Transitioning From Federal Service

By Derrick Dortch
Special to
Friday, September 7, 2007; 6:00 PM

Many job seekers see getting a job with the federal government as a dream come true. Job security and good benefits are a few reasons why many remain in federal jobs until retirement. For some, however, there comes a time when change is much needed. And that change may not necessarily come within the public sector.

Some workers will decide to retire while others feel better opportunities are available outside the government. But before crossing over into the private industry or retiring, there are a few things to consider.

Crossing Over

For those who decide to leave the public sector, there are several steps you can take to ensure a smooth transition -- and return to federal service if the new job doesn't work out:

Look before you leap. Before leaving the federal workforce, talk to those who have done it, says John Palguta, vice president of policy for the Partnership for Public Service. "Find people with similar circumstances who have made the move and ask whether they have any regrets, if they would do anything different and if they have any advice to offer," he says. Doing this may make your transition from the federal government an easier process.

Keep a strong network. Regardless of whether you're in the public or privater sector, building a solid network is key to professional success. If you decide to leave the federal government, be sure to ask for both the work and personal contact information of colleagues and friends you have acquired along the way.

Keep in touch with those in your former agency through e-mail, phone calls or occasional lunch dates. Although you no longer work together, you never know if they may be helpful in your new job or be able to help you return to the government.

Should you hold on to a security clearance? If you work for an agency related to national or homeland security, there is a good chance you have a Confidential, Secret, Top Secret or Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmentalized Information security clearance. With clearances, especially high-level ones, you become very marketable and an attractive candidate to many government contractors. Contractors will often offer salaries, incentives and work opportunities that some cannot pass up.

If you leave the federal service before you retire (or after) and work for a contractor in a job that requires your same level of clearance, then your security clearance will remain active. If you decide to pursue jobs in other sectors, however, or take time off from government work, you have 24 months before your clearance becomes invalid. After that time you'll be subject to a new security clearance investigation.

According to the Defense Security Service (DSS), federal workers or military service members with clearances can be reissued a clearance for another position if the date you left prior federal or military service occurred within 24 months. However, there can't be any adverse information on file that would prevent you from being issued a new clearance. DSS also says that if your initial investigation or periodic reinvestigation was not completed within the timeframe described, an investigation may have to be requested before you are granted another clearance.

Planning Ahead for Retirement

While some federal workers decide to leave before retirement age for new opportunities, others stay and make a career of federal service. For those who stay, however, planning for retirement should start early on, Palguta says.

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