This post is concerned with the particular issues faced by those moving between public and private sectors when completing their CV.
I’m going to comment on language, confidentiality, competencies and references.
A recent post here set out the reasons why public sector jargon needs to be avoided in CVs and job interviews. Keep your language clear and simple. When in doubt ask a non-public sector friend to read it and give you honest advice on clarity.
Some public sector staff work in areas where the issues of confidentiality are real and significant. But in all honesty most do not! If you do, there will be clear guidance available. You should consult your HR department about what you can say and how best to overcome the barriers to you getting a new role.
Most public sector staff do not work under the same restrictions. The reality is that you can record on your CV the kind of work you have been doing. Of course you should avoid information; under a security classification, relating to an individual member of the public or a fellow staff member, likely to embarrass the organisation or Government Minister for which you have worked.
Most people will be able to describe their work in sufficient detail for a CV. But see the comments made in the next section about how you do it.
In my last post I included a list of skills and personal qualities (competencies) that employers are likely to look for. The list was by no means an exhaustive.
When you complete your employment history, try to show how your approach and your achievements demonstrate the competencies you quote.
For example, putting together a team and then driving through an initiative to improve the service to customers while reducing costs illustrates a number of competencies. It can be understood quite easily by those outside the public sector.
Experience of project and programme management again can be understood outside the public sector and can be used to illustrate planning, organizing and delivering benefits when applying for roles in small to medium-sized organizations that do not have large projects for you to manage.
Those who have worked very close to Ministers managing legislation have had to use planning and organizing skills. They are also likely to have demonstrated tact and discretion. If you have worked in difficult and sensitive areas including policy discussions with Ministers (where influencing skills, relationship management, tact and discretion were needed, as well as the ability to be flexible and adaptable) this should be included but with discretion.
Think in terms of the competencies as you write descriptions of the work you have done. Think in terms of organisations, tasks, problems solved and people influenced. Describe the tasks you have completed in terms that others will understand and focus on what you delivered and how you delivered.
Some government departments will only offer bland references as your employer. You will need their reference. But it may only be a confirmation that you worked for them in a particular grade over a particular period of time.
Most large private sector employers know this – for others you may have to explain. But you will need something more. Try asking your line manager or someone in your management line if they would be prepared to give you a personal reference. Also consider approaching retired senior colleagues and others who have left organisation.
It helps as well if you can provide a personal referee who holds a senior position in the private sector. This is where people you have met during work in a voluntary capacity may be useful. Otherwise, consider people who you have met through clubs and associations.
You shouldn’t feel embarrassed about asking for a reference, most people feel flattered to be asked But you should always give people the opportunity to say no and make quite clear that you will understand if they feel they simply don’t know you well enough to help.
I would welcome your thoughts on all this and I am very happy to answer questions.
- Writing your CV! Part 1 The Basics (leavingthepublicsector.net)
- Writing your CV! Part 2 Making Choices (leavingthepublicsector.net)
- Watch your language – it’s a different world out there! (leavingthepublicsector.net)