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I realize this may be a biased forum to ask for this advice, but here goes...

I've been an 1102 for almost 4.5 years and am a GS12. Within the next few months, I plan on applying within my organization for a PCO position with an unlimited warrant. It would be a promotion to GS13-equivalent but would also be supervisory, grueling, and stressful. I fear taking such a position would prevent me from taking part in any career development programs (Education with Industry, leadership programs, etc.) and I would feel bad leaving the other PCOs in the lurch to go on maternity leave (which will hopefully occur in the next year or so). But it is the natural progression and I'd be good at it.

Today, the Chief of the program for which I manage the contracts asked if I'd be interested in a GS13 nonsupervisory program management position. I've always been interested in what PM does and think I could do it pretty well. Compared to the PCO position, I think this one may be less stressful and the management locally is more relaxed about hours and telecommuting. I'd have to learn a new career field though so I'd miss the satisfaction of being an "expert" in something.

Do you think it would be a mistake to change career fields? What are my chances of getting back into contracting as a PCO if I decide to change back after a few years? My ultimate gov't career goal is to become a 14 or 15 management-type without leaving town but I'm not in a huge hurry. I would appreciate any advice!

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Guest Vern Edwards

Hard to say, since a lot depends on the significance of the program, content of the job, exposure to superiors, etc. A nonsupervisory "management" job seems a little strange.

I have a young friend in the Department of Energy who while in her late 20s made a move from a nonsupervisory GS-12 contracting job to a COTR position in an IT organization. She then became a supervisory program manager and is now a GS-15 super program manager at age 31. It was a good move for her, but she is very smart and very tough. Very.

Contracting can be a good field, but it is not what it was. Too much administrative and clerical work these days and very little prestige in many organizations. I had a long conversation today with a good friend who is a young and successful GS-1102-15 in a prestigious contracting organization and is fed up with the environment and wants out. Frankly, I would not pursue a career in contracting if I were starting out today. It's too much like working in a personnel office.

Some things to think about: Is the program you will manage important or at least significant? Will you get exposure to higher ups? It is possible to succeed? Is there an upward path in the organization so you won't get stuck? Does your boss have enough go-power in the organization to mentor you and open doors for you?

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Caveat Emptor,

Reading between the lines, I think you want to take the PM position but you feel you should take the PCO position. If that's the case, go for the PM position. You spend a great deal of your time at work, so you should do something that you think you'll enjoy. "Grueling" and "stressful" does not sound enjoyable.

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Dear Buyer: Love your moniker!!

Here's my two cents on this subject. Why don't you take the Level I certification through DAU for Program Management? It will give you a taste of what may lie ahead. You have been an 1102 for enough time to know that it is "stressful" and "grueling". The question is whether you feel you can maintain your performance standards in the coming years while pursuing your personal goals. I know of several 1102s who either completely quit Government service or applied for and were hired in a less "stressful" and "grueling" career field. Another consideration - is the hiring official permitted to hire a GS-1102-12 into a GS-13 program management position? There may be certain eligibility restrictions - such as educational or time in grade at the next lower level in the program mamagement series.

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Most of the PM's that I interface with actively recruit 1102s, as they have little or no experience embedded within their shop. Generally these 1102's that cross the aisle, assist in the preparation of the documents, making recommendations and interfacing with the contracting shop, etc.

The also tend to get assigned as COR's on contracts, do budgets, and a myriad of other duties.

So depending on what they could have you doing, you would not necesarily be out of "contracting", you will get an exposure to a different side of "contracting".

as far as upward mobility,it depends on the size of the program shop. The PM's have the equivalent of a 14/15 where I am located at. (They are on the Acq Demo pay scale)

Good luck, but I would definitely talk to people that are doing the job.

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