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Public vs. Private Sector Jobs – Is the Grass Really Greener?

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Public vs. Private Sector Jobs – Is the Grass Really Greener?

As a consultant in the interim, internal communications recruitment practice, I have met and talked to my fair share of candidates who have strategically taken different career paths and a regular topic of conversation is making the move between the public and private sector.

With the job market looking much brighter this year, candidates now have the confidence to gain different sector experience and make the leap typically from public to private sector working. The general assumption is that the grass is greener on the other side; there are good opportunities in the public sector for development and progression (flexible hours, childcare options, and better pension provision etc), however, the value of having corporate, sector experience, often with performance related pay is appealing. Why do communication professionals have 'sector envy’? Here are the common misconceptions:

  • The public sector is unstable and, due to budget cuts, opportunities are hard to come by

  • The private sector is cut throat, focussing on profit over people

  • It is better to learn your craft and hone your skills in the public sector than cash in by moving into the private sector later in your career

  • If you have private sector experience, you can walk into a role in the public sector with ease

  • Work-life balance is harder to achieve working in the private sector

  • Opportunities for flexible working in the public sector are greater

More money, progression, flexibility and autonomy are the key motivations for moving sectors. However, it is not always black and white. The distinction between the two sectors is now narrowing and in some industries, the relationship between private and public services is not mutually exclusive. In reality, both sectors are looking to increase efficiency and cut expenditure, resulting in opportunities across the board, just not in high volumes.

What does this mean for interim managers?

There is a growing demand for interim managers to be more target-oriented with specialist skills developed in a wide variety of environments and sectors. Interims can make the move between both sectors more easily than permanent workers, due to the variable nature of their work.

To make the move, it is as simple as making sure you are the right person for the job and you match the specifications and requirements needed.

Preferences are important, but we should steer clear of the broader discourse around public vs. private sector. The discussion should be around industry sectors (e.g. retail, pharmaceutical, transport, financial services) that interest you and the working structures within these industries, which should influence your decisions when progressing in your career.

The move between sectors in both directions is not impossible, but shouldn’t be done in haste. Think about what you will personally find rewarding and positively challenging, rather than what may or may not look good to future employers. VMA Group can help guide you along the right path and make useful recommendations about the challenges and opportunities you may face.

Jumping the fence for new opportunities is understandable and sometimes necessary for career progression, however, in most cases the grass is greener where you water it - jobs may appear greener on the other side, but the reality may not be as different as you hoped.

If you are interested in developing your career as an interim manager, find out more here. If you are interested in developing your career in Public Affairs, find out more here.