Monday, March 23, 2015

The worth of a cog

(With apologies to my wife, my most constant blog-reader, for whom none of this will be news and in fact much will be things which stress her out to one degree or another.)

The contract between my employer and the government is set to expire this Friday. There has been no official word as to what is going to happen one week from today. At the moment I am assuming that I will have to show up for work, because that's my default assumption every Monday and I put a lot of unthinking trust in momentum, I suppose. But there could be some surprises between now and then, certainly. At this point, honestly, I don't even know what would be more surprising: hearing some news finally, or not hearing any news and having to just operate under my own best-guesswork.

About a week and a half ago, a couple days after my last post on the contract limbo stuff, my contracting boss called the whole team together for a meeting to reiterate once again that he would share any and all news with us as soon as there was any to share, and since he hadn't shared anything yet we should all understand that there was no official news. He did add that he had been told to expect some kind of announcement by the end of that week. Clearly, that week ended and there was actually no announcement, and the week after ended and there was also no announcement, and here we are.

My boss also explained that because it takes a certain amount of time to finalize a new contract, and that interval is greater than the time presently remaining on the contract (with the gap growing every day) that it was altogether likely that we would have to enter into a short, placeholder contract once the current contract elapses. Just as a reminder, we are already on a bridge contract; the five-year contract I originally came aboard on ended back in September of 2014. The government was suppose to have conducted the entire re-compete process by then, but blew deadline after deadline which led to us entering into a six-month bridge contract to cover the extension of the re-compete. By law, the government can only play the "six-month bridge extension" card once, and now that they have done so and yet somehow still not managed to award a new five-year contract to anyone (the possibility apparently still exists that after all this jerking around we could lose the re-compete and someone else could be given the new contract), that means they can only enter into some other category of temporary contract which probably has its own name that I forget, and that can only be for a maximum of 60 days. A 60-day last-chance-not-kidding-no-backsies contract looks likely at this point (a 30-day version of same is also a possibility), in fact, if I eavesdropped correctly this past Friday on my co-worker who handles contract stuff and was trying to get ready to go on vacation this week and absolutely had to get certain tasks completed before leaving the office, that is already in the works.

You would think all of this would force the government's hand to the point where they had to award us the contract, at the very least because the also-rans would not be waiting around with resources idle to see if they were going to get it long past the projected start date. Or, if we're on the verge of losing the contract, you would think the government would have to tell us that in the next couple weeks at least, because they can only keep us around for eight more weeks tops, and they're required by law to have a six-week transition plan if they are going to switch from one contractor to another. You would think, yet here we are, as I keep saying.

And here I am, specifically, because I have yet to find anywhere else to jump to. I had a surreal experience last week where I got an e-mail on Wednesday from a small contracting company's recruiter, who saw my profile on a job site. So in other words this was not a job I applied for, this was someone spontaneously reaching out to me. The recruiter asked if I could do a phone interview the next day, as they were on a tight deadline to staff up a contract, and I said sure. I assumed that, much like my last round of interviews, this would be the pre-screening with a follow-up face-to-face interview set up by the end of it. However, it turned out that I was calling the CEO of the company and she was testing the waters of acceptable parameters for a verbal job offer by the end of the conversation. She told me a written job offer would follow via e-mail.

Now, this would be me jumping from a huge government contracting firm to a smaller government contracting company. I wouldn't be leaving behind the whole cycle of living and dying by the governments whims of awarding work, and it would be a lateral move salary-wise as well. But at a certain point it would be better to be hired by a company just about to start a new contract than to be hanging on by a thread here on my current about-to-expire contract, if only for a temporary easing of paycheck anxiety. Plus there were various other factors of minor appeal, like getting in on the ground floor of a young company and potentially more upside down the longterm road, &c. &c.

None of that was the surreal stuff. That would be the fact that the CEO called me back that evening to double-check my security clearance, something which I had been upfront about in our phone interview but which suddenly, six hours later, was a cause for concern. (Basically I am about mid-level in the clearance hierarchy and they wanted someone a level or so higher than that. No reason I couldn't clear to the next level if they sponsored me through the process, but they wanted someone who was already there on day one. Fair enough, and not really something I have any control over whatsoever. I'm as cleared as my job requires me to be because that's what my employer has sponsored me for because that's how these things work.) When I had gotten off the phone the first time I was under the impression that the written job offer would be coming within minutes and I would need to accept it asap so that the CEO could complete her own contract bid, which was due that day by COB. But the offer didn't come that day at all, then there was the awkward follow-up call, and no written offer nor any more calls nor anything on Friday, and then it was the weekend, and now it's Monday and I feel like the whole verbal job offer was just some fever dream I had last week. I was already a little uncomfortable with the high pressure to accept a job offer without so much as sleeping on it, and then it all apparently fell apart anyway. I may never hear from that CEO again, but if I do, I don't know how much of a red flag I should take all this as. If I get laid off and then hear from the CEO, surely I'd take any job offer as better than unemployment. But if I heard from her in the next 15 minutes, I just don't know.

So that's the holding pattern, as always. Every time I think things might move or change, they manage to turn around back to the starting point again. It would be comforting if it weren't so annoying.

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