Author Topic: Go Government or stay Contractor  (Read 22663 times)

Manguy888

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Go Government or stay Contractor
« on: August 19, 2014, 10:59:29 AM »
Mustachians - I have an important decision to make. I've been working for many years as a contractor supporting a government engineering project. I now have a short window where the government can hire me as a civilian employee. And they very much want to. There are some pros and cons to this move.

PROS:
- Much more secure work environment. Contracts come and go, but the government employees stay. It would take an act of congress (literally) to let people go.
- Access to a child care facility on site. If I use it, it will save me 100-200 per week for the next 3 years.
- More and better defined sick time (15 days)
- access to the almighty TSP (the government's 401k) - fees for investments hover around .03% per year
- If I work the 12 years or so that I expect before FI, I will have a modest gov pension waiting for me of around 1200/month starting at age 62
- ability to earn OT (I don't get it as a contractor)
- ability to keep my per diem on travel (instead of getting reimbursed for what I spend)

CONS:
- They will only match my salary (no bump).
- I would have to pay back roughly 15k in tuition reimbursement from my employer - I can afford this, but it'll hurt
- my potential maximum pay is lower in the government
- my year over year raises will likely be lower
- worse dental and vision insurance
- general annoying government bureacracy: everything like my timecard, travel requests, etc will be way worse.
- affected by things like sequestration and furloughs, which happened to my gov. coworkers last year.
- a few less vacation days up front, but will equal out after 3 years.

I'll end by saying that for someone planning to work until 65, going government is a no brainer unless that person had VP of engineering potential. the gov. benefits are just too great. But I, like many others here, plan on accumulating and trying to go part time or FIRE in 12-15 years - this changes the equation slightly.

I appreciate any advice or comments!

Nathan12x

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Re: Go Government or stay Contractor
« Reply #1 on: August 19, 2014, 11:33:02 AM »
I currently am a government employee and enjoy it. Even though the gov will only match your salary, this will allow you to save 100-200 per week in child care savings, so your avaliable cash will actually have increased by $5,200-$10,400 (nice little raise there). This can be used to pay back the tuition reimbursements, especially if you can set up a payment plan.  A friend of mine recently did the switch you contemplated and was able to set up a payment program, interest free, to pay back his tuition reimbursement over 6 months. This could be an option to look into to lighten the burden a little bit. Another buddy did the switch and the company he worked for waived his tuition repayment. Not sure how he swindled that, but somehow that happened.

Additionally, some agencies are still able to provide recruitment bonuses. This is depending on the level you enter in and if you sign a commitment letter that is typically for a year or two. Which, I assume you'll be fine with. It seems like you have a good relationship with your counterparts, have you let them know that if you convert you will have to repay the tuition? This might help justify a pay bump/bonus when they sell it to HR/Management.

Another perk of working with the gov, is you can roll over your annual leave with a max carry over balance of 240 hours. So, once you get to that point everything earned above that must be used before the end of the CY. Might take some time to get to, but if you can it is pretty sweet entering a year knowing all the leave you accrue that year must be used. There is no cap on sick leave either.

For the raises, it really depends on what pay system you enter into. Most common is the General Schedule, but there are others that are a pay band type which provide flexibility with raises.

Lastly, with the contractor jobs as you likely know, when a contract ends and another company wins the recompete they typically retain many of the employees that worked on the previous contract. Assuming there is still a need for that service.
« Last Edit: August 19, 2014, 11:50:13 AM by Nathan12x »

DMoney

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Re: Go Government or stay Contractor
« Reply #2 on: August 19, 2014, 11:44:57 AM »
The govt contractor world really lacks stability, IMHO.  In my office there are both contractors and GS employees.  The contractors are dying to become GS because they are not treated really well by the company which has the contract, benefits are lousy (for example - one guy's 18 month old has leukemia - all the time he takes off to take care of kid is unpaid.  Luckily child's health insurance is thru his wife's company.), and they can be fired at a minute's notice.  Literally.  If one of the contractors looks at my sideways, I can have him or her removed immediately.  (I obviously don't do thisů)  Firing a GS employee, on the other hand, is a near impossibility.

yddeyma

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Re: Go Government or stay Contractor
« Reply #3 on: August 19, 2014, 11:48:32 AM »
I am a Gov't Engineer.  So here's my take on things:

Pros:
1) I don't ever have stress over losing my job.  In fact I've often wondered if I just stop coming into work how long it would take them to fire me.  I can't be fired unless I steal or threaten the president.

2) My childcare is excellent.  I also get a "mishap report" anytime something happens to my kid.  I find this somewhat hilarious because it actually has the Gov't form number on it.  Pro is that its a very consistent level of care, Con is that you can't expect people to problem solve or actually think.

3) Love my sick leave, I use it whenever, including Monday-itis

4) TSP is great, you get a 5% match and I think you're vested after 5 years (have to double check, its been awhile since I cared).  You can also take loans if needed and pay yourself back at the going rate (currently 2.25%).

5) I'm not counting on the pension, but its not that bad.  I would not consider this as a factor when choosing.

6) OT - make sure you actually get time and a half, lots of folks just get straight time.  Additionally, most organizations have an OT budget and if they spend it you still can't work.  So don't count on this, just consider it a possible perk

7) Per diem rocks, and I don't even travel that much. 

CONS:
8) They may only match your salary, but you should ask for leave accrual.  Note, YMMV, each agency sets its leave policies.  Most feds I know get paid every two weeks earning 4 hrs/pp for <3 years experience, 6 hrs/pp for <15 and 8 hrs/pp for >15.  Ask for leave accrual based on the time you've worked already.

9) Are you done your degree?  There are many programs to help fund feds getting their Master's.  Each agency is different, you'll have to ask specifically about tuition reimbursement programs.

10) Skilled workers always get paid less in the Gov.  Unskilled workers tend to get paid more (strange, isn't it) if you count benefits.  Also, be aware that you will not be getting a COLA unless Congress votes on it or bonus money if its not budgeted by your agency.  The last few years we got no bonus money but did get "time off awards".  The max bonus money in my office last year was about 0.8%, but again each agency is different.  Before the economy tanked a 2-3% COLA from Congress was not unheard of (realize its not really a COLA, it is Congress voting to increase all the pay scales so technically it is a "raise").  The bonus money just depends on how much they've got in the pay pool.

11) I started on my MMM Journey because I could not stand my job's bureaucracy anymore.  So make sure you have an exit strategy.  12 years is a long time, I am not sure you will make it if you have a low tolerance for bureaucracy.  Additionally, if you stay more than 2-3 years you will get sucked in and never leave.  Be aware.

12) Typically the closer you are to real work, the less likely you are to get furloughed.  Last year was unique in that they furloughed everybody, regardless of funding.  Which is kinda stupid because most people's budget is NOT appropriated (Congress voted on) funds and they were already budgeted for.  The Gov't shutdown that occurred after the regular furlough did not affected the non-appropriated funds people.  Most of the Gov't went to work as normal.  Only the folks paid for by Congress's budget got to stay home.  And while it sucks they didn't get a paycheck those weeks, they did get all of their money eventually (back-pay).  So essentially they got a free vacation.  My DH is appropriated funds and I am not.  He stayed home and re-did our 2nd bath that we had been planning to do together over the weekend.  So I got a slow week at work and he had to do manual labor!

13) Ask for leave accrual.  Don't forget.

From a technical standpoint, it sucks to be a Gov't engineer because we tend to contract out all our really cool projects.  But to me the other amenities are worth it.  I have to remind myself not to be a complainy-pants because I have it really easy.

For the poster about the sick kid, if I had to take off for something that long it would also be unpaid.  Maternity leave is unpaid.  They have to LET you take leave based on FMLA (I think contractors do to), but they don't pay your for it.  You can use your sick leave and annual leave, but after that you're on leave without pay.  Isn't this pretty typical for America, though?
« Last Edit: August 19, 2014, 12:00:19 PM by A.Engineer »

bo_knows

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Re: Go Government or stay Contractor
« Reply #4 on: August 19, 2014, 11:53:33 AM »
I'm always amazed at how many Govies and Govt Contractors I find in FIRE forums.

I'm a govt contractor, and have been my entire career.  I'd kill at a chance to get on as a civilian, even if it was just a salary match. The amount of leave, flexibility of schedule, the TSP, the pension... it's all pretty juicy to me.

I applied for a civilian position within my own office once, and I got passed over for a guy that was 20+ years my senior. Why he was applying for a Band 3 in the first place is beyond me.

DoubleDown

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Re: Go Government or stay Contractor
« Reply #5 on: August 23, 2014, 09:10:53 AM »
Based on your description, the decision sounds as close to a no-brainer as you can get. Of course it depends on what one values more, security vs. potential for higher pay. I have been a Fed for many years, and always turned down offers to go into the private sector even when offered a 50% increase in salary. When you add up all the benefits of being a Fed*, the salary differences usually become pretty small or even nonexistent, and in return you have a good job that you almost will never lose as long as you're remotely competent.

* Pension is probably the biggest benefit that you don't find in the private sector. It's hard to understate the value of a guaranteed, inflation-adjusted, lifetime payout. Also, working a steady 9-5 is great for family life. Many other financial and career perks: TSP with decent match, well-paid overtime, separate (and substantial) sick leave, excellent vacation (5 weeks at 15 years), lots of career training, decision-making capabilities. The latest significant downside is being vilified by the "small-government" Republicans currently running Congress.

BlueHouse

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Re: Go Government or stay Contractor
« Reply #6 on: August 23, 2014, 11:36:05 AM »
I applied for a civilian position within my own office once, and I got passed over for a guy that was 20+ years my senior. Why he was applying for a Band 3 in the first place is beyond me.

He probably did it for the health insurance.  I had a similar strategy until Obamacare.  Now I am not worried about growing old and uninsurable. 

I'm a contractor.  Not sure what I would do if I were offered Govt-civilian position.  It won't happen anyway because where I work, they don't hire my position as govvies.  But if they did, i would have to take a substantial pay cut.  I don't think I could afford it given my current expenses.  Once I have enough to pay off the house, I could swing it.  I'd have to look at it like a retirement gig because less pay would have to equal less demanding workload which would equal less stress.   

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Re: Go Government or stay Contractor
« Reply #7 on: August 23, 2014, 12:55:26 PM »

4) TSP is great, you get a 5% match and I think you're vested after 5 years (have to double check, its been awhile since I cared).  You can also take loans if needed and pay yourself back at the going rate (currently 2.25%).


TSP vests in 3 years; FERS (retirement) vests in 5.

Joggernot

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Re: Go Government or stay Contractor
« Reply #8 on: August 23, 2014, 03:23:03 PM »
I was a government contractor from 1973 to 2013.  Yes, when a contract ends you need to get on with the new contractor or find another contract to work.  I only had one 6-month break in all that time.  Salary was good; IRA was good; 401K was good; per diem was ok (cost only for motels, but per diem for meals and mileage for travel).  Enjoyed new locations now and then when going to a new contract, so we saw the west coast (CA & WA), Japan, east coast (DC & VA), and west (NM & TX), and retired at 60 when the contract changed to a new contractor.  It was a good life while raising two kids, a dog, and multiple cats.

If I had access to mustachian thinking way back then, I would have been able to retire much sooner.

Cassie

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Re: Go Government or stay Contractor
« Reply #9 on: August 24, 2014, 03:54:19 PM »
You can't beat a fed pension.  You have to save up huge amounts of $ to equal that.  I have a pension from a well funded state and that enabled me to retire younger then many people although at 58 I was not that young. However, I had only worked there 15 years.   The job security is also incredible. I never had to worry about being laid off.

Can't Wait

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Re: Go Government or stay Contractor
« Reply #10 on: August 25, 2014, 11:17:55 AM »
I was once a govt contractor and I would only work as a contractor for compaines like booze allen, northrop, or lockheed. I worked for a smaller company and we were all let go when the contract was terminated. As a GS employee now, I see contractors get canned all the time for arbitrary reasons.

While it's not impossible to get fired as a govt employee, it is difficult once you have passed your probabtionary period. Although, if you are in the excepted service you aren't quite as protected as a competitive service employee.

Working for the federal govt is great and there are many benefits. Depending on what agency you work for, you might be able to telework regulary or work a compressed work schedule. I know some federal IT guys that telework 4 days a week- cant beat that.

Left

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Re: Go Government or stay Contractor
« Reply #11 on: August 25, 2014, 12:45:43 PM »
I'm always amazed at how many Govies and Govt Contractors I find in FIRE forums.

I'm a govt contractor, and have been my entire career.  I'd kill at a chance to get on as a civilian, even if it was just a salary match. The amount of leave, flexibility of schedule, the TSP, the pension... it's all pretty juicy to me.

I applied for a civilian position within my own office once, and I got passed over for a guy that was 20+ years my senior. Why he was applying for a Band 3 in the first place is beyond me.
I'm wondering this myself, there's a VA position open near me that I'm thinking about applying for. The problem is that from what I've seen for the FERS pension, it's salary X 1% X number of years? So if I worked 15 years, I'd only get 15% of salary? This seems too little but I haven't found anything on google saying I'm doing math wrong.

The TSP, that's just a 401k with a 5% match? I get that from a private company.

The biggest thing is that I plan to take up a traveling job next year after I get my current place fixed up/sold (don't want to be a landlord). While traveling, I'd have my housing paid for by company. They offer a 401k so the TSP isn't anything special, the difference is the FERS which if it really is just 1% X number of years... I plan on retiring in 13 or 18 years which means at most, I'd only get 18% of salary which I wouldn't even need if my FI plans go well. The trade off of not getting FERS is that I'll be able to travel the country and see it while someone else is paying me for it

I may apply anyways just to see it, and leave after a year then travel :S

edit: here's my math numbers on FERS pension, assuming I'm paid similarly, $50k * 1% * 18 years = $9k/year in pension, or in other words at 4% I would need $225k saved myself, and my guess is that having my housing paid for 18 years would save me that much. The kicker is that in 18 years, I'd be 45 so I still wouldn't be able to draw from FERS

edit: yes I'm single... makes traveling easier, if I wasn't, I probably would think try harder for a fed job. I'll work on the application later tonight though, I'm curious about what they actually offer
« Last Edit: August 25, 2014, 01:26:36 PM by eyem »

DoubleDown

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Re: Go Government or stay Contractor
« Reply #12 on: August 25, 2014, 04:23:48 PM »
^^^ Since you're interested in traveling, some federal agencies give a "FERS Special" pension of (1.7% x years worked x Salary) if you work overseas (PCS) for at least 5 years. You will also get a substantial housing allowance and other benefits while working overseas. That extra 0.7% for each year will really increase the pension amount.

fallstoclimb

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Re: Go Government or stay Contractor
« Reply #13 on: August 26, 2014, 08:42:56 AM »
I'm wondering this myself, there's a VA position open near me that I'm thinking about applying for. The problem is that from what I've seen for the FERS pension, it's salary X 1% X number of years? So if I worked 15 years, I'd only get 15% of salary? This seems too little but I haven't found anything on google saying I'm doing math wrong.

The TSP, that's just a 401k with a 5% match? I get that from a private company.

The biggest thing is that I plan to take up a traveling job next year after I get my current place fixed up/sold (don't want to be a landlord). While traveling, I'd have my housing paid for by company. They offer a 401k so the TSP isn't anything special, the difference is the FERS which if it really is just 1% X number of years... I plan on retiring in 13 or 18 years which means at most, I'd only get 18% of salary which I wouldn't even need if my FI plans go well. The trade off of not getting FERS is that I'll be able to travel the country and see it while someone else is paying me for it

I may apply anyways just to see it, and leave after a year then travel :S

edit: here's my math numbers on FERS pension, assuming I'm paid similarly, $50k * 1% * 18 years = $9k/year in pension, or in other words at 4% I would need $225k saved myself, and my guess is that having my housing paid for 18 years would save me that much. The kicker is that in 18 years, I'd be 45 so I still wouldn't be able to draw from FERS

edit: yes I'm single... makes traveling easier, if I wasn't, I probably would think try harder for a fed job. I'll work on the application later tonight though, I'm curious about what they actually offer

The pension is based on the average of your 3 highest salaries, times years worked, times a multiplier -- in my spreadsheet my multiplier is .011 but I believe that is dependent upon 20 years of service.  It's probably just .01 for less than 20.  It should be COLA-adjusted, though, which is pretty huge. 

TSP has lower expense ratios than you will find anywhere, but yeah the match isn't that impressive.

I think the big benefits of federal work are:

1) You basically can't get fired.  For real.  And if you are, you see it coming 6 months out, so plenty of time to prepare financially.  I never have to lie awake at night worried about a job loss (of course, most MMMers are beyond this anyway).

2) There's a lot of flexibility.  Most agencies/managers will allow you to work a 5/4/9 or a 4/10 schedule.  Most agencies also allow up to 2 days a week teleworking and some are starting to come around to 3 days/week or even  full-time telework. 

3) Lots of leave.  It sucks that we don't have paid maternity leave, but 4 hrs of sick leave every pay period for forever really adds up after a couple of years.  There's also a leave donor bank you can get into when you have those life-stopping health emergencies (includes caring for a loved one).   After 3 years you start earning 6 hours of annual leave a pay period, which also banks up pretty well if you allow it.

Plus there are extra-flexible arrangements, if you can get approved for it.  I worked on an intermittent basis while I was in grad school, which basically meant I just sent my hours to the time person whenever I worked.  There's unpaid sabbaticals as well, although I don't know how easy it is to get that approved.  Some agencies are very open to part-time work as well.  I don't see as much of that where I am now but its hard to tell if its because it isnt approved or because the interest just isn't there.


Left

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Re: Go Government or stay Contractor
« Reply #14 on: August 26, 2014, 09:00:54 AM »
Quote
1) You basically can't get fired.  For real.  And if you are, you see it coming 6 months out, so plenty of time to prepare financially.  I never have to lie awake at night worried about a job loss (of course, most MMMers are beyond this anyway).
Everyone seems to mention this, but I'm a medical technologist... even if I get layed off, I can find another job quick enough for this to not matter. Really, I'm pretty in demand :S not sure how long it'll last, but from what everyone's said, I should be good until I FI. I've looked in every major city, there are positions for the job everywhere if I want to move, even at my own place right now there are 8 open positions.

The leave, I don't really mind, I work 10 or 12 hour days so I only work 3 or 4 days a week. I basically work fewer days than I have off, I don't need vacation time, I have a 4 day weekend every other week or a 3 day weekend when it isn't 4 days.  Or I can trade days and work a week straight and get a full week off. The leave doesn't matter to me because I pretty much get a mini vacation every week.

But I applied for both the VA position and a foreign services one. I doubt I'd get the foreign service one but I can hope. Not sure about my chances at the VA position either but if I get it, I may have to stay around KC for a bit which I don't mind but I do look forward to a travel job while I'm not attached to anyone to keep me from exploring. But I like my job, I can clock in, do work, clock out and not have any of the stress follow me home.

edit: best was when I was working part time for benefits then worked PRN for rest of 40 hours, I could decide when I wanted to work and not obligated to work the PRN if I didn't need to (and PRN paid 1.5 to 2x more too since there's no benefits)
« Last Edit: August 26, 2014, 09:04:11 AM by eyem »

Michael792

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Re: Go Government or stay Contractor
« Reply #15 on: August 26, 2014, 09:02:33 AM »
Do everything in your power to not be a government employee. Your sanity will thank you.

Joggernot

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Re: Go Government or stay Contractor
« Reply #16 on: August 26, 2014, 09:44:23 AM »
Do everything in your power to not be a government employee. Your sanity will thank you.
*1 (for Dept. of Energy only)
I had 5 years as a fed civilian and got out with my sanity.  As a contractor I didn't have to put up with the backstabbing and politics of the feds.

Manguy888

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Re: Go Government or stay Contractor
« Reply #17 on: August 28, 2014, 07:40:06 AM »
There's a lot of great advice on here - thanks everyone!

eyem - it sounds like your circumstances are different than mine. You want to travel, and the FERS pension doesn't move the needle for you (you're right that the FERS pension is not a ton of money compared to the pensions of old - my wife is a teacher and as of now will get one of those '80% of your salary for life' pensions at 55).

I specifically like where I live and want to stay here. i also like the work I'm doing. Going gov would literally change nothing (at first) about my day to day work. I'd report to the same site and do the same work except as a govvie. I've decided that if the paperwork goes through I am going to make the jump.

Thanks again for everyone's help.

Left

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Re: Go Government or stay Contractor
« Reply #18 on: December 08, 2014, 06:20:11 PM »
bump for a question, wasn't sure if it needed a new post because it kind of related

I applied for the VA, think think I have a good shot at it, they are doing a background check/fingerprint. HR said once this is done, and it passes (no idea why it wouldn't) then I have the job? But HR said it would take 6-8 weeks for the background check? Is this normal, I just never needed one and it seems like a long time to leave a position unfilled. But as much as it was posted above about not going into the fed job, I think it might be a good chance to try it out, even working 5 years into it, I'd still be 33 if I left so I won't lose much by trying it out.

If I do get job, i'll probably post back on which of their retirement plans to go with, quick look over I was thinking plan c (the aggressive one) since they don't offer vanguard? Or is their version of lifestyle funds (target date?) any good, or rather I can't see it being worse than private options anyways.

kimmarg

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Re: Go Government or stay Contractor
« Reply #19 on: December 08, 2014, 06:59:24 PM »
bump for a question, wasn't sure if it needed a new post because it kind of related

I applied for the VA, think think I have a good shot at it, they are doing a background check/fingerprint. HR said once this is done, and it passes (no idea why it wouldn't) then I have the job? But HR said it would take 6-8 weeks for the background check? Is this normal, I just never needed one and it seems like a long time to leave a position unfilled. But as much as it was posted above about not going into the fed job, I think it might be a good chance to try it out, even working 5 years into it, I'd still be 33 if I left so I won't lose much by trying it out.

If I do get job, i'll probably post back on which of their retirement plans to go with, quick look over I was thinking plan c (the aggressive one) since they don't offer vanguard? Or is their version of lifestyle funds (target date?) any good, or rather I can't see it being worse than private options anyways.

Welcome to the government. 6-8 weeks sounds fine. If you need a high level security check it could easily be months. The saying is "double the number and change the unit" corporate get your check done in 3 days - 6 weeks for gov't. We've had an operational position open 3 months already and it hasn't been put on the street.

Not sure what you mean by retirement "options" you only have one option and I'm not even sure you can take it or leave it as far as pension. If you mean TSP (aka 401k) there are only a few funds (5?) and the. Lyfecycle ones are combinations of the others. The expense ratio is crazy low. As in I thought had the decimal wrong when I saw it. TSP covers costs with people who forfeit their agency matching by leaving before 3 years and by charging interest on loans.

As others have said the benefits and job security is excellent. The beuracray can be mind boggling but often times the innovation and creativity survives within a dept or office just not system wide.

Oh and not all fed jobs are 9-5 or have child care. Mine has neither. 

BlueHouse

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Re: Go Government or stay Contractor
« Reply #20 on: December 08, 2014, 07:35:11 PM »
Do everything in your power to not be a government employee. Your sanity will thank you.
*1 (for Dept. of Energy only),I had 5 years as a fed civilian and got out with my sanity.  As a contractor I didn't have to put up with the backstabbing and politics of the feds.
I'm surprised by this.  I've been a contractor directly supporting government agencies (on site) for about 10 years.  I've been at my current place about 5 years and I feel as if I get to see the inner workings (I'm no longer treated as a guest).  My impression was that there is less backstabbing and political maneuvering when people aren't afraid of losing their jobs.  Seriously, no one tries to take credit for anyone else's work.  In fact, the smartest people in the room often claim to be the dumbest and often talk up how wonderful everyone else is.  Granted, some of that is to shove the work on to other people, but still -- it's way better than the venom and temper tantrums and cursing and throwing of furniture that I've witnessed in the commercial sector.

Joggernot

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Re: Go Government or stay Contractor
« Reply #21 on: December 08, 2014, 07:53:22 PM »
Do everything in your power to not be a government employee. Your sanity will thank you.
*1 (for Dept. of Energy only),I had 5 years as a fed civilian and got out with my sanity.  As a contractor I didn't have to put up with the backstabbing and politics of the feds.
I'm surprised by this.  I've been a contractor directly supporting government agencies (on site) for about 10 years.  I've been at my current place about 5 years and I feel as if I get to see the inner workings (I'm no longer treated as a guest).  My impression was that there is less backstabbing and political maneuvering when people aren't afraid of losing their jobs.  Seriously, no one tries to take credit for anyone else's work.  In fact, the smartest people in the room often claim to be the dumbest and often talk up how wonderful everyone else is.  Granted, some of that is to shove the work on to other people, but still -- it's way better than the venom and temper tantrums and cursing and throwing of furniture that I've witnessed in the commercial sector.
We had very different experiences.  After 5 years as a Fed in DOD, I got out because of the BS going on as the managers worked to make the other managers look bad so they got the credit and promotions.  I had my work "stolen" by another worker who got the promotion partly based on that.  I was young and na´ve.   After 5 excellent years in industry (no venom or temper tantrums or cursing) I went back as a contractor with a different agency for 25 years.  Same stuff going on, but as a contractor I was immune.  Did lots of work and put my name on the reports that went out.  Pay was good, too.  Retired when a contract ran out and I decided I didn't want to work any more.  Had to play with finances initially (not fully mustacian), but once SS kicked in the net worth has doubled while drawing the 4% to live on.

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Re: Go Government or stay Contractor
« Reply #22 on: December 09, 2014, 09:20:21 AM »
hm, out of curiosity, why is there such scrutiny for this job that requires a background check/fingerprint? It's not like I'll have access to secret military files :S, I'm just working as a lab tech at the VA. Sure patient privacy is important but that's true anywhere, what makes government hospital any more special? It feels like I'm applying for some FBI job or something instead.

Can't Wait

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Re: Go Government or stay Contractor
« Reply #23 on: December 09, 2014, 06:35:08 PM »
Do everything in your power to not be a government employee. Your sanity will thank you.
*1 (for Dept. of Energy only),I had 5 years as a fed civilian and got out with my sanity.  As a contractor I didn't have to put up with the backstabbing and politics of the feds.
I'm surprised by this.  I've been a contractor directly supporting government agencies (on site) for about 10 years.  I've been at my current place about 5 years and I feel as if I get to see the inner workings (I'm no longer treated as a guest).  My impression was that there is less backstabbing and political maneuvering when people aren't afraid of losing their jobs.  Seriously, no one tries to take credit for anyone else's work.  In fact, the smartest people in the room often claim to be the dumbest and often talk up how wonderful everyone else is.  Granted, some of that is to shove the work on to other people, but still -- it's way better than the venom and temper tantrums and cursing and throwing of furniture that I've witnessed in the commercial sector.
We had very different experiences.  After 5 years as a Fed in DOD, I got out because of the BS going on as the managers worked to make the other managers look bad so they got the credit and promotions.  I had my work "stolen" by another worker who got the promotion partly based on that.  I was young and na´ve.   After 5 excellent years in industry (no venom or temper tantrums or cursing) I went back as a contractor with a different agency for 25 years.  Same stuff going on, but as a contractor I was immune.  Did lots of work and put my name on the reports that went out.  Pay was good, too.  Retired when a contract ran out and I decided I didn't want to work any more.  Had to play with finances initially (not fully mustacian), but once SS kicked in the net worth has doubled while drawing the 4% to live on.

I'm not sure how long ago you were in the Fed. Govt., but promotions are pretty much automatic nowadays, as long as you are in a ladder position. You get promoted based off of your time in grade and not necessarily what body of work you did or did not do. If you're in a position with a ladder built in, there is no need to worry about someone trying to one-up you, take credit for your work, or bad mouth you since you will get promoted regardless.

Joggernot

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Re: Go Government or stay Contractor
« Reply #24 on: December 09, 2014, 06:58:29 PM »
Promotions were pretty much automatic up to GS-11 (which was really $11k/year).  After that it was based on what you did and who you knew.  I didn't get the GS-12 and started looking in industry.  Quickly found a job for more money and never looked back.

And yes, after that they put in a "technical ladder" that would have benefitted my case, but a day late and a dollar short.  I was gone.

Michael792

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Re: Go Government or stay Contractor
« Reply #25 on: December 09, 2014, 09:13:36 PM »
Do everything in your power to not be a government employee. Your sanity will thank you.
*1 (for Dept. of Energy only),I had 5 years as a fed civilian and got out with my sanity.  As a contractor I didn't have to put up with the backstabbing and politics of the feds.
I'm surprised by this.  I've been a contractor directly supporting government agencies (on site) for about 10 years.  I've been at my current place about 5 years and I feel as if I get to see the inner workings (I'm no longer treated as a guest).  My impression was that there is less backstabbing and political maneuvering when people aren't afraid of losing their jobs.  Seriously, no one tries to take credit for anyone else's work.  In fact, the smartest people in the room often claim to be the dumbest and often talk up how wonderful everyone else is.  Granted, some of that is to shove the work on to other people, but still -- it's way better than the venom and temper tantrums and cursing and throwing of furniture that I've witnessed in the commercial sector.
We had very different experiences.  After 5 years as a Fed in DOD, I got out because of the BS going on as the managers worked to make the other managers look bad so they got the credit and promotions.  I had my work "stolen" by another worker who got the promotion partly based on that.  I was young and na´ve.   After 5 excellent years in industry (no venom or temper tantrums or cursing) I went back as a contractor with a different agency for 25 years.  Same stuff going on, but as a contractor I was immune.  Did lots of work and put my name on the reports that went out.  Pay was good, too.  Retired when a contract ran out and I decided I didn't want to work any more.  Had to play with finances initially (not fully mustacian), but once SS kicked in the net worth has doubled while drawing the 4% to live on.

I'm not sure how long ago you were in the Fed. Govt., but promotions are pretty much automatic nowadays, as long as you are in a ladder position. You get promoted based off of your time in grade and not necessarily what body of work you did or did not do. If you're in a position with a ladder built in, there is no need to worry about someone trying to one-up you, take credit for your work, or bad mouth you since you will get promoted regardless.

I dunno about civvy sector. I'm in the Army. Promotions are not automatic.

BlueHouse

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Re: Go Government or stay Contractor
« Reply #26 on: December 09, 2014, 09:34:30 PM »
Promotions were pretty much automatic up to GS-11 (which was really $11k/year).  After that it was based on what you did and who you knew.  I didn't get the GS-12 and started looking in industry.  Quickly found a job for more money and never looked back.

And yes, after that they put in a "technical ladder" that would have benefitted my case, but a day late and a dollar short.  I was gone.
I think I understand the difference in our experiences now. Everyone I work with is very specialized and rather high level engineer. The entire organization is either gs 14 or gs 15. That makes it a flat organization and it's also project oriented. If you're the boss this week, you should be polite because someone else will be the PM next week. I guess my experience is still pretty narrow owing to my specialization and my field.

Can't Wait

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Re: Go Government or stay Contractor
« Reply #27 on: December 10, 2014, 04:39:13 AM »
Do everything in your power to not be a government employee. Your sanity will thank you.
*1 (for Dept. of Energy only),I had 5 years as a fed civilian and got out with my sanity.  As a contractor I didn't have to put up with the backstabbing and politics of the feds.
I'm surprised by this.  I've been a contractor directly supporting government agencies (on site) for about 10 years.  I've been at my current place about 5 years and I feel as if I get to see the inner workings (I'm no longer treated as a guest).  My impression was that there is less backstabbing and political maneuvering when people aren't afraid of losing their jobs.  Seriously, no one tries to take credit for anyone else's work.  In fact, the smartest people in the room often claim to be the dumbest and often talk up how wonderful everyone else is.  Granted, some of that is to shove the work on to other people, but still -- it's way better than the venom and temper tantrums and cursing and throwing of furniture that I've witnessed in the commercial sector.
We had very different experiences.  After 5 years as a Fed in DOD, I got out because of the BS going on as the managers worked to make the other managers look bad so they got the credit and promotions.  I had my work "stolen" by another worker who got the promotion partly based on that.  I was young and na´ve.   After 5 excellent years in industry (no venom or temper tantrums or cursing) I went back as a contractor with a different agency for 25 years.  Same stuff going on, but as a contractor I was immune.  Did lots of work and put my name on the reports that went out.  Pay was good, too.  Retired when a contract ran out and I decided I didn't want to work any more.  Had to play with finances initially (not fully mustacian), but once SS kicked in the net worth has doubled while drawing the 4% to live on.

I'm not sure how long ago you were in the Fed. Govt., but promotions are pretty much automatic nowadays, as long as you are in a ladder position. You get promoted based off of your time in grade and not necessarily what body of work you did or did not do. If you're in a position with a ladder built in, there is no need to worry about someone trying to one-up you, take credit for your work, or bad mouth you since you will get promoted regardless.

I dunno about civvy sector. I'm in the Army. Promotions are not automatic.

Yeah, I'm referring to the civilian GS positions.

A lot of folks will get hired into a GS-7/9/11/12 ladder position and every year they'll get promoted to the next level in their ladder as long as they are in good standing and they aren't a complete shit bag. GS-13, 14, and 15 positions are usually supervisory or high level type positions and getting one of those can be a bit competitive but not hard. It really depends on what field of govt work you are in though. Just about everybody in engineering or IT is a GS-13 or higher.

My experience has been pretty pleasant though. The only folks that walk around on eggshells or who are worried about all the "he said, she said" are the contractors, however that's not always the case. Working for the gov has been a pretty sweet deal because you can easily make over 6 figures and not ever have to work more than 40 hours per week. Throw in some guaranteed telework days, a compressed work schedule that gives you a three day weekend every other weekend, and all the holidays we get off.. Most of my friends in the private sector that make 6 figures work a lot more than I do. Of course, that's not always the case either, but it sure does seem like it.
« Last Edit: December 10, 2014, 04:41:58 AM by GovtWorker »

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Re: Go Government or stay Contractor
« Reply #28 on: December 10, 2014, 06:11:06 AM »
i guess this is good news for me then? i'm being hired as a gs-7, only 4 years out of college so i guess this isnt too bad of a way to start a career. im not holding breath of being promoted/getting raises any more often than private company but i dont have much experience to compare with. i'm getting excited about this chance.

Terrestrial

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Re: Go Government or stay Contractor
« Reply #29 on: December 10, 2014, 07:45:49 AM »
My personal experience with similar situation:

I graduated 10 years ago with an engineering degree, best friend graduated same time.  He went to be an engineer for the fed govt, I went private sector consulting.  My salary was a little higher initially but not a tremendous ammt, his went up faster as he did the GS-7 - 12 ladder thing over the first 4 or 5 years, we leveled out around 7-8 years.  The past couple years especially coming out of the recession as the economy shakes loose, I have started to crush him handily in salary and overall compensation, and he's a GS-13 now...with a long view lens when you progress into management levels at a company the bonuses/stock/raises can start to be hefty, and when you enter roles with direct monetary responsibilities, if you do well your compensation will generally reflect that.  One of the things I personally hate about the govt is the god-awful step system....it encourages mediocrity (or worse), why try harder if 'lazy larry' isn't getting much less of a raise than 'stellar steve' ever year. 

That said...I do like my job and he hates his and is looking to get out.  Many of the 'benefits' people note here turn out to be a drain...not being able to get fired is great for yourself but bad when you become a supervisor and can't fire any of you lazy ass-hat entitled employees that don't do anything (his words).  He has so many ridiculous hoops to jump through to do anything that he's burned out by the sheer bureaucracy.  And he's tired of the snail pace compensation package he's hit at this point in his career (no realistic opening for GS-14 unless he wants to move) precisely as his peers are getting into management/ownership roles where the real money starts to flow.

So that was just to give an alternate perspective...think about your goals/career 10 years from now and not just today.  Another thing to consider is that he is finding it difficult to directly switch over to consulting engineering because the level he wants to jump in at requires alot of business/marketing skills and experience that don't get developed in the government.  Again this is just one person's experience with the govt, I'm sure there are plenty of different perspectives.

On the flip side, yes I generally work harder/more hours, and have more stress because of the pressure to hit deadlines/revenue targets.  So the compensation doesn't come at no cost.  I personally enjoy (or at least, don't mind haha) my work so it's not a huge deal for me and like to maximize my compensation so I'm happy with that tradeoff, but YMMV.
« Last Edit: December 10, 2014, 07:48:56 AM by Terrestrial »

Can't Wait

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Re: Go Government or stay Contractor
« Reply #30 on: December 10, 2014, 08:21:49 AM »
i guess this is good news for me then? i'm being hired as a gs-7, only 4 years out of college so i guess this isnt too bad of a way to start a career. im not holding breath of being promoted/getting raises any more often than private company but i dont have much experience to compare with. i'm getting excited about this chance.

Like I said, if the position you are being hired into has a ladder built in, your promotions will come at the exact same time every year. If your position is just a GS-7 with no ladder, then you'll have to apply to something else to move up.



My personal experience with similar situation:

I graduated 10 years ago with an engineering degree, best friend graduated same time.  He went to be an engineer for the fed govt, I went private sector consulting.  My salary was a little higher initially but not a tremendous ammt, his went up faster as he did the GS-7 - 12 ladder thing over the first 4 or 5 years, we leveled out around 7-8 years.  The past couple years especially coming out of the recession as the economy shakes loose, I have started to crush him handily in salary and overall compensation, and he's a GS-13 now...with a long view lens when you progress into management levels at a company the bonuses/stock/raises can start to be hefty, and when you enter roles with direct monetary responsibilities, if you do well your compensation will generally reflect that.  One of the things I personally hate about the govt is the god-awful step system....it encourages mediocrity (or worse), why try harder if 'lazy larry' isn't getting much less of a raise than 'stellar steve' ever year. 

That said...I do like my job and he hates his and is looking to get out.  Many of the 'benefits' people note here turn out to be a drain...not being able to get fired is great for yourself but bad when you become a supervisor and can't fire any of you lazy ass-hat entitled employees that don't do anything (his words).  He has so many ridiculous hoops to jump through to do anything that he's burned out by the sheer bureaucracy.  And he's tired of the snail pace compensation package he's hit at this point in his career (no realistic opening for GS-14 unless he wants to move) precisely as his peers are getting into management/ownership roles where the real money starts to flow.

So that was just to give an alternate perspective...think about your goals/career 10 years from now and not just today.  Another thing to consider is that he is finding it difficult to directly switch over to consulting engineering because the level he wants to jump in at requires alot of business/marketing skills and experience that don't get developed in the government.  Again this is just one person's experience with the govt, I'm sure there are plenty of different perspectives.

On the flip side, yes I generally work harder/more hours, and have more stress because of the pressure to hit deadlines/revenue targets.  So the compensation doesn't come at no cost.  I personally enjoy (or at least, don't mind haha) my work so it's not a huge deal for me and like to maximize my compensation so I'm happy with that tradeoff, but YMMV.

Working for the Fed govt is great for the average joe type of guy. The average joe can work for the govt and after 5 years or so can be earning at or near 6 figures (depending on your location). I'm in DC so there is a high locality pay adjustment for those of us in this area. Sure, the private sector will always pay more but like you say, that comes at a cost. My father made over 300k a year as an executive in the private sector but he was also laid off twice, under constant pressure, and worked a ton of hours. Making a lot of money is great, but making 100k is pretty good too, especially when you leave work after 8 hours and the work stays there and doesn't follow you home.

If you're an average joe with an average degree (hell even no degree), then working for the fed will serve you well. If you have an engineering degree or programming background then private sector is the way to go if you want to make a lot of money.

There is a lot of bureaucracy and ridiculous policies that slow things down in the federal govt, along with ass hats that literally sit and do nothing all day that can't be fired. If things like that bother you, then the fed isn't for you. Personally, it doesn't bother me. My job is just something that I do to fund my activities outside of work so I work my day and go home to my family. If the guy in the office next to me sleeps all day, then hey, that's his problem.