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Re: Stories from working in government
Old 12-21-2005, 11:11 AM   #61
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Re: Stories from working in government

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The corporations I work with love it when they find a former military manager on the recruiting short list.
Thanks, guys!

It's especially appreciated when we've spent years receiving evaluations that merely grudgingly acknowledge that we're not totally incompetent. Senior leaders continuously grumble about doing more with less. Then the media tells us how topheavy, bloviated, & wasteful the military is despite never having to worry about earning a profit. Then we read about how vicious, unethical, & unfaithful the civilian career world is, even if you have an MBA and all the other corporate warrior gear. So it's nice to see the perspective from the other side.

One of the questions at the military's "retirement" seminars is "How much is a retired O-5 worth?" The answer is "Not a cent-- but manager who can work with a team and make a decision is worth a lot."
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Re: Stories from working in government
Old 03-30-2006, 02:03 PM   #62
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Re: Stories from working in government

i am a fed myself. In R&D field, yup we scientist tend to be self motivator and most do a a honest job. however, i would advice youngster starting their career NOT to enter the gov. Get some privte industry experience first then come. u get more respect and can get into a better position.

also, if u do want to get ahead, u got to "play" the game and "work" the system since i am terrible at both. i am still at the bottom.

enuff

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Re: Stories from working in government
Old 03-30-2006, 02:31 PM   #63
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Re: Stories from working in government

Interesting thread! I started as a GS-06, made it up to GS-12, got lured away by the big salaries in the private telecom industry in 2000. I came back (I'm still getting comments like "oh, you are back, couldn't make it in the real world?" ).

I am at almost 10 years fed time and am trying to decide if it is worth it to stay till retirement. I just got promoted to GS-11, and expect to make GS-12 within a few years. But I am sure I could easily make much more in civilian IT.

Here I don't have to carry a pager 24x7, can't work past 40 hours a week and have a ton of time off.

We have a couple people in the office who are career misfits. Shuffled from office to office. Unfortunately, (fortunate for them tho) they were sitting in positions that were majorly upgraded during the IT feeding frenzy in 1999-2001. The Gov't was loosing so many IT people it upgraded a lot of postions and paid special pay rates. So, the misfits were in the right place at the right time. Lucky SOBs!

Anyways, I like working here and have a good work ethic. I get upset seeing the slackers and misfits making out, but I guess you will get that anywhere.
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Re: Stories from working in government
Old 03-30-2006, 03:50 PM   #64
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Re: Stories from working in government

Bimmerbill,

I hope the big bucks in private industry more than offset the big loss you suffered with the grade reduction and loss of service time toward retirement. You must really have been hatin' life in private industry to come back to gov't as a GS-9. How did you handle the huge pay cut?

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Re: Stories from working in government
Old 03-30-2006, 05:46 PM   #65
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Re: Stories from working in government

Interesting thread. I am new to the board, having recently retired from a thirty year Federal career. I started as a GS-7 and worked my way to SES, twenty years in HR (including the director) and then ten years in IT.

For a while in HR I was the guy who fired people. It is actually possible, but is a painful process. I would estimate that about 2/3 of the pain is the process itself, and the other third is the internal difficulty most managers have firing people -- it really is not an easy thing. During my years in HR, I networked with a lot of private sector HR managers. Those in large organizations reported many of the same people problems we experienced in the government. It is all about people who are mismatched in their jobs and can't or won't do anything about it.

As for my impression of the environment -- mostly good. I was at the General Services Administration, which gets almost no appropriated funds - GSA charges for the services they provide other agencies and the agencies can generally choose to go elsewhere. Employees and managers had to hustle to get the job done and most did.

The benefits (sick leave, health, vacation time) are pretty good, not exceptional. But the inflation protected retirement package is gold. I had no real understanding of how valuable it is until I neared retirement and started paying attention to how much of a nest egg is required to reasonalbly guarantee a modest income. It makes the so called "pay gap" seem OK.

The politics are mostly the same small "P" BS you would find in any organization. Some individuals are awful, others are great. That holds true for most of the political appointees I dealt with. (I do have some good stories about the exceptions, but they will remain private :-) Friends at agencies with more politically charged missions (EPA, Justice, Education, etc.) reported more problems with political changes since the newcomers might be very hostile to the underlying mission or, conversely, might support the mission but distrust anyone who would have stayed in the previous, hostile administration.

One of the more amusing things was to see how many political appointees came into government, liked the people and the work, and then found a way to "burrow in." Sure, some of them were hacks, but many found the work rewarding and chose to stay.

Overall I would recommend the government. It is like a huge multifacted corporation with fascinating missions. If you are not challenged where you are you can move elsewhere with a modicum of effort. There is a lot of turmoil - reductions in force, reorganizations, political changes - but what corporation isn't worse?

And despite what some posters say, there is an element of public service that is rewarding in itself. That may seem obvious for military, law enforcement, firefighting and the like, but it is true to some degree for most of government.
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Re: Stories from working in government
Old 03-31-2006, 07:30 AM   #66
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Re: Stories from working in government

Quote:
Originally Posted by grumpy
Bimmerbill,

I hope the big bucks in private industry more than offset the big loss you suffered with the grade reduction and loss of service time toward retirement.* You must really have been hatin' life in private industry to come back to gov't as a GS-9.* How did you handle the huge pay cut?

* *Grumpy

Grumpy,
* * *I got laid off from LU (along with 100K other employees) back in 2002.* Then I took 1 and a half years off (I qualified for the Trade Adjustment program- the cadilac of unemployment bennies, according to them) while getting "retrained" in some current IT products while collecting unemployment and paying COBRA.
* * *I never really increased my standard of living to match my new civilian salary.* Looking back, I could have done much better at controlling my costs, but hey, what the heck?* I walked out the door to a $25K pay raise.* *I always wanted a BMW so I bought a nice 2 year old one, and picked myself up a Harley while I was at it.* Got all the toy buying done, so to speak.
* * *I probably ended up losing money in the long run.* But, I would do it all over again.* There are lots of gov employees here scared of the "real world."* I went off, proved to myself it wasn't bad and proved to myself I could do it.*
* * *My gov job is a bit strange.* It requires military membership in the National Guard.* So, my GS09 pay is supplemented by my guard pay.* Plus, we are on the Boston pay scale, which isn't too bad.*
* * *Still, I am about 10K shy of salary I used to make in 2000.* I know I could really increase my earnings in private industry.* I may end up there yet.* I have 1 year left in the National Guard, then I can retire, but can't collect any bennies until age 60 (20 more years dang it!).
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Re: Stories from working in government
Old 03-31-2006, 07:33 AM   #67
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Re: Stories from working in government

Another thought, I think a lot of the problem is caused by how the pay scale is set up. You are paid a higher salary based on longevity, not performance.

Sometimes that just sucks initiative out of people. Why should I bust my a$$ all day when the guy next to me does nothing, and we get the same pay and raise?

But, there are plenty of people, myself included, that do a good job because we have good work ethic.
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Re: Stories from working in government
Old 04-03-2006, 02:39 PM   #68
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Re: Stories from working in government

I've been with the gov't for the past 15 years. Actually, I've worked for two agencies that are considered "quasi-gov't" - we get government pay scale and benefits, but the agencies are not funded by taxpayer money.

I worked for the first company for 14 years, first in NY, then in DC. Interesting work, and I got pay-grade increases or new jobs pretty much every 2 or 3 years. Took a buyout due to downsizing and got a half-year's salary to leave, to go work for another agency at the same grade and pay level.

I've always worked hard and been given opportunities to try new things. That has kept it interesting. I started as a GS-5 in 1991, and have been a GS-15 since I moved to DC, back in 1999.

I have thought about leaving the gov't several times over the years, but every time I did, I either got a new job within my old company, or, as in the case last May, I moved to my new agency. I make more money in the gov't than a private sector company is willing to pay me right now (I interviewed at both private sector and gov't last year).

Will I stay until I retire? I don't know, but right now, I love my work, the people, the mission of the agency (ironic note: I help protect other people's pension plans), and the benefits. The only reason I can think of for leaving right now is that if my BF and I get married (we are talking about it), we have talked about leaving DC for the simpler life of small-town New England, where we are both from.

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Re: Stories from working in government
Old 04-05-2006, 02:22 PM   #69
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Re: Stories from working in government

Great thread!

I have experience in both right now - I work for a private non-profit firm, have worked for for-profit entities as well and am also a Reservist in the military.

I'd echo the man who retired as an SES and spent a lot of time in HR - it is difficult to fire people in any large organization because of the process as well as the internal strife on the manager (can be emotionally wrenching at times). In my company right now we have a person who people find sleeping in her cubicle, whom I spent two hours specifically talking about to my then immediate manager when I was on an extended military deployment, whom it is well known she's ineffective (even had a conversation today regarding the colleague) - it's been over 5 years, and nothing - she's still around - still not meeting the basic expectations as per her customers and colleagues - I think that perhaps when someone is on probation, if they do well over that probationary time, the clock starts all over again for another infringement. They can then just keep stringing things along......

As for benefits - depends on where you work - the COLA'd pension for gov't jobs is golden - even though the large non-profit corporation I work for has what I would consider very good benefits (defined benefit pension after 5 years vesting - non-COLA'd, after tax retirement plan, and 403b, the last two plans of which are contributed to by the employer with no matching requirement after two years on the job) - the COLA'd pension for my military retirement will probably be the best - plus the medical benefits (even though they wish to triple the current costs).

As for challenges in my job or satisfaction - that's really a function of the person in the job - you make or break your opportunities and decide on what challenges you wish to take on. I'm an engineer, so the babysitting of management has not appealed to me, although I've been begged by technicians to be their boss. Don't want the headache - can be a good team player and lead a project team, but if I had to deal with people like the colleague I described above...I'd go crazy.

The comment regarding military managers is right on - I've been told that my direct communicationstyle, focus on results and follow-through has made me very credible where I work. I'mlucky in that I've been fairly successful in many projects such that if I open my mouth with some issues, people listen to me. I also notice that my management style is more to the "They told me they would do X, until they don't, I'm not going to micromanage them." It's a very different philosophy (I'm learning) from some other folks without major project management and resource integration experience.

Tscuss - Deserat
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Re: Stories from working in government
Old 04-05-2006, 03:04 PM   #70
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Re: Stories from working in government

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Originally Posted by deserat
The comment regarding military managers is right on - I've been told that my direct communication style, focus on results and follow-through has made me very credible where I work.
I've also seen that text used as codewords for "PITA". Not that I have any personal experience with that, of course...
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Re: Stories from working in government
Old 04-05-2006, 05:04 PM   #71
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Re: Stories from working in government

I guess that I started this thread and still need to add something.

I have worked for a state regulatory program for over 10 years as an environmental engineer. Fairly interesting job since I get to get out in the field quite often and visit industry and learn how things are made. Also, our program is one of the more technical so that keeps me learning.

The regulatory end of things is a pendulum swinging back and forth according to the economy. With our state budget problems since the economic downturn a few years ago, we have had a few years of no raises, which has resulted in a lot of really good fellow employees leaving to work in industry.

One of the great benefits is where I am located, I live in a rural area outside of a city of only 7000 people. Lots of recreation ops. with a lot of lakes and vacation land. I hit 3-4 stop signs on my 10 mile commute to work.

I am considering staying around for another 5-10 years and consider doing something else with more risk/reward or just go part time for health insurance and semi-retire. If I stay 20 years, I will rec. a reduced pension and probably health insurance at age 55. I have quite a bit of savings in my accounts, so any pension money is a bonus.
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Re: Stories from working in government
Old 04-05-2006, 11:47 PM   #72
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Re: Stories from working in government

Does no-one read Max Weber any more?

If an organization gets big enough, it will suffer from "bureaupathologies".* Neither goverment, private industry, nor religious heirarchies are safe from this.

I took an EO from SSA last year after 29 years.* I'd have to say that the majority of the people I worked with were sharp, concerned, competent people.* Some of them were even in management.*

I certainly worked in places where the useless managers got their "high-Q" step increases and merit pay because of the wonderful job they'd done of hiding in their offices and letting the "peons" do their work.* In fact, one GS-14 gave a whole new meaning to the term "sleeping your way to the top" as we had to look to see if the motion-detector light switch had turned the lights out in her office because she was asleep.

In many cases, management meddling was more apt to screw stuff up than if they just left things alone (as in "why did you change the wording to THAT in this policy memo to Central Office - that is completely wrong!")

I did have some managers that I really really wished I could have kept as my boss.* They were the sharp ones who knew what was going on in the program, stood up for their employees when we were right, and basically stepped aside to let us do our jobs.* A good manager should be running interference for the staff, not interfering.

Sadly, in the last 15 years the good managers were noticeable for their absence.* But that just made it even more obvious that the staff was doing a great job getting the work done with good quality.

There were also staff members that were completely useless, and who you could mark as promotion candidates due to their large amount of time spent socializing with useless managers.* But they were in the minority.

You don't have to read too much of the business pages in the papers to see that corporate "any country" is just as bad.* And small businesses where "the bosses nephew/niece" gets put into a management position can be real nightmares.

Too many people forget that the "bureaucrat" is stuck with the job of enforcing the laws passed by the elected representatives.* Sometimes we have a little wiggle room to try and make things run better, but other times it is a "do it this way or quit" choice.* I suspect that there are few people in the world that won't pull their head down, grit their teeth, and bide their time in the hopes that the next election will improve things.

cheers,
Michael
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Re: Stories from working in government
Old 04-06-2006, 11:36 AM   #73
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Re: Stories from working in government

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Quote from: deserat on April 05, 2006, 02:22:29 PM
The comment regarding military managers is right on - I've been told that my direct communication style, focus on results and follow-through has made me very credible where I work.
I've also seen that text used as codewords for "PITA". Not that I have any personal experience with that, of course...

Oooh - can I have some hummus with that?

Yeah - can be sometimes a PITA - but hey, either they want it done or not and I'm lucky in that I have options....always have options - that's what's so great about living below your means - the cushion to say 'Outta here'

Deserat
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