Knowing your reinvention from public service can be difficult also know it is controllable when armed with the knowledge that private professional certifications/education and government security clearances are a value add, and as important is your ability to network, know where to look for open positions, ensure your resume is business focused, realize that both interviews and the process are different, there are areas to negotiate beyond salary alone, reach out to others who have entered private industry for advice, and your work day will have a different feel that you need to prepare for to succeed.
Planning for a career transition from public service retirement to private industry requires your reinvention of what will make you a more attractive candidate and a value add to companies looking for future employees who are both loyal and capable. Your success as a public servant is translatable to private industry – ensure you are ready by considering the following:
Professional Certifications/Additional Education
Most likely you have been involved, supervised or led projects and programs throughout your career, but do you have a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification? If you are involved in network or cyber security operations, do you have certifications in A+, Network+, Security + or are you a Computer Information Security System Professional (CISSP)? If you have administrative experience do you have a Professional Human Resources (PHR) or Strategic Professional Human Resources (SPHR) certification? You may have the operational experience and skills but you will need a professional certification to be competitive in private industry. During your career you may have been involved in acquisitions, contract review or personnel human resources. Did you acquire any internal public service certificates that will enable you to get to the next level of an external professional certification? Professional certifications are valued by performance based businesses that direct bill to their clients and are the backbone of private industry. Have you acquired or do you need additional education that can be leveraged to be more competitive?
Your security clearance has monetary value in private industry. If you have it – Maintain it. Insure your reinvestigation is complete.
It’s important to maintain a network of your trusted friends within local, State and federal public service agencies that have entered private industry as well as expand your networking beyond those trusted friends. Join professional associations, establish a LinkedIn account, attend professional networking functions/events, volunteer at non-profit associations, establish relationships with recruiters – simply make as many connections in as many private industry spaces as you can. Making connections, professionally and socially is a key discriminator in people knowing you are looking and having something to offer. You understand and know the benefits of building rapport – start now to strengthen your networking skills.
Job Boards, Job Fairs and Recruiters
Identify and attend job fairs, especially those that are searching for job candidates with security clearances and/or a public safety background. Learn from the hiring managers who are present what capabilities/credentials they are looking for? Review job boards, and learn how to use job board aggregators and the techniques to get job leads emailed to you directly. Establish relationships with recruiters who can contact you when opportunities arise.
Many of you may have not yet written a corporate resume and some of you may have been like me and tried to create a complete summary of my career accomplishments that spanned 20 pages. Unfortunately, the people that read resumes typically get hundreds of them and they only take 7 seconds to review to determine if you have the skills for the positions they are hiring for. Writing a resume the right way and including the right information will be critically important. And it must be less than 2 pages max!
Congratulations! If you are going on an interview it means you are generally qualified for the position! The interview process is how companies determine which candidate is the MOST qualified for the job. They are drilling down on the depth and breadth of your experience as compared to other candidates as well as determining your personality and cultural fit within their team and the company. This is a weeding out process and there are tricks to stay on the shortlist and make it to the finish line. There are typically 3 or more interviews before a decision and there are multiple interviewers. Some companies do personality or skills assessments as well to ensure there is an organizational and cultural fit.
In your public service career, your salary, vacation and benefits are predetermined. Not negotiable. But in industry how well you negotiate your first compensation package can be a hallmark on how you are compensated going forward. In industry there can be many variables to negotiate including title, basic salary, bonus structure, vacation, stock options – the list goes on. Employers expect to negotiate salary and other benefits. Not everything is open to negotiation. It depends on the company, their compensation policies and the level of the role you are being considered for. The reality is that a company’s success is dependent on their controlling costs so they typically won’t offer a penny more than they think they have to – to make a hire. The first offer will typically be fair but not the highest they can go. The candidate must make a case to negotiate a better offer. Always remember the value of a security clearance and your experiences, and, should an employer refer to your retirement salary – never allow the monies you earned for your public service career become a pawn in the employers counter negotiations.
A Day In The Life
Your new career is going to be different. Different culture, mission, job responsibilities, cast of characters including boss (es) and now CLIENTS, commute, processes, etc. The leadership and teamwork traits that you have fine-tuned in your public service career are desired, valuable and critical to private industry, especially how they can affect performance within a company. Companies value good employees, especially those that contribute to either top line growth or bottom line savings.
Ask or Look for Assistance
There are others who have gone before you, some successful, some not. Seek out both and learn from their mistakes and successes. Yes, there are companies that can provide direction and assistance, but the most important step is recognizing you need to prepare and invest the time, energy and enthusiasm into your transitional career as you did when you transitioned from your former position before becoming part of your current organization.
Change is hard. You need to be resilient in your efforts to transition to your next career. It requires you to think “reinvention,” expand your capabilities and your network, and remember, “It’s Only the Beginning…” of your next chapter.