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Ask James Caan 20th January 2011

Written by Kimberley Startup | January 20, 2011 | 0 Comments

James Caan recruitment

This week, James Caan tackles events management, job hunting strategies and how to transition from the public to private sector in today’s economic climate.

He writes:

Given the current backdrop of austerity, this week I’d like to explore the difficulties facing public sector workers seeking employment in the private sector, and how to show a prospective employer your value.

Take Cynthia’s question:

‘I am an Events Manager for a public sector organization. I am currently looking for a new role in events within the private sector without much success. I have been to a few interviews and the feedback I generally get back from them is that I do not have commercial private sector experience. Are there any practical tips on what I can do to convey to interviewers that I can adapt and deliver in a commercial private sector setting?

‘Also, are there any specific tools/ways of transitioning from the public to the private sector particularly in the events field?’

Fears are growing that the public sector will lose its star performers to the private sector, following news of cuts, mass redundancies and pay freezes. But how different will it be for these talented individuals, will ability triumph industry experience? And will the move into new markets be a seamless one?

Cynthia, as you will be aware, events management is incredibly fast-paced and requires people who thrive under pressure, are tremendously organised and possess exceptional planning skills. It also relies heavily on networking.

Considering you already operate at management level, I can imagine it’s frustrating to find out that your expertise doesn’t pull through to the private sector.

The private sector requires candidates with much more specific skill sets and targeted experience. It can also prove to be a very different business climate – working hours are longer, holidays are shorter. Businesses operate with much caution thanks to the recession; you need to show how you can help them to deliver more for less.

Let’s look at your job searching strategy to identify how to get across any issues a private sector employer may have.

Firstly, it’s a great sign to see that you have been securing interviews. This immediately tells me your CV is working for you, therefore it may be your interview technique that needs re-focusing or perhaps the kind of companies you’re applying to.

Have you honed your job seeking efforts to private sector clients exclusively? What company size have you been targeting, and do these businesses offer a similar working environment to yours to be able to transfer your skills effectively?

I’d try adopting a different approach to your interview technique. We know that the private sector keeps a firm eye on costs – why not show what value you can deliver with, for example, your negotiating skills? And, if your management experience isn’t opening any channels, I’d use your networking skills to your advantage. After all, sometimes it is not what you know, but who you know.

Don’t go into an interview with the aim of being the perfect candidate – just make sure you’re better than the competition. If it means going the extra mile on current projects to gain new expertise, attending networking events to build contacts or gaining some exposure (paid or not) within their industry – give yourself the edge.

If your lack of private sector experience is working against you, consider looking at charities, higher education establishments or member-led organisations. Their internal structures, stakeholders and organisational objectives may be similar to those you are currently work with.

Best wishes,


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