how to become a spyDon’t laugh, but I dream about being a spy. Maybe it’s because of my love for travel, or maybe it’s because of all the James Bond movies my dad used to watch with me, but no matter what I achieve, I keep coming back to this fantasy. I have always dreamed of living an exotic life of travel and intrigue, and being a world-class spy is the epitome of this lifestyle. But while fictional characters like James Bond and Jason Bourne glamorize and dramatize the life of a real-world spy, the reality is that there truly are spies among us, working to collect information and fighting for national security. I recently had dinner with an old friend who–“in a previous life”, as she puts it–worked in the field. While she’s sworn to secrecy about specifics, we did have an good chat on the more interesting aspects of the life. So whether you are seriously considering this life path or just indulging in daydreams, here are the skills I learned are necessary to become an effective spy.

  1. Learn Another Language – Although English is the universal language, being fluent in at least one other language is essential for any spy.  Not only so you can communicate with natives in foreign countries, but so you can eavesdrop on their conversations.  Mandarin, Farsi, Pashto, Dari, Russian, and Arabic are in high demand right now. Rosetta Stone, Live Mocha, and language immersion courses are the best means of learning one of these languages.
  2. Get in Shape – Even when Jason Bourne lost his memory, he continued to work out constantly to maintain his physical strength.  But how fit do you have to be to be a spy?  The FBI says you must sprint 300 meters in less than 50 seconds, do 50 sit-ups in under 60 seconds, do 40 push-ups in under 60 seconds, and be able to do 5 pull-ups.
  3. Develop Your Memory – Spies have to remember the names of people, recall current laws, and remember important details in their work.  So work on your memory by doing brain exercises like match games or Sudoku.
  4. Advance Your Computing Skills – Are you a luddite? Do you feel your smartphone is smarter than you are? Time to get over it! Spies today must use a broad spectrum of technology to do their jobs effectively. You’ll need sufficient computer skills so you can use various software and maybe even hack in to enemy files.
  5. Develop Your Social Skills – A spy must be comfortable, quick-witted, and charming in social situations.  Communication classes or public speaking events can help you broaden your social skills to prepare yourself for fitting in with any crowd and handling any social situation.
  6. Work on Your Poker Face – When spies like Jason Bourne are detained or questioned, they say nothing and maintain a firm poker face to keep the enemy from reading their expressions.  The ability to effectively lie and control your body language is important. For more important tips, check out the Utterly Complete Guide to Jason Bourne.
  7. Learn Martial Arts – Spies have to be prepared to defend themselves physically.  Basic self-defense classes are important, but also focus on disarmament and disabling.  The FBI suggests jiu-jitsu classes, though I’ve always been a Kung Fu kind of girl. (You might also want to check out this useful video on how to use everyday objects to kick someone’s butt.)
  8. Find Your Niche – Much like Sherlock Holmes was a consulting detective, you, too, must find your niche.  Discover what it is you love to do, develop a persuasive message, and market consistently to the right people. If you’re the best and most passionate at what you do, you can’t help but stand out from the rest.
  9. Give Back – Spies are frequent visitors of hotels, so while you’re bouncing around the world on a mission of suspense and intrigue, don’t forget that many hotels offer charity programs where you can donate 10 percent of the room rate to a monthly designated charity.  They are usually priced the same, so why not? It’s one way to balance your butt-kicking lifestyle with your softer side.

Yes, the life of a spy can be fraught with peril but it’s also a great way to travel and meet interest people. Have you ever wanted to become a spy? Think you have what it takes? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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