Career Decision [Federal employee]

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Trudy20
Posts: 2
Joined: Mon Nov 25, 2019 7:35 pm

Career Decision [Federal employee]

Post by Trudy20 » Mon Nov 25, 2019 8:03 pm

I've lurked in this forum for over 10 years and have found so many excellent conversations, not just about smart ways to invest, but pretty much on any topic. I've run into a situation and I'm curious if anyone here has any thoughts.

I'm currently 40, single, rent a modest apartment in the MD suburbs. I have a STEM degree and have been a Federal employee for 16 years. Over the last 18 months the culture in our office has become unbearably stressful. The majority of our staff are contractors and there was a difficult contract transition a year ago, resulting in quite a bit of talent loss that hasn't been replaced. I work in a division managing thousands of operational IT systems which require 24x7 support. I've been with this current organization for about 14 years and really find the work fulfilling, but the stress of the combined changes due to less staff and additional systems has made my life miserable. It's beyond what the day to day work experience is, the phone rings quite a bit off hours and it's frankly causing me a lot of stress, sleep is significantly disrupted and my life outside of work is almost non-existent. I've talked with management about my concerns over the last 10 months, but there really aren't any options currently available. I'm currently away from the office burning through some leave and the change in my mood and just overall well being is shocking, I didn't realize how much the last 18 months have affected me.

I'm applying to other federal positions, but we all know how long that can take. I've also asked about a lateral transfer but there don't seem to be a lot of options there at the moment.

Since I'm single with no dependents this has been mainly a situation I've been tackling on my own. I've discussed the situation with family/friends, but everyone's opinion seems to be ambivalence or "just stick with it". I have enough liquid assets for about 6 months of living expenses before I'd have to look at tapping Roth contributions.

Has anyone left federal service and found it easy to return? I've considered applying to private sector positions and I believe I'd be able to find a position, but without the pension and now 8hrs of AL per pay period I'd prefer to stay a Fed.

I'm having big reservations/doubts about returning to my position after this period of leave is over, I need a significant change.

trueblueky
Posts: 1655
Joined: Tue May 27, 2014 3:50 pm

Re: Career Decision [Federal employee]

Post by trueblueky » Mon Nov 25, 2019 8:48 pm

Does your agency have a job swap program?
You might need to pay for the move yourself.

delamer
Posts: 9492
Joined: Tue Feb 08, 2011 6:13 pm

Re: Career Decision [Federal employee]

Post by delamer » Mon Nov 25, 2019 8:54 pm

I was able to leave federal service for another job, and then returned about 7 years later.

But I went back to my old office, with the same SES level personnel who thought highly of me.

I don’t know how difficult it would have been to return without that connection.

What GS level are you?

Sam1
Posts: 474
Joined: Mon Apr 09, 2018 7:24 am

Re: Career Decision [Federal employee]

Post by Sam1 » Mon Nov 25, 2019 8:57 pm

Here is another way of thinking about this - worry about it when you have a job offer for a job you want. It’s easy to spend so much time weighing one job versus another. Whether to leave public service or to stay.

But until you actually have an offer in hand, this is all hypothetical. Ideally you’ll be very excited about a new opportunity, it will be a decent bump in pay and you’ll have a gut reaction that this is the right move for you.

There is no guarantee you can return to the feds but of course it’s possible. You can try to keep your contacts and stay in touch. You’re single and don’t have any dependents. Seems to me like you can take a risk!

grettman
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Joined: Mon Sep 29, 2014 1:47 pm

Re: Career Decision [Federal employee]

Post by grettman » Mon Nov 25, 2019 9:05 pm

I am a career fed w 30 years.

Getting back in, IMHO will be HARD. Very hard.

Both dems and Republicans have put pressure on reducing the size of the federal workforce and I don’t see that trend changing.

So leave but do that knowing how hard it will be to get back in.

I say be patient and make searching USAJOBS your part time job.

You have the flex to move..... stay put ... be patient...

Oh and I have 4 letters for you: FEHB. It is sooooo valuable when you retire!

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Bruce
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Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2007 8:02 am
Location: Alaska

Re: Career Decision [Federal employee]

Post by Bruce » Tue Nov 26, 2019 12:00 am

First and foremost, Turn the phone off when you want to sleep!!!

One advantage of fed employment is the ability to take a “detail” assignment to another part of an agency or department. Are there any out there you can apply for?

Are there any extended training assignments you can take advantage of?

IT skills are in high demand across agencies, apply for any opening that interests you in other job postings. Fed or non-fed, get that interview experience, even if the opening does not sound like it is optimal. It will make you a much stronger candidate to do well in an interview for the opportunity you really want to pursue,
when that one comes.

In the beltway area there are many contract support positions you could interview for as well, you should have another offer in hand first before you need to make a decision on leaving where you are.

Good luck!
Bruce | | Winner of the 2017 Bogleheads Contest | | "Simplicity is the master key to financial success."

Trapper
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Joined: Sat Oct 04, 2014 8:38 am

Re: Career Decision [Federal employee]

Post by Trapper » Tue Nov 26, 2019 7:41 am

I retired from a lightening rod agency after a tough career.
My recommendation is hang tough and be a willow (bend, don’t break).

My other recommendation is somewhat unconventional, but I’ve seen it work.
Peddle your IT skills to an agency you want to work for, or have a passion about.
Law ? - Justice Dept
Environment? - EPA
Personal contact and tell them your expertise, but would love to work for them in any capacity.

The “IT guy” I worked with held a non Computer Specialist position (at much lower pay) initially, while doing all IT work until years later the agency garnered a FTE Computer Specialist that the agency moved him into.

As the “IT guy” he was highly valued by management, but it took years to move into an equivalent position grade & money wise.

Findourway1
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Joined: Tue Apr 02, 2019 8:18 am

Re: Career Decision [Federal employee]

Post by Findourway1 » Tue Nov 26, 2019 8:17 am

Current Fed here and I echo the other posters. Your best option is to somehow get another fed job if you would like to keep the benefits. Took me 1+ years to leave my old agency. My resume had to jump through the system and HR readers before it hits the hiring manager. Any of the steps can have you labeled as ineligible or unqualified, just too many variables.

Good luck!

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djpeteski
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Re: Career Decision [Federal employee]

Post by djpeteski » Tue Nov 26, 2019 8:30 am

grettman wrote:
Mon Nov 25, 2019 9:05 pm
Both dems and Republicans have put pressure on reducing the size of the federal workforce and I don’t see that trend changing.
I agree, but in reality it is all lip service. They are expanding the number of contractors that work for the fed, but are actually employed by a private company. So you would be able to back into "federal service" via the transitive property, but working directly for the fed unlikely.

The wife and I came somewhat close to owning a company that provided workers for the fed, it would have been life changing. Similar to hitting the lotto or being a part of the next Amazon (without the work hours).

Swansea
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Re: Career Decision [Federal employee]

Post by Swansea » Tue Nov 26, 2019 8:46 am

While you are sorting this out, a visit to your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) may be helpful in dealing with the stress level.
Should you chose to leave Federal service, be sure to have your personnel records (SF50s) showing your career conditional appointment, conversion to career, and separation 50 (I am assuming that your appointment is in the competitive service.)

bernoulli
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Re: Career Decision [Federal employee]

Post by bernoulli » Tue Nov 26, 2019 8:57 am

Of course it is easy for us to say "stay the course" and stick it out, but I am sure it is very difficult in your shoes. Fed jobs are hard to come by, especially with your vacation accrual and all that. You are in the DC area? There should be plenty of jobs for your background. I will send you a few in PM.

mathwhiz
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Joined: Tue Jul 01, 2008 7:58 pm

Re: Career Decision [Federal employee]

Post by mathwhiz » Tue Nov 26, 2019 9:28 am

If you are single with no dependents, maybe it's time to go on an adventure. There are federal positions open on USA Jobs in all 50 states and internationally, many of which will pay your full relocation costs. If you've always wanted to move to someplace new and turn the page, now might be the best time.

Federal jobs are kind of a crap shoot. They can range from very stressed to incredibly cushy with 40 hour weeks, telework, compressed schedule and generous vacation and sick leave policies. It's all about finding that niche in that particular agency. Maybe it's DC. It's a toxic place at the moment.

GmanJeff
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Re: Career Decision [Federal employee]

Post by GmanJeff » Tue Nov 26, 2019 10:26 am

Might it be possible to re-calibrate your approach to your job, to be somewhat less "on call" when technically off-duty, and thereby make the job more palatable? For someone who is conscientious, it's easy to feel so responsible that appropriate boundaries between your personal time and your job obligations can become blurred, to your detriment. If you did not answer the phone after hours, would it really matter? Would there actually be any material adverse impact on the mission, or on your career? If so, can you attempt to influence your organization's staffing levels or model to more sensibly accommodate mission needs, possibly through adding/moving positions to shift work to address needs which arise after normal business hours?

Another possible approach might be to try to move into management, where you can influence the work environment rather than being simply subject to working conditions you cannot control. Administrative advancement offers not only a bit more money, but also potentially the opportunity to make changes you believe would benefit employees, the agency, and those you serve. You will have different responsibilities, some of which may be onerous, but you may also have the ability to make changes your current managers will not.

Leaving federal service after so many years towards a pension and lifetime FEHB benefits is a big step. You'll likely not find any comparable perks in the private sector, where jobs may pay more but can be equally demanding of your time and which can also present challenging workplace cultures and environments.

One thing about federal jobs, all jobs really, is that they rarely remain static. Bosses and co-workers come and go, promotional opportunities arise or disappear, budgets rise and fall, mission focus changes, etc. Your job may fall short now, but equally may change character in the future. You can't count on that, or predict when things may change, but it's a fairly safe bet things will in fact change in some way, at some time, in the future. That's often hard to discern when you're living day-to-day in an unpleasant situation, but may be helpful to consider.

Topic Author
Trudy20
Posts: 2
Joined: Mon Nov 25, 2019 7:35 pm

Re: Career Decision [Federal employee]

Post by Trudy20 » Wed Nov 27, 2019 8:44 pm

Thanks everyone for the thoughtful comments, I really appreciate it. It's given me a lot to consider.

The good news is I've spoken with management and they are willing to work with me. There are a few positions opening at the end of the year due to retirements that are technical in nature, but don't have the 'on-call' component which seems to be my main stressor. We're discussing a lateral move for me.

Thanks all for reminding me of the value of the amount of time I've spent in federal service, I need to remember to put a price on that in addition to my current salary.

Here's to hoping 2020 is a bit more manageable :beer

Gray
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Re: Career Decision [Federal employee]

Post by Gray » Wed Nov 27, 2019 9:42 pm

Continue looking at other Federal 2210 jobs. Consider those involving Cybersecurity. You may get a 25% salary bump from incentive pay. DHS has this. State is adding it.

BTW, if you leave the govt, you have 3 years (I believe) to return with reinstatement rights, which let you apply to Merit Promotion positions vs those open to the public. Someone correct me if I’m wrong.

(I’m a 25 year Fed)

rich126
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Re: Career Decision [Federal employee]

Post by rich126 » Wed Nov 27, 2019 10:38 pm

Been there, done it.

I left after exactly 15 years in my late 30s. Didn’t want to be a government lifer, wanted to see if I could succeed outside of it, and the bureaucracy drove me crazy. I had a mostly wonderful time away for 12+ years. Then moved back in the area, got a contractor job, and then the government job back. And then left after another 6 years.

Getting back varies, less based on what others have said here, and more based on your skills and what agencies you are targeting. Ones that require high level clearances are always hiring because so many, especially young folks, are flying out the door to higher paying jobs. I’m not kidding that many were getting 50-80% raises when they left and others higher.

The key factors are:
1. Clearance level
2. Job skills which involves your degree and certifications. Sadly a cert means more than if you have any hands on skills.
3. Any inside contacts. I didn’t do this but many do so and it is a huge advantage. And sadly, nepotism is big in the agency I was at.

Whether you should leave is something you need to figure out.

Mr. Rumples
Posts: 426
Joined: Sun Aug 25, 2019 7:16 am

Re: Career Decision [Federal employee]

Post by Mr. Rumples » Thu Nov 28, 2019 7:07 am

deleted
Last edited by Mr. Rumples on Thu Nov 28, 2019 8:13 am, edited 1 time in total.

Swansea
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Joined: Sat Feb 13, 2016 5:16 am

Re: Career Decision [Federal employee]

Post by Swansea » Thu Nov 28, 2019 7:41 am

Gray wrote:
Wed Nov 27, 2019 9:42 pm
Continue looking at other Federal 2210 jobs. Consider those involving Cybersecurity. You may get a 25% salary bump from incentive pay. DHS has this. State is adding it.

BTW, if you leave the govt, you have 3 years (I believe) to return with reinstatement rights, which let you apply to Merit Promotion positions vs those open to the public. Someone correct me if I’m wrong.

(I’m a 25 year Fed)
If you attain career status, there is no limit upon how long ago you left the government so far as reinstatement rights go.

https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversig ... statement/

Gray
Posts: 695
Joined: Sat Apr 16, 2011 5:33 am

Re: Career Decision [Federal employee]

Post by Gray » Thu Nov 28, 2019 10:26 am

Swansea wrote:
Thu Nov 28, 2019 7:41 am
Gray wrote:
Wed Nov 27, 2019 9:42 pm
Continue looking at other Federal 2210 jobs. Consider those involving Cybersecurity. You may get a 25% salary bump from incentive pay. DHS has this. State is adding it.

BTW, if you leave the govt, you have 3 years (I believe) to return with reinstatement rights, which let you apply to Merit Promotion positions vs those open to the public. Someone correct me if I’m wrong.

(I’m a 25 year Fed)
If you attain career status, there is no limit upon how long ago you left the government so far as reinstatement rights go.

https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversig ... statement/
You are right!

https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversig ... statement/

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