Making The Switch: From Public To Non-Profit And Beyond


In a recent group coaching call I led, a caller asked about transitioning from the public sector to the private sector.

Keep in mind that your industry and functional expertise also determine how a transition should be made. But even assuming that industry and function stay constant (e.g., you are moving from a public hospital to a private one and staying in the same department), the transition between sectors alone still needs to be managed.

Diffuse any negative stereotypes attached to your current sector. People have assumptions about the sectors. Public sector people may assume private sector career changers are just chasing the next hot area. Private sector people may think all public sector people are bureaucratic.

Position yourself in a way your new sector understands. I once coached a non-profit candidate whom I would have hired for a private sector job in a heartbeat. Why? She had a very clear sense of her organization, its cost drivers and funding sources, and this business savvy could easily translate this into a bottom line-oriented culture.


Get inside even if you have to cold call to do it. We all know the value of networking. But keep in mind that, when you are coming from a different sector, you may not have a robust network in your new sector. Therefore you have to be prepared to build your new network from scratch by actively identifying which people you want and need in your network and approaching them.

Career changes require that you become a changed person, appealing to a different expectation, positioning yourself in a new way, and developing a new network. This is true for sector changes, industry changes or functional changes. It requires work but is imminently doable and puts the direction of your career where you want it to be.

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Caroline Ceniza-Levine is co-founder of SixFigureStart a career coaching firm for Gen Y professionals. Formerly in corporate recruiting and retained search, Caroline has recruited for Accenture, Booz Allen, Citibank, Disney ABC, Oliver Wyman, Pfizer, and Time Inc. She currently writes career columns for Portfolio.com and Vault.com and teaches Professional Development at Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs.

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