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Ask James Caan – 21st June 2011 – Issue 52

Written by Kimberley Startup | June 21, 2011 | 0 Comments

James Caan RecruitmentThis week, James Caan, advises a public sector worker on how to bridge the gap and move into the private sector.

Dear Member,

This week I’m discussing a topic that I know will affect many of you – senior candidates and the challenges that lay ahead when making the leap from public to private sector employment.

Take this letter from Tom:

‘I have a successful work history in retail and hospitality. I have worked, mostly, for small or medium sized companies and well as being the director of my own new start-up retail business. In 2008 when the recession hit I started to work as a contractor for Government, working on policy and strategy for business. Almost 3 years later I am still working for Government, and doing very well, but I’m desperate to return to a private sector role.

‘I’ve had several interviews but am constantly overlooked, told my history is ‘too entrepreneurial’, ‘too niche’/ ‘too general’ or that I’ve been too long out of the industry. I see my new skills as a real asset, my experience as diverse and can demonstrate real creativity and results. I’m frustrated with recruiters who won’t look past the most recent role or dig into my real character.’

Tom, unfortunately, you are in a similar predicament to the thousands of public sector workers seeking alternative employment in light of the cuts being imposed.

According to the Office for National Statistics, public sector employment decreased by 24,000 in the first quarter of 2011, to 6.162 million. If you compare this to the promising activity that’s occurring within the private sector, especially with initiatives such as Start-Up Britain, it’s no wonder public sector workers are searching for something new.

Making the move from the private to public sector can be a difficult. Much work is needed in order to help public sector workers integrate into the private sector. One of the first steps should be challenging the way private sector businesses view the applications and skills of public sector workers.

With your vast experience, Tom, you will already understand the differences between the two sectors. You will know that private sector businesses foster a much different working environment: the hours are longer and the targets, in some cases, are much more strict. But the rewards can also be extremely lucrative, both personally and financially.

What strikes me about your situation, Tom, is that you’ve been described as ‘too entrepreneurial’ by private sector employers. I would have thought someone with your pedigree and mind set would be just what they were looking for!

From looking at your situation, one thing that may cause some confusion for a hiring manager is your new retail business. Whilst this is great news that you are embarking on starting your own company – could this be sending mixed messages  to a hiring manager viewing your CV?

This may be a reason why the recruitment consultants aren’t giving you a second look. Whilst your most recent public sector experience will of course play a big part in showing a recruiter what you can do, aim to sell yourself as an entire package. Decide what you could bring to the table by being selective with your experience – only relate pertinent experience to try and seal the deal.

Overall, your challenge is to present your experience in such a way that a prospective employer can ‘slot’ you into their company. Revisit your days in the private sector and try to remember what makes them ‘tick’. If you can do this, you’ll be on your way to finding your next opportunity.


James Caan

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