Going private: challenges when making the move from the public sector


public and private signsIn recent years, public sector opportunities have decreased significantly and hundreds of thousands of public sector employees have been laid off as a result of the government’s austerity programme. More employees than ever are moving from the public sector to the private sector. Such a move can be incredibly daunting, and jobseekers face many challenges during this transition. Renovo’s career coaches have found that many individuals struggle to overcome these obstacles. We explore the major challenges that public to private sector workers should expect, and how they can overcome them.

#1: Becoming more commercial

Although the gulf between public and private sector mind-sets appears to be narrowing, there’s undoubtedly still a significant difference between the short term mind-set of the majority of profit seeking companies and the longer-term approach taken in the public sector. Profit is the key – and it may be a challenge for public sector employees to show private sector employers that they can help achieve it.

Solution: During the application process, focus on occasions where you’ve met targets or achieved goals that have had a financial impact.

#2: Identifying transferable skills

In many cases, private sector equivalents of public sector roles simply don’t exist, so instead you should concentrate on your transferable skills. It can be a challenge for public sector workers to take a step back and identify their transferable skills, given that their roles are often so specific. Additionally, selling these skills in terms of the value they can add to a company is often unfamiliar territory for many public sector workers.

Solution: Talk to people you have worked with to help you reflect on the duties and projects you have undertaken in previous roles. They’ll help you to identify many of your strengths and transferable skills that you can articulate in future applications.

#3: Fear of the unknown

Your first role in the private sector will certainly be daunting – you’ll be entering a work environment with a different mind-set and a brand new role. You may be unsure what to expect, and worry that you won’t share the company’s values.

Solution: Do your research. Search for companies whose values align with your own, and speak to people within your network who are currently working for a private sector company to get a better understanding of what’s involved.

#4: Using different language

All public sector workers learn their fair share of jargon. When you’ve spent years using this language at work, it’s a challenge to drop it. The private sector won’t use the same language as your past roles, and public sector jargon could be met with annoyance, amusement or incomprehension by your new private sector colleagues.

Solution: Research companies thoroughly and learn relevant jargon before you apply for any vacancies there. This demonstrates your awareness of their requirements.

#5: A different type of job seeking

In the private sector, the majority of new jobs aren’t advertised at all – they’re filled by speculative applications and through networking. This can be a huge challenge for public sector workers to overcome, as you may not have a significant network outside of the public sector.

Solution: Job search proactively. Make connections on LinkedIn, send speculative applications and chase up applications over the phone. Remember that job opportunities are attached to people.

Are you ‘going private’ for the first time? Renovo’s career coaches can help you make the transition as smoothly as possible.

Renovo is one of the UK’s leading providers of outplacement and career transition support. We work with both organisations and individuals to support all their career transition requirements. If you would like to understand how Renovo can help you please call 0800 612 2011 or email info@renovo.co.uk

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