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MV2009

Advice for New Professionals

18 posts in this topic

What piece of advice would you give to a new contract specialist entering the workforce based on your career?  Also, what piece of advice, if different, would you give to a recently warranted Contracting Officer?

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In searching the archive, I found this thread concerning advice for new contracting officers.

http://www.wifcon.com/discussion/index.php?/topic/970-newly-appointed-contracting-officer-tips-of-the-trade

In addition, make WIFCON.com your home page.  Keep up with the daily updates and try to set aside some daily time for study - at work or at home if necessary. 

Scour the site contents page and dedicate time to study. There is an amazing wealth of information in this site. 

There are numerous threads throughout the WIFCON Forum that cover career advice in this field. I didn't have time to make a deep search tonight. 

I'm sure that the 1102's here can provide further career advice.  

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Read good books that pertain to your work and think about what you've read. Start with this: Contracts,7th ed., by Joseph Calamari. Remember: the first word in the term "contract specialist" is contract.

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Keep an open mind about the issues you face.  Remember, not all contractors are crooks and not all government personnel are saints or always correct.

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A general piece of advice for all professions: curiosity almost always pays off in the long run

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Never try to get something that you aren't willing to pay for, and don't pay for something you did not receive.

never waive government's rights, which I see many CO's so willing to do. 

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What do you mean by don't pay for something you did not receive?  Would you apply that advice to cost reimbursement or T&M contracts?

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12 hours ago, Retreadfed said:

What do you mean by don't pay for something you did not receive?  Would you apply that advice to cost reimbursement or T&M contracts?

Although the question wasn't addressed to me, I would apply that advice to cost reimbursement or T&M contracts. Don't pay for a product or service if the contractor didn't expend the cost or labor hours billed for, as applicable to the situation. 

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Joel, I don't quite understand what you are saying, so I will answer my own question.  Under a cost reimbursement or T&M contract, the contractor does not have to provide a completed product or service in order for the contractor to be paid.  Under a cost reimbursement contract, the contractor is entitled to be paid its allowable cost incurred in performing the contract whether it completes the contract or not.  Thus, if the contract calls for a product or a completed task, the contractor does not have to deliver the product or complete the task in order to be paid its allowable costs subject to the Limitation of Cost or Limitation of Funds clause.

Similarly, under a T&M contract, the contractor is paid for the hours expended and cost of material regardless of whether it completes the contract.  Thus, the government may pay the contract price and not receive what it bargained for.

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I meant  -  for cost reimbursement - don't pay for billed costs that were not incurred. 

For T&M, If billed for an hours or materials on the basis that they were provided and they weren't provided, don't pay for it. 

Yes, that is to distinguish from actually receiving an end product or completing the service under T&M or cost reimbursement.  

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21 hours ago, baierle said:

Never try to get something that you aren't willing to pay for, and don't pay for something you did not receive.

never waive government's rights, which I see many CO's so willing to do. 

baierle, well said! Thank you for your advice to a new professional! 

It just occurred to me that this is essentially what my GS-15 Area Engineer told me on the very first morning of my employment as an Army Corps of Engineers civil servant, to perform construction contract administration and quality assurance duties on a $2 billion, major civil works program.  That was in April or May of 1980. I can still remember that one-on-one introduction, welcome and communication of expectations meeting in his office. I have always admired him greatly as a leader, supervisor, and a man who displayed the highest character and integrity.  He established ethical and professional standards that I have always aspired to follow.

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Be willing to switch offices to get promoted.

Do not take any career advice from federal employees, other than from the most impressive one percent who did something very similar to what you want to do.

When applying for a position on USA Jobs, consider that everyone else will be rating themselves to get a perfect score to "make the cert." 

Totally ignore anyone who tells you war stories about remaining in the same grade for many, many years. 

Have a backbone and learn how to be assertive, but not rude or confrontational.

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Embrace the fact that you, and you alone, must provide yourself with education and training. Do not rely on anyone other than yourself to increase your knowledge and abilities. Try to read and study more than anyone else in the office.

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How about - Learn first how to excel at what you do and promotion opportunities will follow.

Always remember who is paying your salary - the American Taxpayer. 

Learn to negotiate terms of agreements, cost or price, bargaining for better performance, find win-win solutions, be firm but fair, seek mutually satisfactory solutions...

A Korean co-worker once told me "You Americans are so naive. You simply accept the price as offered. We Koreans bargain for everything. Everything is negotiable. Even the price of a loaf of bread."😃

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Read, read, and read some more (books, regulations, policy, GAO decisions, board decisions, court opinions, Wifcon, etc.).  Too many folks don't read or read completely.  When reading, read what the policy/regulation says and not what you or a customer want it to say.  Don't believe everything your told.  Ask lots of questions and for supporting rationale and references to policy and regulation with the answers you receive.  Ask different individuals the same question when appropriate to benefit from different views.  Take advantage of opportunities to gain diverse hands on experience.  Be able to admit it when wrong and learn from it.  Improve your clear and critical thinking skills.  Don't try to get promoted too quickly.  I've seen folks jump from lower graded positions to GS-13, 14+ with relatively limited experience.  As a result, they are not able to adequately support the organization they work for and folks that rely on them for guidance and the organization suffers for it. 

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Recognize that "this is the way that we've always done it", may not be the right way.

Recognize that statutes, regulations, policies and procedures will change.  Do not let the train leave you at the station.

Recognize that mistakes will be made, but own your behavior.

Take pride in your work product.

Be willing to share what you learn.

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For the newly appointed Contracting Officers, please recognize that your signature bears responsibility on behalf of these United States of America.

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