By: Pilar "Tony" Beltran, Lead Recruiter, Security Solutions
For transitioning or retired military service members looking to begin their careers as civilians, security and defense contracting can be an attractive next step. Much like service in the military or law enforcement, defense contract work requires many of the same skills and the same passion for serving our country— all under the same U.S. National Security Mission.
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Defense contracting is one of the top three best careers after military service, according to a report from Navy Federal Credit Union, and is most popular among military veterans ages 45 and under. The similarities to service make it an easy transition for veterans coming right off the front lines and can be rewarding at any age.
4 Benefits and Considerations for Defense Contract Work
Contract work has its differences from active-duty service, but many of them are clear advantages. As with any line of work that operates in high-risk situations, there are also considerations veterans should make before making the switch to transition to contract work. Here’s a look at some of the benefits and common concerns of contract work that can help veterans determine if contract work is right for them.
- Benefit: Utilize and Build on Military Training
Serving in the military lends to a highly skilled background that can be hard to maximize in civilian jobs or other careers. For those just coming off duty, contract work presents a unique opportunity to apply their military background to new work and build on those skills. Contract work also allows veterans to stay in the military mindset and draw on past experiences to perform the job. In addition, overseas contract work requires (and sponsors) an active and valid security clearance, related to the specific contract. This can be a great way to transfer and keep your USG security clearance active.
Consideration: Working in a High-Threat Zone
As with any work related to defense, some contractors are deployed to high-threat zones in austere and guarded locations. For some retired service members, going back to these environments may not be for them. However, one of the primary benefits of contract work is the mission and diplomatic purpose with the opportunity to continue contributing to our country’s defense and security in a new way and on a different scale.
- Benefit: Surrounded by Familiar Mission-Driven Teammates
For many veterans going into contract work, knowing that they’ll be surrounded by mission-driven teammates who share similar experiences, but bring diverse backgrounds, helps for a welcoming transition. Additionally, government contracts are typically structured like the military and broken down into teams and roles within a chain of command. This familiar environment allows veterans to jump right into work with a solid understanding of how they can immediately contribute to the mission, without a long adjustment period.
Consideration: Quality of Life Overseas
One common concern about contract work is the quality of life overseas at government locations, such as U.S. Embassies. Today, it’s greatly improved with better housing and morale programs. Some locations are campus-like with all housing and amenities centralized in an embassy compound or enclosed area. Other overseas locations allow contractors to live in apartments and commute to work as they would in the states.
- Benefit: Greater Flexibility with Deployment Rotations
The rotational deployment structure used by many contracting organizations gives contractors more control over their own schedules and more flexibility to choose how to spend their time. During downtime, referred to as R&R, contractors can go home to see family or even travel to see the world starting from their deployment location. Many employers will also allow deployment extensions.+
Consideration: More Time Away From Home
One of the first things veterans should consider before applying to contract work is whether they and their families are ready for them to be deployed again. However, contract work deployments are significantly shorter compared to the military. Most employers will set deployment rotations at three to six months maximum, allowing for more time at home on a regular basis. With today’s technology, it’s also easier to stay connected with family while deployed and some even have direct lines and use video teleconferencing to talk face-to-face.
- Benefit: Exponential Salary Growth
The change in pay grade between military service and contracting work is considered a definite perk by many coming from the military. It can be a great way to quickly build up savings while working in a familiar industry and job function. It also offers stability as many employers will staff employees on new contracts once others end. There is room to grow into leadership positions within the world of contracting and for those interested in transitioning to a new line of work, the flexibility of downtime provides an opportunity to take educational and training courses.
Consideration: Strenuous Hiring and Application Process
It can be a long and tedious process before being accepted by a contractor for a job. Any delays in obtaining discharge and other paperwork can lengthen the process, which also includes approvals, clearances, and training before deployment is possible. However, an experienced contract staffing partner like SOC can help guide veterans through the process and successfully launch careers in contract work.
Taking the Next Step with Contract Work
For veterans looking for their next phase of work, contract work offers a steppingstone between service and future careers outside of security and defense. Researching and learning about the available contracts is a key first step to determining if contract work is the right fit. For those who choose to pursue contract work, having set goals and interests will help make the application process smoother and more rewarding.
Reach out to SOC’s recruiters today to talk about the potential next step in your contracting career.
About SOC’s Overseas Contract Work
For more than a decade, SOC has provided the full suite of security operations for the U.S. Department of State diplomatic mission, including its taskforce at the largest embassy complex in the world, successfully protecting personnel, property, and assets in this high-threat austere environments overseas. SOC operates around the clock to assure that our customers can effectively carry out U.S. foreign policy to promote and demonstrate democratic values and advance a free, peaceful, and prosperous world. Operations have included perimeter, mobile, and static guard services. The complex mission includes multiple layers of security screening access point control, technical security system monitoring, threat detection, intelligence analysis, canine detection and quick reactive protection services. Considered one of the largest and most successful security programs in the industry, SOC has partnered with the U.S. Department of State to deliver a new model for high-threat security protection.
About SOC’s U.S.-Based Contract Work
With a company history of nearly 75 years supporting the Department of Energy (DOE), Day & Zimmermann and SOC together have provided Safeguards, Security, Emergency Services, Management & Operations (M&O), Architecture and Design (A/E) services to protect national security assets that include Category I Special Nuclear Material in research, development, and manufacturing environments.
Currently, SOC fills a critical role in protecting the research and development that supports the nation’s nuclear deterrent and other important national security missions. SOC delivers award-winning security and emergency services operations solutions for five U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) sites, providing protection of personnel, equipment, facilities, and assets around the clock. The DOE sites supported include: the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, Nevada National Security Site, Pantex Plant, Y-12 National Security Complex, and other DOE locations.
Previously, for more than twenty years, SOC provided best-in-class Safeguards and Security services at Los Alamos National Laboratory, one of the largest national laboratories supporting DOE, safeguarding national security assets in a federally-funded research and development environment.
Learn more about SOC’s contracts and support of the U.S. National Security Mission here.