OCONUS Jobs in 2017 – The Hot Markets and Taking Temporary Gigs

Those looking to see the world while working for the government or a government contractor may have a travel bug, but job seekers should understand that you’ll need to go where the work is – and that will rarely will be tourist destinations.

“Hot countries right now are wherever the military is located, so that means Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait and other areas in the Middle East,” said Major General Kevin O’Connell (Retired), executive vice president of program operations at Advantage SCI , an Alexandria, Virginia-based firm that provides counter-intelligence and other security services globally.

“The Middle East and NATO countries are always hot,” said Josh Saye, talent acquisition manager at Vectrus.

Changing political climates means the locations of overseas opportunities are always variable. “We see lots of movement in Turkey right now,” added Saye.

Anywhere with conflict or regional instability will have employment opportunities, especially as very specific skill sets are required.

“Some of the ‘usual suspects’ remain priority for contractors, namely Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Bradley P. Moss of the Mark Zaid Law Offices, who specializes in issues related to security clearance.”Linguists remain a particular pressing need, especially for anyone who speaks fluent Arabic, Farsi, or Urdu. Top priority will go for candidates who have existing TS/SCI access, and likely at least a counterintelligence polygraph that is recent, so that they can get slotted into the contract ASAP.

Where the Jobs Are? Everywhere

At present there are “opportunities on almost every continent,” explained Charmaine Bell, talent acquisition director at Engility Corp.

Overseas jobs aren’t just for those looking to make a career abroad.  Many candidates use overseas postings to further their domestic career.

“There are many employees at PAE who have built a career of OCONUS assignments,” said Matthew Mead, senior manager of recruiting for Arlington, Virginia-based PAE. “We encourage and fully support this development through our Employee Mobility Program, which allows employees to work across multiple programs and geographic boundaries to build their OCONUS career. Through this program, employees have taken assignments on multiple continents including Africa, Asia, and even Antarctica, over the course of several years.”

Temporary Tour of Duty

Just as the military is known for deploying soldiers in pre-set tours, the same is now happening with government and contract employees. There are advantages and disadvantages to taking what is in essence a “temp job” however.

“Temporary assignments aren’t what they once were cracked up to be but can be advantageous for people who don’t want a full-time deployment that is going to span years,” Moss told ClearanceJobs. “For some individuals, especially those with families, taking a well-paying but dangerous three to six month stint in Iraq might be preferable to a two year assignment somewhere else that pays the same amount.”

The optimal length of an assignment really depends on the candidate, but longer assignments usually offer more stability and opportunities for tax benefits, such as the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, said PAE’s Mead.

“We have many contracts that allow us to offer one-year renewable agreements as a full time employee, which entitle candidates to 100 percent employer-paid medical care for themselves while deployed overseas, generous paid time off with round trip flights provided, paid holidays, and a 401(k) to help save for the future,” Mead told ClearanceJobs. “However, we realize that some candidates require or prefer flexibility and do not wish to commit to the typical 12-month or longer assignment.”

For those who truly want to see the world, one can actually build a successful and even fulfilling career as an OCONUS contractor, going from short term posting to posting. But preference for short term or long-term assignments is often more contingent on individual preference than company need.

“Depending on the person, there might be personal advantages to taking temporary assignments,” Bell told ClearanceJobs.  “It’s an opportunity to showcase an employee’s adaptability and willingness to take on special assignments to build certain skills and expand on their work  experience. However, based on my observation, there is no overt financial advantage of taking a temporary assignment.”

What can play a factor is how a work visa might come into play.

“We try to shy away from short term overseas assignments because most host nation country law requires a longer period of work in order to get a residency visa,” said Saye.

“Several employees have started oversea in their careers,” he told ClearanceJobs. “Our talent acquisition manager started at HQ in Colorado Springs as a temp, and went overseas.”

That individual is now running a recruiting firm with the same passion he showed as a temp.

“It’s easier for people to go overseas, then to relocate CONUS,” Saye added. “When you go overseas, home is still in the same location, and most people enjoy the trips ‘home’. The longest overseas contractor I have met, was in Southwest Asia for 16 years.”

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Peter Suciu is a freelance writer who covers business technology and cyber security. He currently lives in Michigan and can be reached at petersuciu@gmail.com. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.