I’m Sam, and I’m a recruiter for MI6. If I were to ask you to picture one of our Intelligence Officers (IO), what do you see? Is it someone who comes to us with all the skills and training to jump straight into overseas missions – or someone with potential, the desire to learn, and a willingness to tackle extraordinary challenges?
As an IO recruiter, I’m looking for people who have the curiosity and passion to work at MI6– not a fully-trained IO. We recruit people from all kinds of backgrounds, with different types of experience. The things they have in common are the skills you probably already have: a talent for problem-solving, sound judgement, and the ability to communicate well with others. You could be assisting our agent handlers (Case Officers), meeting a contact in a café, or working with our Whitehall partners. Being a team player is a key part of being an IO.
As a former IO I know what it takes to succeed in this role. I joined MI6 14 years ago, initially as a Business Support Officer, and received lots of opportunities to develop my role and skills so that I could then move into working on technical and intelligence operations. That’s one of the great things about MI6, you’re given all the support and training you require to build the career you want. I supported missions around the world, from Europe to Asia, and discovered a lot about myself in the process.
Remember when I asked you to picture an IO? Did you think they’d look like me – a woman from an ethnic minority background? Don’t worry if you didn’t. It was once a very male-oriented role, but not anymore, there’s a real mix of people just like any other office. I had my own preconceptions of the working world, and I questioned how I’d fit into it. It affected my courage to go for opportunities straight away.
However, at MI6, I’ve always been encouraged to, have a go, and not be put off by the feeling that it wasn’t my place. There’s so much professional and personal support on offer; IOs join on a training pathway that includes extensive classroom-based learning, mentoring and the ability to specialise in areas that best suit your skills and interests.
What many people also don’t realise is that we can work flexibly, some of my colleagues work part-time and others do compressed hours. I do regular office hours and get flexibility too; that’s a huge help as a working parent. While there are always going to be times where work and life don’t quite marry-up, the office is great at trying to work with you to strike a balance, while meeting business needs.
If you’re thinking of joining us as an IO, my advice would be – don’t stunt your curiosity in any way. Ask the questions. Have faith in your unique self. Your desire to learn will result in ample opportunities, particularly somewhere like MI6 where the work is so varied.
Good luck! Hopefully I’ll see you soon.