Life at MI6
Welcome. If you are visiting this page then the balance of probability would suggest you are more than likely a person already working within the intelligence arena. Let's not forget the intelligence community is inherently a lonely one when judged alongside other professions. At the same time it can be extremely beneficial and tribal. That is after all in essence what it is, if one is to assess things from a sociological perspective. As the developer of this site, one thing I know with more certainty now that ever before, is that I know nothing. That is not meant as a negative by the way. Life is at its very essence about vulnerability and learning ones place within the 'scheme' of things. Unless we are willing to acknowledge our vulnerabilities and what we do not know, how can we ever develop at all. Not rocket science granted, but in most walks of life this is almost a 'given' and people are fortunate enough to be able to choose paths that allow them to develop. SIS and the intelligence services are different and your development within the highest echelons of the 'service' is often counter-intuitive. Meaning that the 'intelligent' as opposed to 'intelligence' will naturally have the building blocks in place to understand that vulnerability is not the same as weakness. Lack of specific knowledge is not ignorance etc etc. At the same time, their job does not afford them such freedom and luxury for obvious reasons. This is why being an employee within the intelligence service is not easy and as with most objectives worth achieving, comes at a price.
MI6 may deny it is essentially a military based establishment. Based on history, it is. Based on the name , it is. Also, based on the secrecy and the tribal commorardary it propagates, it is. The difference of course is that if you are an officer in the armed forces, you can still tell your family and friends. Workers within GCHQ, MI6 and MI5 do not have that level of freedom.
Also, vulnerability and a general acceptance that mistakes are necessary for us to experience in order to learn, are not options that can be tolerated within active roles in the intelligence services. Research and Development areas maybe, yes. But, in an operational environment accepting mistakes is too costly and whilst, learning from the unsuccessful missions is no doubt important, it is not accepted as the norm. It can't. The consequences are too costly.
How to be honest and diplomatic at the same time. Recruiting an MI6 employee is relativley easy compared to keeping an MI6 employee, or indeed within any intelligence service....maybe with the exception of MOSSAD (they may well have their own less liberal incentive structures). Think of an MI6 employee as a pilot in the Airforce. The taxpayer spends millions on training them, they love the thought of flying and a good dogfight, serving their nation, they train for years, then end up flying charter aircraft for tourists to Tenerife every summer, retire with high blood pressure and wonder what the hell happened. It's life It will happen to most people in a hard profession. Ideology is a luxury. Having it, implies choice. Not everyone has choice. Joining for these reasons alone, will not keep you in MI6. When ideology goes it has to be replaced with another luxury item. Money? Ego? Power? Maybe even Revenge. Cynical comments maybe, but quite possibly simply realistic ones. Losing an MI6 employee of sufficient rank is a huge risk and one which has faced MI6 since its inception. In todays climate, ideology is watered down when compared to the sheer extremes of the 1930's to 1950's. So, people are satisfied with less demanding tempations...money. The consequences however could be costly, so it must be a constant battle for HR in any service to constantly monitor their officers. They cant be expected to monitor the agents, because that is the job of the handlers. So, they have to watch the handlers instead...but at what cost? The move in the US (and now UK) to Private Intelligence Agencies makes sense. MI6 and CIA and others will adopt the "if we cant beat them join them" mentality. All intelligence agencies know the weak spots and of course, money takes centre stage. In reality, those who have more influence and have more information will be paid in some way...regardless. What of the Head of a Desk in Brussels, or the Team Leader in Counter Intelligence who has been in the post for ten years? Will their passion and drive for justice get them through the bad times? Of course not. They, as with any other person in any other 9-5 job will either stay put and accept their fate i.e bills, school fees, holidays, loved ones etc, or they will move laterally and for more money to a PIA. One thing is certain, the factors that got you in the job in the first place will become much less influencial in later years. The average field operative will spend more time in Airports, taxi's, and hotels than even the most seasoned Sales Rep, so whatever it is that drives those at the top of their game, is generally more complicated than a pay rise. Getting to that position is hard and so for those in the middle ranks, the majority, then teamwork, camaraderie and a shared focus can often keep you going through the less than glamorous times when remembering why you did the job, is a more distant memory. Not forgetting the draw of secrecy. It is often described as a burden for most, but in reality, it does unite and bring people involved in the business much closer together. It is a common trait found with nearly all secret societies or organisations. Even as children we bond by forming gangs and secret groups laden with codes and initiations (maybe more so for boys admittedly), and this is carried on throughout life. A secret shared etc etc...So, there are positive elements to a job in such an organisation and as complex individuals not all our motivators and drivers can be simply categorised.
So, SIS or Intelligence work for a government may or may not be for you, so consider the implications and facts carefully. Look at basic human vulnerabilities. History. Evidence. The core drivers of humanity will not change regardless of which society you happen to have fallen into. Remember, what MI6 stands for...MILITARY Intelligence. This is an organisation which currently sells itself as any other modern day corporate entity with a new, slick PR image to boot. But do not forget where the SIS started and what its foundations are. It is a machine, based on a Military model, designed to protect our Nation and the interests of our citizens at home and abroad. So, good intentions and strong ideological reasons are admirable traits and will no doubt get you through the door. Once you are in however, perhaps it's best to leave them there, and focus on reality.