Q. I work as a contractor for the Department of Defense. I enjoy my work but am a little frustrated by the unresponsive nature of my supervisor in giving feedback about my performance. I don’t know if my work is satisfactory, and I am starting to feel like I am unappreciated and under-utilized in my workplace. What are some good indicators that I need to start looking for another job?
A. Working as a contractor can be a complicated career path and many people find it difficult to adjust to the environment, particularly veterans who are used to clear rank structure and lines of authority. Defense contractors must accept that in some organizations there aren’t many opportunities for feedback from government supervisors. Feedback can be rare, or non-existent.
Many contractors will find themselves reporting directly to a government employee, but the reality is that person is not responsible for giving performance feedback to contract employees. Many contractors have discovered too late that the government was not happy with their performance – and that time came when they were fired or reassigned.
Annual reviews and other regular job feedback should be coming from your company program manager or supervisor. Use those times to express any concerns you might have about the contract as well as asking for any feedback received from government employees who have oversight of your work. If your company isn’t providing you with an annual review, they’re not complying with industry standards.
If you need feedback on a particular project, it may be very appropriate to schedule a meeting with your government supervisor and seek their insight. But don’t treat it as their responsibility to shepherd your professional development within the organization.
In today’s contracting climate, it’s not a good idea to look for a new job simply because of poor communication. Unless the situation is abusive or illegal, it’s worth navigating the murky waters of some government offices. That said, it’s a good idea to continue building your career network and staying aware of outside opportunities. A sudden lack of communication may be a sign that your contract – or position – will soon be cut.
Diana M. Rodriguez is a native Washingtonian who currently works as a professional writer, blogger, social media expert, commentator, editor and public affairs practitioner. Diana previously worked as an editor and senior communications analyst for the Department of Defense.