With even more drastic austerity cuts on the horizon we’ll see more public sector professional making the transition into the private sector. The biggest hurdle they’ll encounter is probably perception. It’s got to be accepted that many private sector managers and business owners perceive feel public sector people as second rate. Cozy life. No targets. No accountability. Slow-moving. Big budgets.

Now, we know that’s not the case – we’ve seen it work often – but perception is often reality so candidates have to use their CV to challenge that perception enough to get an interview and secure an opportunity to switch poor perception into a positive reality.

How can this be done?

  1. Give them some numbers. Many great things are achieved in public sector organisations – delivering notable positive outcomes with few resources with multiple stakeholders. So quantify your achievements. Show what was delivered in real numbers and highlight the real barriers you overcame.
  1. Skills and abilities. The people I know who have delivered in the public sector exhibit a real ability to effect change; are resourceful; are mediators and negotiators; show determination to get things done and overcome barriers; and are passionate about what they do. What employer wouldn’t like this? Articulate this in your personal profile and in your skills summary.
  1. Know your audience: Use business language and avoid public sector jargon. Budgets, objectives, strategy, IMG_2552P&L are applied on both sides of the virtual ‘fence.’
  1. Show understanding. Counter the ‘public sector people don’t know business’ by writing a covering letter that applies your skills, abilities and achievements to the needs of the role and the company. Show you’ve done your research and that you understand what the company does and where and how they operate. If you’ve worked with private sector organisations as part of your public sector role it’s worth noting this in your CV.
  1. Be upfront. Sometimes you have to face things head on. If you think your background and skills will work against you in overcoming those private sector perceptions then state you recognise the differences and overtly highlight your transferable skills and experience. Show your commitment and your desire to make it work. We’re not usually advocates of giving time away free but how about offering to spend some pro bono time familiarising yourself with the business and the team before you start?

Whether it’s right or wrong, at Ten2Two we’ve seen this issue many times. If you’re serious about making the change you have to do everything you can to overcome perceptions and be considered as a serious candidate.

In fact, every candidate should be conscious of overcoming employer perceptions but that’s the subject of another blog!

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