How IT Candidates Get Noticed – Part 1: Events Reshaping the Government Contracting Work-force

January 31, 2014

In the current era of increasing competition for interesting IT work in the government contracting industry, candidates need to set themselves apart from their peers. There are many ways to make yourself stand out in the crowd and gain the attention of a recruiter, which will be detailed in part 2 of this series.  Below I will summarize the new confluence of events which is reshaping the industry and its contractor work force.

  • The embrace of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) has cut licensing costs, and increased the flow of new technologies into the government.
  • While industry in general has raised expectations that technologies will have shorter lifecycles (gone are the days where any component of a solution stack is expected to last throughout the life of the system), customers are less interested with depth of experience in a limited number of technologies, and are seeking out ‘early adopters’ who have exposure to a wider array of tools.
  • Budget cuts are here to stay: whether from sequestration, Continuing Resolutions, or the winding down of OCONUS activities. The “renegotiations” and rate reductions of the past year are unprecedented in the post 9/11 federal marketplace, and it is doubtful that this trend will be reversed anytime soon.
  • In short, the availability of low cost technologies with shorter lifespans reduces the emphasis on experience. Coupled with shrinking budgets, we are moving into an era of contraction (of budgets and work) and compression (of the workforce). The government is betting that fewer people with less experience will be able to get the job done.
  • As a recruiter who has been in the industry since the end of the “.com bubble” it appears to me that the pendulum of big budgets funding huge programs and rewarding longevity in the field is quickly swinging to smaller projects with a wider array of technologies used by less experienced staff.

While IT professionals supporting government initiatives have been nearly guaranteed employment in the past decade, the current landscape has a relative cumulative increase in the supply of talent and a decrease in overall demand. This is not the first time that there has been an imbalance between specific skills and overall budgets, with a relative surplus of legacy skills and a smaller need to maintain the systems that rely on them. Historically, as new technologies emerge and get adopted, technologists who do not adapt and embrace the new capabilities get displaced. In time, many come up to speed with the new tools and excel, but their ability to learn and push themselves out of their comfort zones is crucial to continuing a successful technical career.

CollabraSpace has stayed strong through all of this because of the solid reputation of our team members and our organization.  Our culture and commitment to training has meant that our staff is well placed to take advantage of the changing landscape. In truth, good opportunities persist for the right companies, their employees and their candidates even in this environment.

In the next installment, I will give more insight to candidates about how to stand out in a newly competitive government contracting industry.

 

David Schwartz

Senior Technical Recruiter

One Response to “How IT Candidates Get Noticed – Part 1: Events Reshaping the Government Contracting Work-force”

  1. David,

    I must admit that I am one of those with a depth of experience and consequently bring little of interest to the table, anymore. I have been living what your words describe.
    My decades of experience as a software developer has found me quite secluded and mostly electronically disconnected from the outside world as a part of doing my job. This scenario usually lasts for periods of years depending on the contract.
    Finally, upon emerging one realizes how much has changed. How quickly obsolescence has blanketed their skill sets; yet there really was no opportunity to stay current with the latest development technologies. When one returns to the company of employment having been embedded with the customer for years then one is not recognized by the latest tier of management to have recently arrived.
    One is given a time frame to find something on their own within the company and is encouraged to start looking outside the company for employment.
    So yes, much has changed within the government contracting arena. There is the opportunity for temporary employment but not much more.
    It is no longer about a career. It is about a billet on a contract which has a lifespan.
    Companies in this business are well aware of the rapidly changing boundaries which define the industry and adapt to survive. As such these companies become revolving doors for employees hired in for the most recent contract while those recently released have no job to look forward to with their current employer.

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