Walk the line

When switching sectors, whatever direction, best to take stock of your abilities and goals and go for positions that are realistically available, says Simon North

The line between public and private sector management is blurring. The number of managers crossing the great divide is rising due to reasons such as pay, culture, circumstance or just plain curiosity.

Whether you're looking to go private from public, or vice versa, the first step is to assess the options (realistically) available.

What will the experience and strengths gained in your current sector allow you to do? For instance, a social work manager in an older people's team could make the transition to a management position in a private care home.

Kathy* was a senior supervisor in such a social work team when she came to Position Ignition for guidance. With more than seven years in the role, she felt trapped in a rut.

Kathy reflected on how she could best use her skills and knowledge in the private sector. She was also realistic about what she had to do to be accepted into a private organisation.

This attitude led her to target positions a little lower in seniority. Kathy then went about matching her skills and experience to career ideas she found appealing.

Four months ago, she started work as an assistant supervisor at a private lunch and leisure club for the over-65s. Although the contrast between the different organisations' objectives is sharp, Kathy eventually found scope for skills transferability. In both positions, her main focus is the management of people.

In the social work team, she monitored her team's cases and conducted case reviews with her subordinates. Now she co-ordinates volunteers and offers support and supervision to members of staff assigned to individual patrons of the club.

Paul* had already made the move in the other direction – from private to public – when he approached Position Ignition for support in building his new career.

Going from bank management to the civil service was a shock to the system. The main challenge encountered was that of adapting to the culture of interdepartmental politics.

Having to fight harder for a lesser budget and friction within the chain of command were just two of the scenarios Paul felt overwhelmed by.

Paul didn't discard his previous understanding of negotiation and communication. Instead he adapted and honed his existing skills to fit with his new environment. By being open with his colleagues, making useful connections, and listening to what was going on around him he built relationships that led to successful outcomes.

He is now cementing his long-term commitment to the service by taking on advanced responsibilities and becoming more involved in his department.

The opportunity to switch sectors at this level is a really interesting one to be presented with. With the right mindset and support network, it is a transition that can be managed not just successfully, but enjoyably too.

*Names have been changed

Simon North is founder of careers advisory firm Position Ignition

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