The editorial team walked through the pros and cons of working for a defense contractor. Having lived a large chunk of my life around the DMV, it’s common to have considered employment prospects on both sides of the aisle. Whether or not you’re looking for a change in your job, it’s helpful to understand all of the different angles in national security employment.
Deep Dive Discussion on Being a Defense Contractor
The Negatives with Defense Contractor Work
It can be challenging to always feel like you’re in the driver’s seat, but you don’t quite have access to all the controls. But sometimes, that’s what it feels like sometimes to be a DoD contractor. A new contract means the ability to do the work that you want to do. Bonus is that you get to support national security missions. However, you might think that you’re defining the requirements and making decisions, but all it takes is a change from the federal government client for you to realize that you’re not in control. For defense recruiters, changing requirements can make staffing challenging, but slow approval processes can also impact hiring and how quickly contracts move forward.
On the other hand, project managers can struggle with constant oversight or shifting requirements from their client. As administration changes occur regularly, which can lead to a constant ebb and flow in defense priorities. Sometimes, you may be part of a team that is full steam ahead on a current defense mission priority, only to find in a few years that that priority is low on the leaderboard now. Chasing moving targets is challenging. While it can be freeing to be able to do good work without being ultimately in control, for many, that can be challenging.
The Benefits of Being a Defense Contractor
With the ability to get onboarded faster than the federal government timeline, supporting a DoD contractor is a great way to quickly find a job and start to get experience. And, working for a contractor means that you get to do work that matters. Supporting our national security happens on so many levels, and it plays an important role in giving purpose. Sometimes, that overall feeling of purpose can get lost in all of the day-to-day activities, but it’s an important piece to remember.
It does help that feeling of purpose when a contractor also offers great pay and benefits. I was able to hit the ground running soon after college. Within a few years of working for a contractor, I decided to get my MBA. Some contractors will cover full education expenses, provided it relates to your work with the organization, and others will cover a yearly amount. But look for all of the benefits that contractors offer in order for you to best grow your career.
And while job-hopping can make some nervous, for many, the ability to be flexible and try out different employers can be motivating. With contract lifecycles often staring you in the face, you tend to think about the work that you’re doing on your resume and how to keep that fresh and ready to support new contracts.