Despite the excellent work of President Trump, the federal government still has a huuuge number of employees, and even more contractors. For the record, I am not talking about military contracting, building the wall, or some of the other gigs that involve doing something useful, but just about regular civilian federal consulting.
I was moving and shutting down my business when I had a buddy who knew my resume turn me on to a consulting gig. The timing worked out and allowed me to jump right in. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, so here is what I wish I’d known beforehand…
1. The Money Is Good
Edward Snowden was making $122,000 as a consultant when he stole all that classified material. If you can keep a secret, you ought to be worth more. All joking aside, a man with relevant technical skills can easily make $100,000 or more as a consultant.
2. The Work Is Mostly Easy
Government employees sure aren’t killing themselves at work. They prefer to spend their time in diversity classes, at lunch, or otherwise being non-productive. They probably won’t stress you out too bad, either.
3. The Travel Opportunities Are Great
Some gigs have you working at a government office from 8am to 4:30 pm or something like that. Other gigs have you going to different facilities to perform technical work at different times. Those gigs would be just the thing for a single man. Just don’t approach any of the federal women without being pretty slick about it. The penalty for unwanted attention is getting voted off the island! As a contractor, there is no real due process on this.
4. Job Opportunities
The feds often hire from the ranks of contractors. If you want this to be you, figure out who does that hiring and make them your friend. The feds pay well (too well, I believe), and if you have a modest level of competence, you can stand out. That’s what happened to the guy I replaced, and I ended up working directly for him.
1. You May Need a Degree, A Clearance, And/Or Live In Or Near Washington, D.C.
Much of this is credential inflation, but most consultant jobs require a bachelor’s degree and many require a master’s degree. If you already have a clearance, you will be at the head of the line for these jobs. Companies hate to sponsor you for a clearance unless they have no choice, as it costs money and takes time. And I can’t take working or living in the DC/MD/VA area, but that is where most of these jobs are.
2. Government Employees
They can test the patience of a saint. We had a system where when you put data in, it emails it to someone to approve it, and then it gets emailed to some other folks once approved. Easy. Simple. You understand it now.
It took me two hours to explain this to two federal geniuses. Two hours of my life. Make sure that you can take 50 weeks a year of this.
The guy who I replaced quit his fed job in less than six months. It sucked so bad that he was looking for another job after two months. That left me ready to do great things, but there was really nothing to do without him telling me what they wanted. Six months later, they haven’t replaced him.
Each day I sat down at a heavily monitored government computer with nothing much to do. You can’t nap, work on your own projects, or read the paper. It is difficult for me to do nothing all day, though many government employees seem to find it easy. Did I learn all these skills just to sit on my ass, aimlessly reading a government intranet?
4. Mind Numbing, Soul-Killing Atmosphere
Yes, the Priuses with Bernie Sanders bumper stickers will almost certainly outnumber the trucks with NRA stickers. Energy is constantly consumed in showing reverence to Black History Month, Women’s Equality Day, Tranny Awareness Day, or some other such left-wing nonsense. They sure didn’t appreciate the “Fight Crime, Shoot Back” bumper sticker on my truck.
As with all bureaucracies, there is a premium on busywork. Your boss, known as the contracting officer’s representative (COR), will want reports about what you are doing, and it is wise to make these be what they want to hear. This COR will likely be a woman or a minority who has been promoted beyond their abilities.
5. No Guarantee of Employment
Government contracts typically have “task orders” with a year “period of performance” and “option years” for further work. The government will sometimes do a “re-compete,” where they give other firms a chance to bid. That may unexpectedly put you out of a job.
Make sure you understand these dates and how long you will likely be employed before you accept an offer. Have a rapport with your boss in the firm to keep tabs on this. The feds can cut off contract payments as well, and not just during government shut-downs. You want some heads-up on that if you can get it.
If your firm loses the contract, they may keep you “on the bench,” trying to find another contract that you are qualified for. They see what upcoming work they are bidding on, and may keep you around awhile if they think they can use you. However, if your skill set won’t be needed in the near future, then you will probably get a couple weeks’ pay and sent walking.
Interestingly, I have a friend who has worked for the same federal agency for over fifteen years doing the same job, but with six different contractors. He lost his vacation time and had to transfer his 401(k) each time, but he kept his job.
Would I recommend this sort of employment? That depends. It has been a good resume builder and good fill-in work between jobs for me. But I just accepted another offer and feel like I just got a good word from the parole board.
Be warned: a man with any hair on his ass will not like working for the feds. If you need a job, it is hard to say no to the pay. Just do not accept the job thinking it is something useful or fulfilling.
If I did not warn you off, Google “federal consulting firms” to start your descent into this special kind of hell. Good luck!
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