How to move from the public to the private sector

08 Jan 2014
Reference: Abintegro; HRzone; The Guardian; Public Finance

With the huge increase in public sector spending cuts and the threat of around a million lost jobs in the public sector by 2018, many public sector workers are understandably trying to make a move into the private sector. 

It is a move that is widely considered to be a difficult one to make as the primary goal of the organisations are very different: the public sector’s focus is often about doing something to improve the lives of others, caring about the customer as an individual, e.g. a tenant in a housing association or a student in a university or a college; the private sector focus is on profit and development of the company, usually with customer service being a means to those ends.

Benefits may also vary greatly: final pension schemes, holiday and sickness entitlement are all likely to be better in the public sector, but the private sector may offer greater financial rewards linked to achievement.

The first step towards making the move is assessing your own skills, achievements and strengths. Look at all the experience you’ve gained, analysing the skills and competencies required to fulfil a given job or role. Work out what your transferable skills are and think about how they could be applied to a new environment.

Then you need to research the industries and companies that you think you might like to move into. Read about them online, in the quality press, follow them on social media and communicate with them. It’s also a good idea to keep in touch with colleagues who leave to maximise your networking opportunities. You could also talk to your suppliers that also serve the private sector. Exploit all your contacts.

When you know who you want to target, look very carefully at the language they are using in the job advertisements. Use the same language in your CV and applications and avoid using terminology that’s specific to the public sector. Package up and sell your achievements: you may not be able to talk about making a profit, but you can probably talk about achieving a cost saving or getting better value for money. Your skills and achievements, such as project management skills, the ability to formulate policy or to handle difficult clients, will be as relevant to the private sector as they were in the public sector – you just need to present them in language that makes sense to a private sector employer. Don’t forget to include the skills you gained outside of the workplace as well.

Before an interview check their website and Google press stories about them and be prepared to answer questions about teamwork, being profit-driven, competitive and fast-paced. Remember that in the private sector your performance is likely to be judged much more individually so make sure you can give specific examples about the outcomes you achieved and the benefits you created for an individual or an organisation.

For more information call Claire or Margaret on 07771 332204