When looking for employment opportunities, one question often posed is whether to seek a position in the government or private sector. The decision ultimately depends on many variants as well as demographics and priorities.
It is a long, thought-out decision for many. So much so that an entire discussion took place on Quora – vis-à-vis the Indian community – on this subject. This indicated that some people find it very difficult to make the switch.
Despite these difficulties, many make this switch quite successfully. For example, consider Sheryl Corrigan, who in 2006 worked for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency as Commissioner, advising the governor and assisting the strategic direction for the state on environmental matters. Today, Sheryl is Senior Vice President of Environmental, Health and Safety at Koch Industries.
How do Ms. Corrigan and others accomplish this difficult feat? In 2012, Elizabeth Bacchus wrote an article in The Guardian entitled ‘How to successfully move from the public to the private sector.’ Given that at that time in the UK, it was predicted that a staggering 500,000 jobs in the public sector would be cut within 3 years of the article’s writing, people were looking for tips on how to make the switch.
The article outlined seven main areas on which people should focus for making the switch. These were:
- Taking a focused and targeted approach
- Removing public sector terminology
- When speaking to recruiters, seeing if they are adept at helping with this particular transition
- Using social media
- Tailoring a resume to focus on private sector positions
- Understanding that customers are different from service users
- Looking for a job that isn’t formally advertised
In an article written last year on Renovo.uk.com, it was determined that “the gulf between public and private sector mindsets appears to be narrowing.” Still though, what remains is “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.”
Further, as Dan Ovsey noted in an article in The Financial Post a couple of years ago, “While no hard data exists in Canada to show the success or failure rate of government workers transitioning to private-sector roles, international research shows there can be some harsh perceptions of public sector workers among private sector hiring managers.”
Thankfully for those in this position, things might be changing for the better overall, and people’s experiences differ when moving from government/public to the private sector for work. But it will take time to completely remove the stigma of how private sector employers view those who have been working in the public sector for most of their careers.