Chapter 5 – Contracting

Let’s see where we are on my timeline. Chapter 5 begins that part of my life when I began “renting” myself out for hire on an hourly contract basis, usually for one year at a time. Doing this kind of work is called “contracting”. Due to the short-term nature of some of the contracts, I moved a lot when I was contracting. Every year or two, I would take a job (new contract) in a new location.

Let’s see where my contracting jobs took me in this chapter. I began in South Carolina, then went to Tennessee, then to New Jersey, then to Maine, and finally to Louisiana.

So how does nuclear contracting work? Well, nuclear workers like myself have a unique set of skills that are developed over tens of years, and workers like us are NOT easy to find. So a special method for putting nuclear workers like me in touch with companies needing our services has developed over time. This is how it works.

A company that owns a nuclear power plant (the customer) needs some temporary workers (contract workers or contractors) for some fixed period of time, say one year. They tell another type of company called a headhunter (slang name) that they need bodies.

Historical note: Some primitive native tribes in the world collect their victims‘ heads, shrink them, and keep them as trophies of their kills. We call these shrunken heads. These types of tribes, we call headhunters. Today we have companies that “collect heads” of contract workers and supply them to customers for hire. We call these companies headhunters too but in a kinder, gentler way.

Ancient Headhunters

Modern Headhunters

The headhunter and the customer agree on an hourly pay rate for the contract workers being sought. The headhunter posts job openings in newspapers or on the Internet. I see the job posting and send the headhunter a copy of my resume (CV) and tell them I am interested in working and available for contract work. In other words, I am a contractor available for working under contract.

The headhunter sends my resume and those of other contractors to the customer. The customer selects the contract workers whose qualifications they like the most. If I am selected, the headhunter and I sign a piece of paper called a contract that describes where I will work, what I will do, how long I must do it, and how much I will be paid. Once we sign the contract, the headhunter tells me where and when to report for work. It is up to me to travel to the new location and report to work. I work for the customer doing whatever they need me to do. Since they pay me for the “use of my body,” we contract workers sometimes call ourselves “nuclear whores” because we sell our services to the highest bidder for money. The customer pays the headhunter a large amount of money per hour of my time, and the headhunter pays me a smaller amount of money per hour for my time and keeps the difference as their profit. When the contract is over, I am unemployed and have to go back home to wait for new work to turn up.

When I am ready to work again, I simply contact a headhunter and tell them I am available for hire as a contractor. I then sit around and watch sports on TV and drink beer (NOT) while they find me work. Nice arrangement, huh? Another nice thing about this arrangement is that once I have worked for a headhunter and they have my resume in their database, the next time they are looking for workers, they will call me and ask me if I am interested in Job X at Company Y for a time period of Z. We discuss price and if we agree, I sign a new contract and go to work again. So work finds me instead of me finding work!

So my contracting jobs took me from South Carolina to Tennessee to New Jersey to Maine to Louisiana. This process took about four to five years. Finally, in Louisiana, at the end of my contract there, they wanted someone to work for them permanently (what we call “in-house”). Once I took that job, my contracting days were over for a while, and my career turned the page to Chapter 6, Working In-house for a Nuclear Utility.

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