The selection of a doctoral program: it's not quite marriage, but it's a long-term commitment that could turn into a lifetime relationship, perhaps impacting—positively or negatively—the rest of your research career.
Collectively, the US government is the largest single employer in America, filling approximately 1.6 million full-time, permanent positions; however, in reality, the US government consists of several hundred smaller employers, each of which has its own individual function and culture. As a result, the opportunities offered by government jobs are wide ranging, and the needs are diverse.
In the idealized career path, a scientist goes straight from earning an undergraduate degree to graduate school, and then on to a postdoc and eventual employment, without breaks between positions. For various reasons, however, not all scientists' career paths are nearly so linear.
You've reached a career milestone: managing your own lab. This recognition of your achievements attests to your hard work, attention to detail, commitment to a goal—and outstanding science. But be prepared. You're about to face challenges you may not have considered.