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aint alliant 2 ya

Moving from industry to Gov. Contracting

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This is my first post after some time lurking; I apologize if this is the wrong section, but the only other one that seemed reasonable was the beginner's section, and this one was much more active.

I am 34 and live in the Wash. DC area. I've worked as a proposal writer, business analyst, and contract/bid consultant for the past 4 years for private companies focusing exclusively on Federal contracting across all agencies, and have a degree in English.

I have been considering a career move and was thinking about trying to become a contract specialist. I've only done basic searches on USAjobs, which I know would probably be where to look, but was hoping for some advice from anyone who may have made such a transition from industry to gov. contracting.

I have a pretty decent understanding of the Fed. contracting process I think, as I constantly need to read RFP/RFQ documents, track opportunities, communicate with contracting and program to gain information for bidding purposes (sorry guys), and other than pricing, which admittedly I have very little knowledge of, I think I have a reasonable grasp of the contracting environment for someone with my experience level coming from an outsider's perspective.

Many of the USAjobs I have seen seem to require certifications I do not have, or prior government experience, veteran status, etc. 

Would anyone have any tips on how I might go about looking more deeply into what it would require to make such a transition? Thanks in advance.

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31 minutes ago, aint alliant 2 ya said:

Would anyone have any tips on how I might go about looking more deeply into what it would require to make such a transition?

I don't have any such tips, but I'll make the following points:

  • Agency mission descriptions, job titles and descriptions and job interviews probably will not tell you what it will really be like to work in the office of the hiring
  • agency. Every agency and every contracting office within an agency will have its own workload, "culture", and "atmosphere". You probably won't learn about those things from a job title, description, or interview.
  • Agency mission descriptions, job titles and descriptions and job interviews may not tell you what work you'll really be doing and whether its tedious or interesting
  • If I owed you candor, which I don't, there are some agencies and offices that I would tell to absolutely avoid.

Good luck.

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I came to the government from private industry via an Acquisition and Contracting Intern Program. If you have a Bachelor's degree that has a minimum of 24 business credits you should qualify. My intern program was a 2 year program starting at the GS-7 position and at the end was GS-11 - this may vary among the Departments and Agencies. Here are two web sites for reference:

https://ncweb.ria.army.mil/dainterns/

http://www.acquisitionacademy.va.gov/schools/internship/

You may also consider, if you have not already, joining the National Contract Management Association (NCMA) that provides opportunities for training and networking:

https://www.ncmahq.org/

NCMA has an upcoming Government Contract Management Symposium in December in Arlington, VA, that may also be a helpful source for you to obtain information.

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Some positions, especially higher graded ones may require a FAC-C or DAWIA certification or the ability to obtain one within a certain period of time.  The job notice should state whether or not you need to have it walking in the door.  If so, you probably wouldn't qualify, but I'd still apply.  You might have to look at some of the lower graded jobs that don't require the certification to get in the door.  I've not seen any job notices that require a NCMA or ISM certification, although those are not bad to have, especially those from NCMA. 

As far as experience, I've seen people get hired into contracting at the GS-9 and above level with little or no experience.  I've seen administrative assistants get hired based on having purchase card experience.  I've seen car salesman get hired and someone with no experience and a forestry degree.  I wouldn't let your experience deter you from applying.  However, if hired you'd have to find ways to get up to speed.  I'd start networking with other contracting professionals in your area through NCMA so you can meet people and get advice.  There are a lot of training materials and reference materials on the internet that are available to the public.  There are also resources on this website to help you learn more about contracting.

I wish you well. 

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3 hours ago, aint alliant 2 ya said:

I have a pretty decent understanding of the Fed. contracting process I think, as I constantly need to read RFP/RFQ documents, track opportunities, communicate with contracting and program to gain information for bidding purposes (sorry guys), and other than pricing, which admittedly I have very little knowledge of, I think I have a reasonable grasp of the contracting environment for someone with my experience level coming from an outsider's perspective.

In my personal experience, contractors have little understanding into what is happening behind the scenes at a contracting shop, and vice versa. I recommend setting up informational interviews with at least two contract specialists from two different agencies to begin to grasp what the day-to-day routine is like. Assuming you'd take a sizable pay cut to do this, and since breaking into the Government tends to take prolonged effort, you want to be as informed as possible before taking this leap.

3 hours ago, aint alliant 2 ya said:

I've worked as a proposal writer, business analyst, and contract/bid consultant for the past 4 years for private companies

If you enjoy wheeling, dealing, and wearing multiple hats, Federal contracting may not be for you. The majority of opportunities out there - particularly over your first several years - are not what one would describe as sexy. They are long hours at a desk, staring at a screen, wading through templates and administrative tasks. This is just the reality of what most new (and many experienced) specialists are asked to do. The job can often feel thankless - your "customers" will likely become irritated with you if they perceive you as pushing back too hard or asking too much of them (i.e., more than what the last specialist asked for) - and impossible - so many competing stakeholders to please and so much bad information out there, some of which you will be forced to follow.

Although my feelings toward the job are overwhelmingly negative, I know some happy specialists. I've met more than a few who really enjoy the "customer service" element. Others take great satisfaction from seeing the contract deliverable in action, helping the end-user. Myself, when I was in operations I took comfort in the analytical aspect of the job (although this couldn't outweigh the unpalatable aspects for me). 

In your post, you didn't say why you want to become a specialist. That's a red flag to me. I've been there. I recommend thinking about that before you get to the how.

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