Senior Businesswoman

Your Next Career Chapter

By: Kathy Lavinder

Published: August 2020
All transitions can be daunting; none more so than transitioning from the public sector to the private sector. Most people inherently understand that government agencies and for-profit businesses have different agendas, goals, cultures, and expectations. Just how different those are will come into clear focus as you begin your post-government job search.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. You know people. You have sources of information, guidance, and support from former colleagues and supervisors, as well as friends and family. It’s useful to consider them as your unofficial guides through this process. If enough people make the same points, consider those reliable, and factor their guidance into your actions and decision-making.
  2. Your network can lead you to opportunities, but never ask anyone to find you a job. You should leverage your network to learn who is hiring, which employers regularly hire from certain government agencies, and which organizations you might want to avoid.
  3. Learn what private sector organizations are looking for, in order to determine what you can bring for their benefit. You can do this by talking with people in places you would like to work, as well as by studying job descriptions. 
  4. Maximize your reach into desirable organizations by leveraging LinkedIn and Indeed. Communicate transferable skills and experience in your LinkedIn profile and the resume you post via Indeed. Link up with affinity groups on LinkedIn where people from your former agency gather, share information, and post jobs.
  5. Do online research and tap your network to learn about the culture of organizations you are targeting. Bookmark for insider information on employers. When it comes to success in a new environment and role, cultural fit is just as important as skills and experience fit.
  6. Anticipate an emphasis on efficiencies and accountability. Most private sector organizations do not tolerate underperforming employees. Most likely, you will be an “at-will” employee, so tenure and union protections will not be there to provide cover.
  7. Every organization will be screening for adaptability and flexibility. Have examples at the ready that prove you are both.
  8. Seek career coaching if you need help with interviewing or messaging your value proposition for a potential employer.
  9. Learn how to use Applicant Tracking Systems. You cannot game ATS systems, but certain formatting tricks can help your resume get through the initial ATS review.
  10. Always have a good attitude and bring good manners to the process. Both pay dividends.

Kathy Lavinder is the founder of Security & Investigative Placement Consultants, a niche executive search firm. SI Placement serves as a trusted advisor for employers hiring critical personnel.