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Old 03-04-2019, 02:17 PM
 
Location: Arlington, VA
29 posts, read 9,629 times
Reputation: 61

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I have an employer (federal contractor) that hired me recently for a full-time job at the Pentagon as a custodian. I have a college degree, but have been in custodial employment since graduation due to onset of mental illness following graduation.

My dilemma (a good one to have after five months of unemployment) is that I also have very good chance of landing employment at Georgetown University following a panel interview 10 days ago. Like the feds, Georgetown is like a bureaucracy and it's taken me about 14 months to get anywhere with them. I'm still waiting to hear the outcome of employment decision there and have followed up with references and employee award for last position.

The third "iron in the fire" is TSA employment at Reagan National Airport. I have a contingent offer of employment from them, contingent on background check coming back clean. Benefits are solid at this job, but it would be more stressful than the others. I might bow out due to the fact that even thinking about the job stresses me out. I was offered the job because I passed the computer exam and met the minimum qualifications.

My dilemma is in choosing the right path and the order of operations in doing so. For example, I will probably be cleared to work at the Pentagon shortly, around the same time I might hear from Georgetown definitively about a position. All three of these positions are full-time with good benefits. The contractor, less so, but still medical care for free and sick leave. The main benefit with the contractor at the Pentagon is that they will sponsor me for top secret clearance so that I can clean other facilities in D.C. area, such as Boeing's new facility being prepared in D.C. I am pretty certain the only major thing that would hold me back from TS clearance for janitorial work would be the fact that I have a mental illness, that I am consistently treated for.

If I had a choice, I would choose the Georgetown University position, since it is an ideal working atmosphere, and I've always loved the university environment. GU offers free tuition benefits after one year of employment, and a pretty solid contribution match and retirement option. It will also look good on my resume. My main concern with GU is that unlike the contractor, it won't allow me to transfer my job out of the area. I'm not fond of the idea of remaining in DC past another five years. I'm 33 and I think this place will lose its charm after about that time, but I'm not sure. In any case, I can always use this experience to apply for positions outside D.C. and hopefully it will look good. I'd really like to get a graduate degree, even if it is pointless as a custodian. Maybe some day I can actually use my education to do something substantial as far as employment. It depends on the progression of my illness and symptoms. My doctor and therapist are doing everything they can to help me, and I'm in a really good place here as far as supports. Having a solid mental health support network and church network are pretty much the two things that MUST be in place for me to succeed. I'm also in the process of joining a Catholic parish that is loosely affiliated with GU, so I'm familiar with the Jesuit Catholic vibe. It seems to be a good match for this time in my life.

Based on the above information, do any of you have any advice as to how I should go about handling any potential offers? I feel very confident GU will come through, because my interview with the panel went well, and because they have over 15 open positions in the facilities department where I applied, not to mention I have the experience and the references they need to vet me. Competition is high for full-time Georgetown jobs, but I feel I did my best. TSA is probably too stressful.

What I do will depend on whether Pentagon clears me to work first, or if GU comes through with an offer first, but I think I would turn down the contractor at Pentagon to work for GU. The reason for the hesitancy is because the contractor would sponsor me for top secret clearance. My cousin works for NGA with a TS clearance, and he says that having that on your resume is like gold to employers here. I know I've been turned down for several jobs based on not having that.

I'd appreciate any advice. This is a crucial time in my career, and it's important I make the right decision and more importantly, stick to it.
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Old 03-04-2019, 05:22 PM
 
2,477 posts, read 704,890 times
Reputation: 3446
If you're going to be a custodian, why not apply for a job at a college elsewhere? Washington DC is EXPENSIVE to live in.

Yeah, you'll get less pay, but your cost of living will be significantly lower in a place like Kansas City or St. Louis or Phoenix. This means you'll have more money left after you pay your bills and you can enjoy life.

Same thing with TSA - apply, and select a location where the cost of living is low.

Remember, don't look at the top line (pay rate) - look at the bottom line (pay rate you earn minus your cost of living).
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Old 03-05-2019, 10:31 AM
 
3,798 posts, read 3,009,973 times
Reputation: 7616
Quote:
Originally Posted by bobsell View Post
If you're going to be a custodian, why not apply for a job at a college elsewhere? Washington DC is EXPENSIVE to live in.

Yeah, you'll get less pay, but your cost of living will be significantly lower in a place like Kansas City or St. Louis or Phoenix. This means you'll have more money left after you pay your bills and you can enjoy life.

Same thing with TSA - apply, and select a location where the cost of living is low.

Remember, don't look at the top line (pay rate) - look at the bottom line (pay rate you earn minus your cost of living).
While I would normally agree with you, in the OP's case, I would not suggest leaving behind the strong mental health support network and church community that he/she referenced. Treating and controlling the mental illness are crucial for job success and well-being, and relocating AND taking a new job is a whole lot for anyone, much less someone living with mental illness. It would not be wise.

OP, congratulations on these potential opportunities. One thing you didn't address is the commute. As someone who lived in the DC area for more than 35 years, I can attest that the commute is a significant factor. GU is in a different location from DCA and the Pentagon. How would these commutes be and would you drive or take Metro (which doesn't run to Georgetown)? I wouldn't suggest taking a job with a difficult commute. Good luck!
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Old 03-05-2019, 07:13 PM
 
2,477 posts, read 704,890 times
Reputation: 3446
Quote:
Originally Posted by CapsChick View Post
While I would normally agree with you, in the OP's case, I would not suggest leaving behind the strong mental health support network and church community that he/she referenced. Treating and controlling the mental illness are crucial for job success and well-being, and relocating AND taking a new job is a whole lot for anyone, much less someone living with mental illness. It would not be wise.
Washington DC area is seriously expensive to live in. I wonder how someone can make ends meet on a custodian's pay.

Bankruptcy is not good for anyone, much less for someone with mental illness.
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Old 03-06-2019, 02:56 PM
 
Location: Arlington, VA
29 posts, read 9,629 times
Reputation: 61
Hi guys. Thanks a lot. Especially to CapsChick. Job advice is generally pretty straight forward, but adding in mental illness can make it a tough equation. 80% of people who have mental illness do not work at all or simply volunteer. I'm fortunate to be among those who can hold down a custodian job.

Caps, I live in Arlington, 7 miles from GU campus. I don't have a car, and it takes about an hour to get to GU by public transit. A bus, to Metro, to DC Circulator which drops off near the campus. I don't think it would be wise to get a car with my salary of 28k a year. What saves me you guys is that I live in subsidized housing due to receiving mental health services from Arlington County (a very rich county) and I receive a little over $500 a month in rental money from the County. I live in a one bedroom duplex for $1223 a month. So, even living in Kansas City, I wouldn't be getting as good a deal as I'm getting here, living mere miles from the nation's political center. I did receive an offer from Georgetown, and I did end up choosing that job over TSA, simply because Georgetown is a way less stressful place to work and there is an employee wellness program that really focuses on taking care of you mentally, socially, and spiritually. As I'm Catholic, I feel it's a good environment for me to be in.

As CC said, mental health has to be priority number one in any decision in life for a person living with mental illness. I wrote that I think I should take part in GU's generous retirement matching program, but at 28k a year (housing is about 8k a year for me), I think contributing to retirement is pretty irresponsible at this point. I think if anything, it should go to savings in case something bad happens, because I still will have a tiny bit of cushion after expenses each month.

Last edited by thedreadedskyhook; 03-06-2019 at 03:57 PM..
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Old 03-07-2019, 06:40 AM
 
3,798 posts, read 3,009,973 times
Reputation: 7616
Good stuff. I did wonder whether the bus goes to Georgetown - I knew the rail didn't but I thought the bus might. The Georgetown job sounds like a great fit for you. Having savings is good, but if you can put a little away for retirement you won't regret it. That match is free money. There may be a waiting period to qualify for the retirement plan anyway, so you might see how your paychecks shake out and what you think you can do. Good luck!
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