Author Topic: Has anyone left the federal government to go private sector?  (Read 3466 times)

fallstoclimb

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Has anyone left the federal government to go private sector?
« on: January 15, 2016, 12:38:45 PM »
Just curious on what people's experiences have been with leaving the government.  Obviously being a federal employee can be frustrating in many ways but its hard to beat the benefits, in my opinion.  I could get a pay raise if I left but I think work-life balance would take a big hit. 

We will be near early retirement in a decade.  I'm thinking that is the time to chase the money -- then, if its awful, I can just retire and be done with it.  Whereas if I left the government now and couldn't take the stress and hours, I may have a hard time getting back in.  (Although I did already do that once!)   Of course if I chased the money now, it would allow retirement even earlier. 

Around here it seems like most people are trying to get IN to the government, so I'd love to hear about the experiences of people who have left it.

AZDude

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Re: Has anyone left the federal government to go private sector?
« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2016, 12:54:32 PM »
Never the feds, but I worked for local government. It sucked. I hated it. Would never go back.

fallstoclimb

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Re: Has anyone left the federal government to go private sector?
« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2016, 12:55:40 PM »
Local government might be a different beast, but why did you hate it? 

AZDude

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Re: Has anyone left the federal government to go private sector?
« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2016, 12:58:43 PM »
The low pay, inflexibility of schedule, the quality of my co-workers, the incredibly slow pace everyone works at, the fact that it was a long commute since govt buildings are usually downtown or the shithole part of the city, the piss-poor management, the outdated policies, the department inertia when it comes to new ideas... I could go on.

Roboturner

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Re: Has anyone left the federal government to go private sector?
« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2016, 01:04:19 PM »
left a research position at a public college for the private sector - less fulfilling but $$ FAR outweighs my current issues, but then again i'm a mustachian, so i know it's short term pain for long term gain

Cassie

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Re: Has anyone left the federal government to go private sector?
« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2016, 01:17:41 PM »
I worked in private first but eventually went to the government for less $ because you could not beat the pension, other benefits etc. So after 15 years with state gov I get a check every month for doing nothing.

Josiecat

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Re: Has anyone left the federal government to go private sector?
« Reply #6 on: January 15, 2016, 07:02:07 PM »
I worked for state government and it sucked.  No raises in five years.

I worked for the feds too, and loved it.  Ultimately left to move to a different part of the country.  Was in DC.  Now trying to get back in. It's a slow process, but not impossible.

Follow your heart and if you need to leave the feds, go ahead.  They will still be there if you want to come back.

Jon Bon

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Re: Has anyone left the federal government to go private sector?
« Reply #7 on: January 15, 2016, 08:01:55 PM »
Get Out NOW!!!

I left in 2011 and I have never been happier.

I worked at DFAS which is a branch of the DoD. The work itself was pretty terrible. It is  hard to explain but I never was adding value it was all just pushing paper and running out the clock.

The people were not much better, sure some were good people, but most where there to collect a paycheck and do as little as possible. New ideas and pushing any kind of change were just not going to happen.

Getting a "real" job really improved my work satisfaction. Solving problems that actually mattered and dealing with real profit and loss challenged me in the best way possible. I've sense gotten into real estate and started my own business.

I'm about to hit bare bones FIRE I would never had the guts or acumen to do this if I was still locked into the tiny little world that was my government job.

Yes the bennies were good, but staying for the bennies is living in the Arctic circle because the house was free.

DebtFreeBy25

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Re: Has anyone left the federal government to go private sector?
« Reply #8 on: January 15, 2016, 09:18:06 PM »
Hi there, former US Senate employee here. I left the federal government in 2012. While I loved the work I did for the Senate in general, the pay was terrible, we were under a wage freeze and after over 3 years of service there was no foreseeable opportunity for advancement.

My next gig after leaving the federal government was working for a union, so the benefits were awesome (totally employer funded) but the pay was still lousy. This particular union's ethics and work-life balance were also lousy, so that job didn't last long.

After leaving the union, I went into the private sector. The good news: Less than 4 years later, I make twice as much as I did working for the federal government. The bad news: I find the work in the private sector entirely meaningless. I hate my job every day and am seriously considering going back to non-profit work.


Josiecat

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Re: Has anyone left the federal government to go private sector?
« Reply #9 on: January 15, 2016, 11:01:58 PM »
OP - Have you considered changing jobs within the feds?  I find each agency is very different.  Maybe you just need a change.

DeltaBond

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Re: Has anyone left the federal government to go private sector?
« Reply #10 on: January 16, 2016, 06:42:22 AM »
I work for the U.S. Feds and I really hate to complain because the pay for what I do is really good.  Some branches of the government get to work from home, and that can really help the work/life balance.  I would recommend doing whatever you need to to reach your goal faster, personally - but since the goal is years out, be creative in finding ways to keep that work/life balance good.  Lots of people have left my agency for other government agencies - check USAjobs if that might interest you.  I'm not sure what your line of work is, but if you can get paid enough outside the government to exceed the government benefits overall, it sounds like its worth it.

fallstoclimb

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Re: Has anyone left the federal government to go private sector?
« Reply #11 on: January 16, 2016, 07:26:14 AM »
I've pretty much decided not to leave the government right now, although I am still curious about other's experiences.

I don't have the complaints others have.  My agency is reasonably aggressive about implementing change (at least compared to other agencies), I have a decent amount of autonomy, a lot of work from home flexibility, and I get paid very well already. 

There is always the issue of whether the grass is really greener elsewhere.  It can be frustrating watching coworkers get by while doing very little work, my job is certainly not exciting, and my group in particular is a little dysfunctional these days, but I think in ways that are not unique to federal work.  I do have the option of switching to a different division within my agency - there are many and each has its own culture - but I have a lot of flexibility where I am right now and I don't really want to walk away from that. 

I think in about 3 years I will probably have the opportunity to be put up for a 15K raise in my current office - not sure if that would happen in a different division.  That's about the pay raise it would take to get me to walk away from the feds and go private, which I'm not sure is realistic anyway.  If I wanted to pursue a traditional career, it would probably be a good move for me career-wise to go private in a few years for advancement purposes, but of course I don't want a traditional career!  Just before early retirement, it may be a good move, but I will have to reevaluate then. I have skills & exposure that private companies are very interested in currently -- its possible down the line this will be less in demand but I don't really anticipate that. 

I am also concerned about being in a position where I am expected to be motivated by the company's bottom line, because I don't really care about that at all.  I also am not motivated by prestige or feeling important.  I am motivated by the greater good, which is something that my current job contributes to at least somewhat.  I think it would be harder for me to find that motivation in the private sector. 

MacGyverIt

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Re: Has anyone left the federal government to go private sector?
« Reply #12 on: January 16, 2016, 08:29:15 AM »
I have several friends in govt or who have left govt to return to the private sector. All the friends who've left to go private sector basically say the same thing: they have more freedom, more flexibility, option to work from home, the decision making process is faster and low performers can be fired rather than sit around like so much dead weight. In general, they all seem much happier after leaving Uncle Sam.

DebtFreeBy25

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Re: Has anyone left the federal government to go private sector?
« Reply #13 on: January 16, 2016, 09:09:05 AM »
I am also concerned about being in a position where I am expected to be motivated by the company's bottom line, because I don't really care about that at all.  I also am not motivated by prestige or feeling important.  I am motivated by the greater good, which is something that my current job contributes to at least somewhat.  I think it would be harder for me to find that motivation in the private sector.

This paragraph succinctly summarizes why the private sector is not for you. Corporate greed is more real than you could ever imagine if you've never worked for a multinational corporation. As someone who shares your interest in the greater good, I've found corporate environments to be not just uninspiring but actively demotivating and demoralizing. Unless you're someone who can drink the koolaid and convert to the belief that profit for profit's sake is good for society, you'll continually find yourself at odds with the driving forces of the private sector. A job that is nothing more than a source of income becomes drudgery very quickly. If you do decide to leave the federal government, I would definitely recommend state government, non-profits, non-profit higher education or small business/self-employment as more livable alternatives to the corporate life.

fallstoclimb

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Re: Has anyone left the federal government to go private sector?
« Reply #14 on: January 16, 2016, 12:14:13 PM »
I am also concerned about being in a position where I am expected to be motivated by the company's bottom line, because I don't really care about that at all.  I also am not motivated by prestige or feeling important.  I am motivated by the greater good, which is something that my current job contributes to at least somewhat.  I think it would be harder for me to find that motivation in the private sector.

This paragraph succinctly summarizes why the private sector is not for you. Corporate greed is more real than you could ever imagine if you've never worked for a multinational corporation. As someone who shares your interest in the greater good, I've found corporate environments to be not just uninspiring but actively demotivating and demoralizing. Unless you're someone who can drink the koolaid and convert to the belief that profit for profit's sake is good for society, you'll continually find yourself at odds with the driving forces of the private sector. A job that is nothing more than a source of income becomes drudgery very quickly. If you do decide to leave the federal government, I would definitely recommend state government, non-profits, non-profit higher education or small business/self-employment as more livable alternatives to the corporate life.

Yeah this is something I worry about.  I have a really hard time doing work just for work's sake, and I've noticed that my successful private sector friends / ex feds seem to be motivated largely by the feeling of prestige/importance.  Which does next to nothing for me.  Worse than that would be an expectation that I should care about the well being of a company that basically just exists to make money....particularly when the majority of the profits hang around at the top of the line.  That's not for me.  I used to think that the important of research would make research-centric firms more appealing to me, but the more exposure I get the more jaded I get about this. 

What I do now is actually kind of in the sweet spot for me, because I work on creating a resource that researchers can use to flag problems to drive needed policy intervention -- so it's "do gooder" work, to my mind, but in such a removed sense that I also don't have TOO much drive or burnout with it.  Whereas if I were closer down the line (like hands on social work) then it's hard to pull yourself away before burn out. 

I'm actually really interested in what motivates most people in their jobs, although on this site I think most people's answer would just be money ;)

NorCal

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Re: Has anyone left the federal government to go private sector?
« Reply #15 on: January 16, 2016, 12:33:05 PM »
I left the military for the private sector.  While not exactly the same, it's similar enough.

In terms of total pay including benefits and favorable tax treatment, I found the public sector and private sector to be pretty comparable upon leaving.  However, what's different is the rate of pay increases (assuming you manage your career for promotions and pay increases).  I recently made about 300% what I made my last year in the Army.  Had I stayed in, I might be making 50% more at this point.  It's a big gap.

In terms of work-life balance, I personally found the private sector to be better.  However, I think this is more a reflection of my Army job than the private sector.  In the Army, my days started at 6am and went to 7pm (when I wasn't deployed or on a frequent field problem).  My private sector jobs have consistently led to days ranging from 8-5 or 9-6, although after-hours emails and weekend work pop up frequently enough.

I've managed to find some level of pride in every company and government organization I worked for.  Each one has been impressive in their own right, and I've been proud of my contributions to each.  However, none of them had a mission that was particularly noble.  I think you can have pride in your work and pride in what you've accomplished regardless of the overall mission.  Heck, in many ways I'm more proud of my work selling software to help mega-corps sue each other than I am of chasing down real terrorists in the war on terror.

Joggernot

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Re: Has anyone left the federal government to go private sector?
« Reply #16 on: January 16, 2016, 12:40:13 PM »
My first job out of college was with the Feds.  After 5 years I got out into the private sector.  There was a lot of politics, back-stabbing, cliques of senior employees, pettiness, etc. that I didn't appreciate.  Private sector had some of that, too, but the pay was much better.