There are some people who spend their entire working career with a single company or government agency, however those situations are few and far between today. In the government contracting arena, there are hardly any stories of individuals staying with the same company for their entire career. The opposite is actually more realistic. Contractors who are switching jobs or “job hopping” every two or three years seems to be a more familiar story. The reasons contractors experience this kind of job movement are due to contracts ending, companies losing their recompete bids, relocation needs and competitive pay rates on the rise. As a cleared contractor or even a government employee, how do you know when it is time to move on from your job? There are so many good answers to that question – here are just a few that will help you see the “writing on the wall.”
The general audience reading articles on ClearanceJobs.com are either government employees or contractors, or individuals looking for one of those positions. Depending on your situation, it can be very important to find a contract position that is long term (5+ years). There are many contracting companies that hire only for the duration of a contract, and at the end of that contract you are back on the job market. Some signs you can look for are listings that say “contract to hire” or “possibility of going perm.” Not all positions and/or contracting companies operate this way, but I have found that many are only looking to fill the position temporarily.
Unless you are an HR professional in your organization and are privy to the actual numbers, it will be hard to know exactly what the turnover rate is. However, it can be obvious when there is a high rate of turnover: Coworkers who complain a lot, are constantly looking for their next job or who are only there for a short period of time are all signs that turnover is increasing. And while it’s generally not a great idea to listen to rumors, if you start to hear rumblings about an end to a contract or hear about groups of coworkers leaving, it’s time to at least have a contingency plan.
Lack of Professional Growth Opportunities
Opportunities for professional growth should be on your short list of items that you are looking for in a prospective company. If you find yourself in a situation where there is not much growth opportunity, it is time to start looking elsewhere. Looking for a new job should not be your first step if you find yourself skills growing stale. Take the time to research your company’s internal job boards and find ways you can lend a hand after hours to gain more experience. Or reach out to your manager about taking the time for a new course or certification. If you’ve exhausted all of your efforts to find a growth opportunity, and your training requests are getting denied, update your resume and start looking at better opportunities.
The Customer/Client is Frustrated
Of all the potential signs that it is time to move on, the issue of the customer or client being frustrated with your performance or your company’s performance is the worst sign of them all. When you work for a company, you represent that company and the company represents you. At times bad press or customer frustration can reflect negatively on you, even when you are not directly involved in the project in question. About five years ago, I worked for a company based out of McLean, Va. and the project I worked on was for a government agency based about 30 minutes south of McLean. I loved the company I worked for; they were a small consulting firm, roughly 100 employees or so, and they had a great company culture. The customer was very difficult, the project management office team was very demanding, and at times confused as to what the project was really all about. To add to the difficulty of the situation, the infrastructure I architected was to support a third party software application that was built and customized to the needs of the customer. The application was very difficult to install and maintain, and the PMO didn’t really understand all the moving parts involved. Needless to say, there was disconnect between the software vendor, the customer PMO, and my company. This lead to systems administrators leaving, help desk employees not doing their job, and the PMO constantly berating us and threatening to drop us from the project. If this happens to you, or anything remotely close to it, be prepared to leave.
Moral: Keep Your Resume and Network Up to Date
I hope that everyone has a great job and won’t need the advice presented in this post, but chances are you are reading this for a reason. There is no need to fear the writing on the wall. If anything, it is a signal for you to update your resume and keep your network in tact. There are so many good positions on the job market, especially with a clearance, you can find a position that will be both a good fit for you and the company, and will have some longevity.