Federal Contractor - Caution Tape

Becoming a Federal contractor can be a rewarding career move for anyone interested in gaining access to the Federal workforce. But it does come with pitfalls. If you want to walk this path, you need to make an informed decision. In this article, we share some of the things you need to know to become a Federal contractor.

You Must be Clearable

First, you must be clearable. Individuals who choose Federal contracting as their employment path must go through extensive background checks to obtain employment. Some background checks go back five years into your past, others seven, with the maximum typically going back ten years. Merit321 employs federal contractors with these four types of clearances:

  1. Public Trust – allows you to work in environments that the Federal Government deems low risk in damaging national security.
  2. Confidential – applies to positions that the Federal Government deems as “reasonable” risk in causing damage to national security.
  3. Secret – provides you with access to information that can cause serious damage to national security.
  4. Top Secret – extends to positions that can cause exceptionally grave damage to national security.

Every level of clearance possesses a reinvestigation period that you must go through in order to update your information. Clearances also expire if you cease employment for two years with the Federal Government.

Prepare for Short Term Employment

Second, prepare for short term employment. A Federal Contractor typically has a maximum tenure in a position for a period of five years. That’s because Federal contracts provide for a one year of commitment, plus four option years. Extension of the contract is not guaranteed during the re-bid period of the fiscal year when private service firms line up for Federal dollars. In addition, some contract opportunities only last one or two years, or even six months. You’ll need to be savvy at making employment decisions that can affect your career.

Manage Your Finances

Lastly, manage your finances. One of the caveats of being a Federal contractor is dealing with government shutdowns. If the politicians on Capitol Hill and the White House can’t agree on a budget, the government can’t fund itself. That can leave you out in the cold when it comes to your financial stability. We suggest to always prepare for emergency situations like this by establishing a budget that provides you with savings. Tuck some money away in an emergency fund that can last up to a month’s worth of pay or more. By doing so you can most likely weather the storm of Washington’s political elite.