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Hey, everyone.

I am a long-time peruser, first time poster. I am interested in joining the contracting industry and I cannot find a way to get in. I would love some tips from those in the industry, either on the government or the contractor side. While I would prefer to be a contract specialist on the government side, I am also open to proposal writing for the other side of the table too (not preferred).

My story:

My name is Marty Nemec and I am a 26-year-old journalism graduate. While in school, I also took 30 credit hours of business/finance/accounting classes (which fits the govt. requirement). I knew I didn't want to actually be a journalist, but felt a core in writing would help me in many industries, allowing me to find a fit for myself in the world. In addition to graduating, I also took an unpaid internship at a local newspaper and a Jacksonville arts and entertainment magazine as a writer/reporter. After that, I took another unpaid internship as a public relations practitioner at a Jacksonville-based PR firm. After I was done with that, I took a paid internship at a large Jacksonville-based maritime logistics company, where I still am employed. This is where I first encountered contracting.

While I am kind of in a hybrid business development/marketing role, I have a large part in editing and writing proposals for government contracts. I knew nothing about contracting or maritime going into this, so it has been a trial by fire, but I have enjoyed it. Immediately, I felt a strong pull towards the proposal writing. This is what I have been looking for: something that would use my writing, but also is challenging and would provide me job security. It also helped that my boss is the President of the Jacksonville Chapter of the NCMA. Because of her involvement, it allowed me to go to every training event hosted by our chapter and I am now not only a member of the NCMA, but I volunteered to be the Jacksonville Chapter's Media Manager as well. I attend all of the board meetings and have already made good connections.. I hope this will allow me to learn and network faster, leading to a job sooner while making me better prepared for it.

My general plan and hope is to become part of a three-year contract specialist development program such as the Naval Acquisition Development Program (NADP) or a similar program for a different agency or department. I search USAJobs every day and I apply to every single position in Texas or east. I have a girlfriend of 4 years and we both have agreed that one of these programs would be so big for our lives that we would put our life on a three-year hold so I could go do it. I really am committed to this. However, talking to people in my network through the NCMA has shown me that it is much harder to get into one of these programs if I'm not a veteran. That is completely understandable and I'm fine with that. My dad was in the Navy for 15 years and I think that is where my drive comes from to be on the government side rather than the contractor side. However, what can I do to get in? Is this dream feasible for me? I like to tell myself that I'm special because I am willing to move in a heartbeat for this and I am spending my own time volunteering for a contracting-based organization, but is everyone else who is beating me for these development programs as committed as me? Do I need a good old shot of reality so I can go to an industry that wants me and stop living a pipe dream?

I would like some guidance as to how to give myself the best chance at getting in this industry. I feel like the guy in the movies that sees the "love of his life" at the bar and she just walks out of the door (and his life) without ever even acknowledging him! Just kidding. Seriously, though, I would appreciate any tips, reading material, job boards to follow, etc.

Perhaps this is the wrong place for this and I apologize if so. Also, I am not looking for pity, I'm a big boy and none of you want your time wasted, I'm sure. I just want to give this industry a real legitimate chance before life finally makes me move on and settle for something I don't want to do. If that happens, I just want to know I tried my hardest. Thanks!

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I work for a civilian agency and the only way to get hired (that I know of) is through an internship program. To be eligible for the program, you have to be in school working on a degree (preferrably business for contracting). Once you are succesfully enrolled, you can submit your application to the HR person that runs the internship program and then go through a selection process. I think they do this selection once, maybe twice each year. You would be required to do a number of "tours" as an intern and then, once you've graduated or are in your final semester, hope that you get an offer. That's how it has been for the last 4 years. The only other way we get new people is by sniping experienced people (GS-12s) from other agencies.

Edit: By the way, you can be in a post-graduate program (like an MBA) and be eligible. This is probably preferred since you would start at a higher pay grade. I think it can even be an online university.

Edit 2: To be clear, that 1st sentence may be specific to the agency I work for.

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Marty -

I have worked in the Government Contracting arena for 30 years, always on the Contractor's side.

As to entering into contracting in the in the contractor's side, there are always companies looking for entry level contracts people. From my point of view, this would be a person with a degree, some knowledge of business law (but not a lawyer) and an analytical head on his shoulders. That person wold be trained to advance.

As to qualifications, I do not know your financial situation, but it may help to take a few contracts courses from some of the commercial training outfits. You could take in into to FAR course or a contracting basics course. All this may help.

I can only give you advice at this point as my company is not hiring contracts professionals at this time.

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BorderC, thank you. While this helps confirms my fears a bit, I'd rather taste the cake than the frosting, so the truth is welcome. That is a very good point in regards to going for a Master's degree and being eligible again for the student internship opportunities I missed.

Loul, I thank you for responding. I have considered self-training to help get myself in a better position. I just fear that if I am not able to get into the industry, that money will be in vain (I'm from a poor family and went to school on loans). However, if I'm serious, I know that I should be considering options like this. This is a very good idea and I will certainly research it, especially if nothing comes by the end of the year.

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Marty -

I see you are a proposal writing intern. Perhaps you can leverage that knowledge. Look for a company you want to work for and try to get a job as a proposal writer. This gets your foot in the door. Many companies offer training for their employees, so maybe you can use this to get the contracts training. AND, as a proposal writer you will most likely come into close contact with the contract folks of the company. Make friends, learn what you can from them and mention that you would like to get into contracts. You may be surprised by the results.

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I see many, many contractor people hired by the government. These are usually contractor staff working for the government and make favorable impressions. The government has a real need for mid-grade people with enough experience they can immediately help with workload. So one approach is get started as a contractor and then migrate over.

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I see many, many contractor people hired by the government. These are usually contractor staff working for the government and make favorable impressions. The government has a real need for mid-grade people with enough experience they can immediately help with workload. So one approach is get started as a contractor and then migrate over.

That's how I did it.

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A contracting officer friend/mentor tipped me on USAJobs around a month ago. I have been applying for every contract specialist development position in the eastern U.S. I believe anything (well, within reason) is possible if you work hard enough, so I'll be fine. I just want to make sure I'm doing everything I can to put myself in a position to succeed. Thanks for all of your responses. The first big thing I need to do is comb these threads for good publications to read (The good stuff that a simple Google search won't find!).

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Don't lose hope on USAJobs. I applied in June, got called in September, and interviewed in October. It was so long that I had look in my pile of applications to see what I even applied for. But it paid off in a GS 7 to 13 ladder. I couldn't believe my good luck. Then it took from October to March for security to do my background check. Slow but definitely worth it. That was back in 1998 and I am a GS15 now. .

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Don't lose hope on USAJobs. I applied in June, got called in September, and interviewed in October. It was so long that I had look in my pile of applications to see what I even applied for. But it paid off in a GS 7 to 13 ladder. I couldn't believe my good luck. Then it took from October to March for security to do my background check. Slow but definitely worth it. That was back in 1998 and I am a GS15 now. .

Good info. Thanks. I really hope the turnaround is a smidgen faster for me, but you definitely got the opportunity you needed and took full advantage of it. Congratulations on your rise through the ranks. I am hoping for a similar opportunity for myself and now I know (I assumed it, though) that the hiring process would not be prompt.

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Good morning.

Jacksonville, FL is full of 1102 positions - some entry, some not. The organization I work for has NACC (Naval Intern) positions open every year - sometimes more than once a year. These intern positions are advertised on USAJobs and are usually open for only one day - they receive hundreds of applications. Your best bet is to check USAJobs on a daily basis and look for GS-7,9,11,12 ladder or intern positions. Check out American Graduate University for your Master's Degree.

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Good morning.

Jacksonville, FL is full of 1102 positions - some entry, some not. The organization I work for has NACC (Naval Intern) positions open every year - sometimes more than once a year. These intern positions are advertised on USAJobs and are usually open for only one day - they receive hundreds of applications. Your best bet is to check USAJobs on a daily basis and look for GS-7,9,11,12 ladder or intern positions. Check out American Graduate University for your Master's Degree.

The fact that Jacksonville is a military town is why I even came across this field. My family and friends live here, so I would like to eventually be here (unless I really fall in love with somewhere else). My goal is to take any job I can get, no matter where it is located, and get the experience I need to have a successful career. After I have done that, I'd like to move back down to Jacksonville and take a job here at one of the numerous Navy bases. However, if my plans go awry and I end up living happily in Iowa or Maryland, it wouldn't be the first time that's happened.

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  • 2 weeks later...

UPDATE: I have accepted an unofficial job offer from the FDA and will be working in Rockville, MD, assuming I pass all of the checks HR has in place. I look very forward to utilizing all of your advice and I will be reading these forums regularly for insight and information. I love the back and forth debates on different issues. Of course, no one's word should be taken as Gospel, but the high-level insight here could help anyone's education on this matter... so thanks to everyone who posts on here. You're making me much more smarterer! (Joking right there aside, thanks! Really!)

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