How to move from the public sector to a commercial role

Written by: Harriet Allan
Published on: 18 Jul 2018

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Harriet Allan, senior consultant at Penguin Recruitment, offers tips for planners thinking of moving from the public sector to a private company.

Here at Penguin we place planners from the public sector into private companies frequently. So how do you do it?

Firstly, do your research!

Is moving sectors the right move for you? Speak to your contacts in the private sector and research consultancies in depth to make sure you know what a private role will involve and most importantly that it’s what you want to do. 

Tailor your CV

Once you’re sure it’s a move you want to make the first step is tailoring your CV:

  • Include a detailed statement at the top of your CV clearly explaining why you want to move and why you believe the private sector is the direction you want your career to go in. 
  • Highlight any transferable skills such as project management, staff development or strong communication skills.

Start your job search

Once you’re happy with your CV, it’s time to start the job search! This could be a different process to what you’re used to. Public sector organisations tend to advertise every role, so they typically ask for a completed application form and CV to be submitted directly through their websites.  On the other hand, private sector firms will typically use online job boards or a specialist recruiter, such as Penguin Recruitment. 

Here are some tips to help you on your way:

  • Research the company you’re applying for in depth - would like to work for them? Make sure their values and work environment match with what you’re looking for before applying.
  • Attend industry events to build up your contact list in the private sector and open doors for career opportunities, as well as to register with a specialist agency. This is particularly useful in the private sector where recruitment is largely achieved by speculative applications or networking. 

Speak to specialist recruiters as they have a strong knowledge of the sector and will be able to advise you on consultancies and roles that suit your requirements.

Prepare for interview

Hopefully after all this you will be through to interview stage. So how do you set yourself apart from other candidates, especially those who have corporate experience?

  • The reality is that the private sector has a strong focus on its commercial acumen, so make sure you highlight examples where you’ve hit and gone above targets or goals that have resulted in a positive financial impact.
  • Be yourself! I know this is a common piece of advice but all decision makers want to work with someone they can get along with. Skills can be taught or developed while personality can’t, so make sure you show your communication skills.
  • Highlight your desire to work in the private sector and why you think it would be a good move for you. 

Penguin Recruitment is currently recruiting for a variety of planning roles across the private and public sectors. 

Explore planning career opportunities with Penguin Recruitment