Career Advice

From Government to Private Sector Job: What You Need to Know

As a Professional Career Coach, I have coached over 400 professionals, primarily in the Washington, DC job market. Over 80 percent of my clients are federal government employees who desire more pay, innovative work or professional development. Most of them wish to leave their current job immediately and move rapidly into a new position. However, moving around in the federal government and networking with other industry leaders is no easy task. The federal hiring process can take three to six months to complete. On the other hand, in the private sector, most industry rock stars can find a new job in as little as two weeks.

Have you ever desired to make a career change from your federal government job to a private sector job?

Well, I did in 2013. Yes, I left my stable federal government job because I was unhappy and desired more for my Information Technology career.

The work environment was toxic, and I desired creative and innovative work. But I was scared, like most people, to even think about leaving my 14 years of federal government service behind. Honestly, I did not know where to begin, but I had to rebrand my career if I was going to consider working in the private sector — here’s how I pulled it off (and how you can, too).

1. Rebrand Yourself

During the holiday season of 2013, I was on vacation and I decided to revamp my resume. My old government resume had been branded to make me sound like a government industry expert. Instead, I rewrote my resume to sound more like a technology industry expert.

Research your industry’s trends and cutting-edge technologies, and then rebrand yourself as an expert based on what you love to do. I created job profile accounts, uploaded my newly revamped resume and played the waiting game. You can use Glassdoor to identify which companies would be a great fit for your personal brand and career brand.

2. Repurpose Your Education & Experience

I decided to evaluate my college education in Computer Science and my software development experience and use it to make my skills more applicable to companies like Microsoft, Intel and Amazon. When I created my job profile I added my college education, professional certifications and professional training courses to help me stand out.

It’s important to identify what government skills can easily be transferable to a private sector work environment. Also, if you have any professional certifications or professional training, you can utilize that knowledge to leverage yourself into a private sector position.

3. Rethink How You Network

While working in the federal government I found it very difficult to collaborate with other professionals at different agencies. I attended free events, online webinars and volunteer opportunities. I met leaders across the government, but it was very difficult for them to help me get a new job due to budget constraints.

The art of networking within the federal government is very different than the private sector. There are a limited number of networking events and hiring events. It is important to attend private sector job fairs, career related meet-ups and connect with liked minded professionals.

4. Review the Skills You Need to Improve

While working for the federal government, we did not utilize the most cutting-edge technology or best practices — after all, the government often hires private sector consultants to modernize their legacy technology systems.

It’s very important to conduct research on what skills and tools you will need in order to survive in the private sector. So I started taking online classes on Lynda and Udemy as I knew my technical skills needed a refresher. Also, I began to read one book every month on career branding or a technology topic.

5. Reassess Your Interview and Communication Skills

Within two weeks of launching my new career brand on every major job site, I received emails from several big consulting firms: Deloitte, Booz Allen Hamilton and Accenture. I was amazed that my revamped resume and skill set was highly admired by these industry recruiters. However, I knew that the private sector does not conduct job interviews in the same format as the federal government.

So, I researched interview formats and I practiced how to perform well in phone screen interviews. I practiced smiling as I spoke on the phone so that my positive energy would come through over the phone. In early 2014, I aced my 3-hour interview with Deloitte and I left my federal government job. It was the best decision of my life.

If you have an innovative mindset or want to find the job of your dreams, leaving the federal government for the private sector could be a great option. But, it requires you to leave your comfort zone, rebrand your career and acquire new skill sets.

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