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Considering A Departure From Government Service? Look before you leap!

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Last month I was approached by one of my favorite DoD colleagues, inquiring about opportunities “out there” in Industry. This guy is one of the smartest Civil Servants I know. He has been a mover and shaker for decades. You know, one of those rare technically inclined individuals who can also manage big programs, get funding, and motivate teams. I have so much respect for him, and over the years, he’s helped me through a lot of jams! I sure wish I could reassure him that Industry is waiting with open arms to reward his years of service… but that’s just not what I am seeing. My friend, and many others like him, is being offered incentives to get out early. Affectionately referred to as “Get Out of Jail Early” options, they are given an opportunity to retire early with a lump sum and a reduced retirement pay.

In the past month, I have heard from over a dozen such individuals, and the dollars and cents aren’t that impressive. One GS13 is being offered about $25K up front, and $25K/year as retirement. He’s in his early fifties, and thinks that now might be the time to call in a few favors so he can pick up that lucrative job with Industry.  He has a stay-at-home wife and three school-aged children, all with college ahead of them. I have implored him to think carefully!

I wonder WHY on earth they would even consider voluntarily giving up a steady job in DoD at this time! What are they thinking? Truthfully, I have had to do a little bit of soul searching here. I think we might have helped create this problem. Over the years, we (Industry) have accepted their help, complimented their successes, and generally made them feel like Rock Stars when they ventured out to where we could interact with them. At huge International Conferences, we have put them at Podiums where they can pontificate – while a rapt audience listens attentively and takes notes. After their speech, a large cluster of attendees swarm the stage, handing out business cards and trying to get some quality time to push a particular solution. No wonder that some of these folks have a very unrealistic idea of their worth to Industry and the opportunities. Have we purposely misled them?

So next time a DoD employee asks me for advice, I plan to tell him/her this: You joined the Civil Service because you wanted to work on a real mission – something important. You probably also wanted and appreciated the job security. You especially wanted and became addicted to the sense of purpose. Now’s a good time to remember what’s good about Government work, and quit dreaming about what’s on the other side. DoD funding is cyclical, it will come back, but not for a few years and now is NOT the time to leap into the abyss!

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Bob Gourley writes on enterprise IT. He is a founder and partner at Cognitio Corp and publsher of CTOvision.com

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