jeopardize future employment and career opportunities.
Many decisions that young people make early in life may have disastrous consequences for years to come especially if they want a career that requires a security clearance. An easy way to avoid these problems is to ask yourself two questions when confronted with a decision about a planned activity: Is this something that my parents would want me to do and will this activity help me achieve my career goals? If the answer is no to both questions, then you have some very good guidance as to what you should do.
Dan L. Vogel is Forensic Consultant Expert Witness based in Oklahoma City. He has 27 years of Federal law enforcement experience and has testified as an expert in Federal and state court. Pro Bono work is performed on a case by case basis. He is currently a member of the Consulting Committee, The American Investigative Society of Cold Cases. firstname.lastname@example.org
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