Are you jumping ship from public sector to private enterprise … how does this make you feel? Apprehensive? Scared? Uncertain? Interested? I have recently made this transition and although it was overwhelming and daunting at times, it has also been very exciting and I cannot tell you how happy I am that I took a chance and made the move! Jobseekers who are contemplating making the change should be aware the challenges that lay ahead and consider the following factors:

The concept of being commercial

Without a doubt, there is a substantial difference between a commercial, profit seeking company and the public sector with its bureaucratic restrictions. It can be quite a culture shock moving from the government, with extensive layers of ‘gatekeepers’ and the often prolonged and drawn out decision making process, to the fast-paced, business orientated focus of a commercial company.

For private businesses profit is the key, and it can be challenge for public sector employers to demonstrate to potential employers their ability to work within this type of environment. To meet this requirement during the application process it is important to highlight instances where you have meet targets or achieved goals – especially those that have had a positive financial impact.

Awareness of the importance of profits and financial responsibility is critical as within the private sector employees’ primary objectives are focused around financial performance and productivity. This is usually not the case in the government environment and those who are unaccustomed to this may find this method of working more stressful and the working environment more intense.


Fear of the unknown 

Your first role in the private sector will certainly be somewhat intimidating – you will be entering a new work environment with a different culture, mind-set and in a brand-new position/role. You may be uncertain what to expect and worry that you will not share the company’s values.

Do your research. Search for companies who have similar values to yourself. Talk to people within your network who are currently working in the private sector to obtain a deeper understanding of what is                                                                                             involved.

Recognising transferable skills

For the majority of cases, private sector equivalents of public sector roles just do not exist, so instead you should put an emphasis on your transferrable skills. It can be challenging at times to take a step back and identify your transferable skills, given that roles within the government can be very specific. Selling and portraying these skills in terms of the value they can add to a company is often unfamiliar for many public-sector workers.

In saying this, have a chat to people you have worked with to help you reflect on the tasks, duties and responsibilities you have undertaken in previous roles. They can help you to pinpoint a variety of your strengths and transferable skills that you can articulate in future applications.

Using different terminology

Nearly all government positions require use of jargon, acronyms and slang, after a period of time its use becomes second nature. However, it is important to become aware of the language you use and to leave the government specific lingo behind along with your old position. Private enterprise will not use the same language and use of public sector terminology could be met with irritation, amusement or incomprehension by your new private sector colleagues.

Investigate and research the companies you are interested in working for and the type of language that is specific to their domain, and try to utilise this in your communications with them. This showcases your ability to communicate within their realm in an appropriate manner.

Ultimately, changing jobs is hard – transitioning between public and private sector is harder still … but, if you find you want to break free of the shackles of the public sector and dive into private enterprise the opportunities are limitless. I did it and never looked back, you can too!

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