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Career Changes

Career Changes  

51 members have voted

  1. 1. How many distinct organizations have you worked at during your career?

    • One
      6
    • Two
      11
    • Three
      9
    • Four
      11
    • Five or more
      14


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Many wonder how often should one change jobs.  I am asking a very basic Question and I am setting it up so your name will not be shown with your vote.  I want to see how this simple poll will work.

Huh, this has potential.  I may be able to refine the poll in a later post.

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I like polls! But maybe a better metric might be average length of time at an individual organization over one's career. In this poll, the older the responder, the more changes we would expect -- so it's got some built-in age bias.

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H2:

I can refine it and add that.  I just wanted to quickly see how this worked and I'm pleased with the response.  So, I made it a category for polls.

To add a poll, one first has to fill out a post and then add the poll.  One can describe the purpose of the poll in the post and then ask the question.  One can make it one choice only, multiple choice, etc., and keep names from being shown.  

I knew this was skewed but I just wanted to do something with a poll.

Another nice thing is that a poll can be taken and then the members can discuss the results of the poll.  So this has real possibilities.

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I've always heard to stay in your initial position until you reach your full promotion potential, then after establishing a solid foundation, move every 2-3 years.  Contracting (unfortunately) is different enough from contracting officer to contracting officer... so from agency to agency, and Department to Department, I can only imagine.  Different aspects, good or bad, have to help long-term for career development.

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Most of my mentors have provided the following timelines for change:

  • 2-3 years for individual contributors, first-line supervisors, and low-level managers
  • 2-5 years for mid-level managers
  • No time line for executives

Specifically, I've been told to start with a "big name company" and move to a smaller company for a better title (position). Move back to a large company for a similar, higher paying, or next-level title to the one held at the small company (wash, rinse, repeat until you get where you want to be)...not sure how this would work in government, but I see that the Air Force generally has lower grades for similar titles than --oh say-- the Army or GSA. I don't know what is takes to become a GS-15 or higher in the Air Force, but it may likely require leaving the agency.

 

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I probably stick with my employers for too long.  I'm countercultural, I suppose.

BTW, should we ask how long on average have you stayed with a job?  The question is silent on the respondent's age.  Age may partially explain the higher number of jobs.

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I think what matters is changing jobs, not necessarily organizations. Personal situations aside, the reason to change jobs is to gain new knowledge and experience, and by gaining them to broaden your career opportunities. The more things you have done, the more things you can do.

Having said that, I have friends who stayed in the same job for long stretches and went from GS-5 to GS-15 or SES as fast as the law allowed. I changed jobs every two years on average. It worked for me. But it's not just a matter of frequency of change, its also (mainly) a matter of making wise job choices.

Good people are hard to find. If you're good, really good, you will be in demand, will have a lot of opportunities, and can call many if not most of the shots.

A relatively young SES friend of mine who is a career-long contracting pro was just chosen to be the Executive Director of an important high-technology department of defense organization. Not executive director of contracting--executive director of everything. She's worked in several places. She's good. Really good.

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My 2 cents is if you are with a company that is giving you opportunities to grow and gain higher level experiences, max it out as much as possible (if the experiences align with your end goal/career). Even if you are jumping every 2-3 years for title and monetary growth at some point you may plateau and need the time for the additional experiences to catch up with you prior to reaching your goal.

Not every place will let you be as involved as you may want to be so passing up a company that is giving you the experiences for the title could slow you down some in the long term.

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If you move every two to three years, whose going to get the work done? A typical midsize to large construction contract can take 2-4 years - after the acquisition planning, design or design criteria development, solicitation, evaluation and award period - to turn over to a customer, often with open changes and sometimes with claims to settle.  

Fortunately, there are many highly qualified people in some organizations with in-depth construction contract admin experience and institutional knowledge to carry on and to clean up at the end.  

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I spent six years in my first 1102 position, the first three working up from GS 07/09/11 (11 was the top for a Contract Specialist in our small office).  After three years as an 11 I picked up a 12 with another organization.  I didn't move just for the 12, but instead because I wanted to gain more knowledge and experience working with different types of contracts than I had previously.

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My story:  eight years in first location -- GS-5/7/9 and then GS-9/11 -- a cross-country move within the same agency for GS-12 and there for three years -- another cross-country move for GS-13 and there for six years; promoted to GS-14 there for accrection of duties -- voluntary downgrade to GS-13 and move to a new agency for a job in remote Alaska and there for eight years (almost half of that time on three different temporary re-promotions to GS-14) -- then promotion to GS-15 and move back to the lower forty-eight for a new agency, been here 3 years.  So 27 years total, three different agencies, five different locations.  I'm satisfied -- I've done almost everything at every different level.

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Having only been an 1102 for a year (with no other federal experience), I can say that I enjoy my organization (and agency) but would like to gain experience on contract vehicle types other than FFP. Unfortunately, that is about all we touch here (other than the occasional travel CLIN that is Cost). While FFP contracts are nice to learn the functions of contracting on, limiting the exposure to just FFP will also exponentially limit growth potential. At some point I would like to touch different types of contracts. So I will be a GS-12 in competition with other GS-12's or even 11's, for a position and have the potential to be on the outside looking in due to a lack of experience with those contract vehicle types. Because of that, I can see why some organizations have a higher turnover rate, especially for younger people such as myself.

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On 8 April 2016 at 4:27 PM, Vern Edwards said:

I think what matters is changing jobs, not necessarily organizations. Personal situations aside, the reason to change jobs is to gain new knowledge and experience, and by gaining them to broaden your career opportunities. The more things you have done, the more things you can do.

Having said that, I have friends who stayed in the same job for long stretches and went from GS-5 to GS-15 or SES as fast as the law allowed. I changed jobs every two years on average. It worked for me. But it's not just a matter of frequency of change, its also (mainly) a matter of making wise job choices.

Good people are hard to find. If you're good, really good, you will be in demand, will have a lot of opportunities, and can call many if not most of the shots.

A relatively young SES friend of mine who is a career-long contracting pro was just chosen to be the Executive Director of an important high-technology department of defense organization. Not executive director of contracting--executive director of everything. She's worked in several places. She's good. Really good.

Vern,

I'd like to work with your friend. If you say good, Really good, then it is someone I want to know.  I have met few Federal servants who are "relatively young SES" and chosen to be executive director of anything...let alone everything.

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Twenty years enlisted in Air Force Supply.  Retired E-8 in Washington DC.  Got hired by some miracle in Contracting as a GS-7.  Promoted up ladder to GS-13 starting on simplified acquisitions and quickly moving into larger contracts.   Cradle to Grave.  With all my previous supervisory experience in the Air Force, got my GS14 Branch Chief position quickly.  Put promotions on hold for 4 years to do a tour at our regional office in Frankfurt where we did lots of construction contracts in Europe, Asia and Africa.  Lots of travel and a dedicated local staff - best job ever!.  Got my GS15 taking over a challenging branch upon return to Washington.  Then moved up to Division Director after a couple of years.  18 years in one office but doing a wide variety of contracts for a wide variety of clients. 

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Started as an 1102 in October 2003 - GS-07/09.  Army Installation Level Contracting.  Supplies and Services.  Cradle to Grave.  SAT, SAP and Larger.  Commercial.  FFP, CPAF.  Competed/Selected for GS-11 in same office (2007).  Relocated to another Army Installation Level Contracting office for promotion to GS-12 (2008).  Large service contracts.  Commercial.  FFP, CPAF, CPFF.  Direct Select to CofE lateral GS-12 (2009).  Construction, A&E, Supplies and Services.  FFP, CPAF, CPFF.  Commercial and Non-Commercial.  Competed/Selected for GS-13 Supervisor - US Navy (2012) - Supplies and Services.  Cradle to Grave.  SAT, SAP and Larger.  Commercial and Non-Commercial. Services.  Competed/Selected for Non-Supervisory GS-14 (2015) - IT and Engineering Services - SAP and Larger - Commercial - Cradle to Grave.  I have relocated a total of 4 times - all within DoD. 

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After 14 years working for the Army in various (mostly logistic) positions, I accepted a GS-7 position with the Army as an 1102 doing many types of contracts in a cradle-to-grave environment. I worked my way up to a GS-11 position there, but in order to move up to a GS-12 I had to move to another city and accept a position with the VA. After almost 2 years there, I accepted a promotion to GS-13 supervisory position to work at GSA in the MAS program. A year in that position, and I was fortunate to be promoted to a Director of Contracting position at GSA (GS-14).  However, after 3 years in that position, I realized that GSA was going in a direction that I wasn't interested in going so I went back to the VA in a similar director's position. I spent a year there and then was offered a great position (with promotion to GS-15) at the EPA, and the office was only 3.5 miles from my house.  That was a deal I couldn't pass up!  I think working for different agencies doing a variety of different types of contracting is excellent for overall development.  Plus, then you discover what you find challenging and what you enjoy doing. So that's 4 agencies in two cities for me over a 13yr 1102 career (27 total civil service).  At 50 years old, I still have somewhere between 6-12 years to go, and I look forward to seeing what opportunities come up next.  

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