With the public sector recently suffering from job cuts, pay freezes and limited recruitment and progression opportunities; there are a large number of candidates in the public sector looking to make the sometimes tricky transition over to the private sector.
For some individuals, this transition can be extremely challenging due to the different working environments between commercially-driven organisations and public sector institutions. Others will relish this change in environment and fit in very well but how do you overcome the stereotype that the two sectors are just too different when you are looking to make the move?
The first place to start is with your CV. Try to avoid using public sector terminology or focussing on areas that are not as relevant to a planning role in consultancy or a client-side role. For example, if you have been working for a council doing a mix of development management and enforcement work, private sector organisations will be attracted to your knowledge of the application process but not so much the pure enforcement side so try to reflect this by drawing their attention to these skills. Research the company you are targeting and look at the type of schemes they have been working on. If they do a lot of work in the residential sector, mention specific residential applications you have worked on, particularly if they are of a complex nature. If there is a job description, read it thoroughly and try to use the same language they use when describing your relevant experience in your CV. Training is also usually very good in the public sector so do emphasise this in your CV and show that you are up to date with CPD and include anyrelevant training courses you have completed.
A lot of roles will of course be advertised but organisations often recruit on the basis of seeing a good CV presented to them at an opportune time. As a public sector planner you may have had dealings with the firms you will want to be targeting for your job search. Use these contacts to your advantage when you are job searching and have a confidential discussion about any opportunities coming up for someone who knows their schemes and type of work. That is often a sensitive conversation to have which is where a good recruiter can help. Work with your recruiter to develop a target list of companies who will know you and of whom you have a good knowledge of their work. As experts in our field and an in depth understanding of our clients businesses, we can sell your transferrable skills and hopefully open up opportunities for an interview.
At an interview be aware that private sector organisations are not only looking for relevant experience and a competent planner but they are also looking for candidates with a commercial attitude, client facing qualities, good contacts and business development potential. With all this in mind, answer any concerns they have in these areas with pro-active answers. For example, as a public sector planner you would have limited opportunities to develop business but you will have good contacts in the area (e.g. a housebuilder that you have previously awarded planning permission to) they will be a good contact for you to try and develop into a client of your own. Before the interview, research the clients that your potential employer has and mention dealings you’ve had with them but also with clients you think they would want to develop. Make sure in any interview that you are fully prepared to give you the best chance of success (for more info on interview preparation see my previous article). Be aware, if you are lacking some of the key skills required, in order for the firm to give you the opportunity to join them develop these, they may need to reflect this in a financial offer so try to offer flexibility without dropping below your worth.
Finally, the gap between the public and private sector is actually a lot closer than many think. The privatisation of many public services has also encouraged a more enterprising culture. These partnerships are also often a good bridge environment for those looking to have more of a private sector steer on their experience. Use your skills gained in the public sector as a positive instead of allowing them to be seen as a disadvantage in the private sector.
For more advice or for a confidential discussion regarding your planning career, please contact Ruth Hoggett, Associate Director at Beach Baker Property Recruitment.