Pros: salary, benefits, some new facilities with advanced equipment, opportunity to serve country
Cons: strict hours, stress, constantly changing budgets/audits/goals/job expectations, aged facilities expected to meet current standards
Management inconsistent with employee development, job expectations, working hours, constantly changing organizational structure and job duties, mainly in response to crisis situations arising from audit findings and/or budget cuts. Many unpaid overtime hours required of salaried staff.
Security and safety mandates sometimes at cross-purposes with – more... each other and always with project goals and budget constraints. High level security requirements mean extensive background checks and daily commitment to clean living, attention to detail, dedication to nation's welfare and constantly at beck and call at all hours. Sacrifices are expected and made.
Audits and budgets are problematic because many facilities here are antique and well past their lifetime, especially any building associated with nuclear materials. No facility has been successfully built for substantial quantities of nuclear material for the past 35 years, largely due to Congress' gross inability to recognize this need and fund one, but also due to poor planning and ever-escalating estimates. This place is highly political.
I worked at the group with the highest level of disablity-retired employees due to stress-related illnesses. Our positions were so critical, we were denied any of the voluntary RIF separation packages when downsizing. Yet we were understaffed, overworked, underpaid, under-appreciated and badly used. Upper level management's not interested in exit interviews. A lot of lip service paid here.
Work achievements sometimes recognized but politically backfire in regards to co-worker interactions and/or loss of job position.
Just be sure to get a Scientist or R&D position, nothing lower, and stay away from engineering, project management, quality assurance, nuclear safeguards, or accounting divisions. If you're in any kind of supporting position, you feel the crunch - constantly. Support positions are all about taking care of problems behind the scenes, letting the technical folks shine and be unbothered by trivia.
Also be sure to negotiate highest salary upon job offer as raises are inconsistent over time and across employee/division/job position lines. And it's difficult to ascertain salaries to assure equitable distributions are made. The Lab has lost 2 past court cases where they were found to pay women lower across the board as compared to men. The gender gap is alive and well here.
Work/life issues/parental leave/part-time hours with respect to family are regarded as women's issue only and is expected and supported, as long as you're female. For males, such career limitations are not tolerated and have led to job loss. And although grievance process is fair and equitable, in the event of the Lab proven to be in the wrong, no power may reinstate an unfairly fired employee. (And black-balling said employees from re-hire is alive and well, in many more than our case in point.)
Some managers great, others not. Your job security and overall satisfaction depend on them. Recognize that and suck up accordingly.
Also be sure any FMLA leave is accurate - HR has miscalculated employee hours, wrongly denying FMLA requests, whereupon managers have immediately demoted employees while they're proven to be, and supposedly protected under, legal FMLA. Of course job security at that point is nil. This is a separate employee from above case. Again, all depends on who your manager is and how well they think of you, regardless of your performance or how highly it was last rated (even by them!)
Good luck and happy job hunting! – less