It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but stay mindful of potential problems that could impact your clearance.

It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but stay mindful of potential problems that could impact your clearance. The Good Brigade/Getty Images

‘Tis the Season: Holiday Hang-Ups That Can Hurt Your Cleared Career

Gone are the days when you could get a little too merry and hope your employer would never know.

It’s the time of year where we tend to get a little carried away. Unfortunately, what happens at the holiday party doesn’t always stay there. A little holiday cheer can sometimes create a lot of employment headaches in the new year. 

Nobody is perfect, but gone are the days when you could get a little too merry and hope your employer would never know. If you hold a security clearance of any level, you are officially enrolled in Continuous Vetting. That means criminal conduct, major financial issues and other red flags will be brought to the attention of the government. That doesn’t mean you’ll lose either your security clearance or your job, but it does mean you’ll need to address those things if you want to stay on the government’s nice list. Being proactive is the best way to mitigate any potential issue. 

Here are a few common holiday hang-ups and what you can do to make sure they don’t snow your chances of a government job.

A Little Too Much Holiday Spirit(s)

We all probably know someone who spends the timeframe from Thanksgiving to the New Year riding some kind of an alcohol-induced wave. DUIs can be a red flag whether they’re a one-time incident or a pattern of behavior. Even if you’ve had only a single alcohol-related arrest, if the court thinks it points to a pattern of behavior, it could have a negative effect on your clearance. 

The good news is there are steps you can take if you do find yourself behind the wheel after a little too much holiday cheer – and you shouldn’t let a DUI keep you from staying employed. Report the incident to your security officer right away, if not it will come up in CV, and you could face clearance issues for failing to disclose it. Next, be proactive and follow the advice of the courts and your attorney when it comes to community service, jail time, suspended licenses, or other repercussions. 

You’re On the Naughty List

Security clearance holders aren’t perfect – but they are held to a higher standard. Sometimes those in national security are surprised to learn that yes, in fact, their sex lives could come up in the course of a security clearance background investigation. Whether it’s prostitution, swinger parties or affairs, if you have anything going on under the covers you’d like to keep there, that can pose a security risk. 

In a phenomenon anyone who has watched Love Actually can understand, while the holidays can bring loved ones closer together, they can also leave many looking for love in all the wrong places – with an uptick in extramarital affairs. Blame the stress, or the in-laws, but sometimes folks ending up kissing someone under the mistletoe they shouldn’t. “That’s not my employer’s business,” you may be tempted to say. But if you are in the military and find yourself in bed with a coworker, or weaving a tangled web that leaves you trying to hide anything from your spouse, you may find yourself with relational and vocational heartache. 

How likely are these issues coming up in a standard background investigation? Rare. But in certain positions with the intelligence community or those involving a polygraph, questions about affairs, your sex life, or pornography habits can come up. If something happens, it’s better to come clean than to end up trying to hide anything. Just ask Harry (Emma Thompson’s husband in Love Actually).

When You’ve Been a Little Too Good

On the other side of the spectrum, maybe you’ve been a little too good this year, and your favorite uncle or a long-lost relative wrote you a huge check to put in the bank. After you send me a present, you may put the remainder in the bank. If it’s an amount more than $10,000, it will actually create a flag that is reported through the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network

If you have any major additions of cash flow – whether it’s due to your favorite uncle or your favorite casino –, it should be reported to your security officer. If you’ve come into the money by legitimate means, it will not be an issue. But with financial issuesbeing  the top cause of security clearance denials and revocations, the government has a vested interest in ensuring if you come into a lot of cash, there is a good reason for it.

Don’t let stress and hang-ups allow you to take your hands off of the career wheel. CV is designed to ensure potential issues are known earlier – giving you more opportunities to address them. You don’t need to be good for goodness’ sake – nobody is perfect. Self-report potential issues, take proactive steps to address them, and you won’t need to spend the new year looking for your next job.