The world of contracting has its benefits, not the least of which is the option to try new opportunities and experience new challenges. Along with the benefits, however, are a few drawbacks. The most pressing, especially in these economic times, being the potential for contracts to come to an end, and sometimes rather quickly. Stability is not the strong suit of most contracting gigs and that puts even more pressure on employees themselves to know when it’s time to move on. Review this list of some of the top signs you might do well to start looking for your next job.
1. You’re the smartest guy (or gal) in the room.
Being the person with all of the answers sounds great, and it’s not without its benefits. But if you find yourself coming into the office day in and day out and always being the only person who has a grasp of the tasks, it’s probably a sign it’s time to move up or on. The best way to decrease your value as an employee is to get so comfortable that you’re not learning. The knowledge cycle in the defense industry and especially technical trades is often 18 months. If you’re not relearning everything you know in that timeframe your career is standing still. So, commit yourself to a constant cycle of learning and find a company, contract and coworkers who appreciate that. If you like your current company, consider pursuing management opportunities or looking for different, more challenging contracts to work on.
2. You work on a team, but you’re the only person who seems to be doing anything.
Unfortunately, this can be an all-too common workplace problem. But if you’re in contracting, having a lot of people sitting around with little to do might not just be annoying to you. It might be noticed by a government program manager who could question the need for the contract in the first place. In today’s contracting environment, tight, efficiently run operations are going to be the best bet for enduring or consistent work. And while you might think that working with a bunch of schmucks will make you stand out to your employer, think again. Working in the midst of mediocrity will likely just pull you down, in the long run.
3. Your company has a flavor-of-the-day philosophy.
Now, a company that doesn’t diversify can have problems of its own. But, generally speaking, the best contracting firms have a specialty and stick with it. That specialty might be emerging technology, which involves pursing new types of work (a good thing). But your company shouldn’t be chasing after buzzwords like cybersecurity even if it doesn’t have the background (or skilled workforce) to compete. Look for a contracting company with an active research and development arm included in its business development plans, and with a reputation for excellence within its niche.
4. You recently obtained a new level of education, certification or skills.
There are certain accomplishments – including completing a degree program or obtaining a key industry certification – that likely warrant a bump in pay or position. The reality is, unless your current position is tailored to your new skills, you’re going to need to change jobs, if not companies, in order to get the full benefit of what you’ve accomplished, both in terms of salary and workplace challenges. If opportunities aren’t available within your current company or contract, it’s likely time to move on, and use your newly acquired skills to get a bump in salary.
5. You have a bad feeling.
Now, don’t roll your eyes. The fact of the matter is, a lot of people will get a general sentiment that lets them know their current contract is going sour. Perhaps you hear word from government coworkers that the contract might not be renewed, maybe you get a bad feeling from your boss. Maybe you just get the idea the work isn’t going the way it should. Whatever your feeling might be, spend some time thinking through it rather than ignoring it, and go ahead and start your career networking now.
One or a few of these alone aren’t a reason to jump ship. But, they are good things to keep in mind as you weigh your opportunities. Job hopping is not ideal, but neither is going down with a sinking ship. Keep in mind the option of moving on and pursing new challenges is a key benefit of contracting, and use that to your advantage, whether you decide to stay with your current company or look for jobs elsewhere.
Lindy Kyzer is the editor of ClearanceJobs.com. She loves cybersecurity, social media, and the U.S. military. She’s been both a government employee and a contractor, but you have to buy her a drink before she’ll tell you which she liked best. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email [email protected].