A depressing entry in the Guardian’s cutsblog suggests that the image of public sector workers as plodding, risk-averse jobsworths will count against them when it comes to taking some of the 2 million jobs that the private sector is poised to deliver any day now.
Enough recruitment consultants have been quoted in PR Week saying that public sector-ites will be at a disadvantage in the jobs market to have spooked me into attending a CIPR/VMA event looking at how hard it might be to move from public to private sector. Inevitably the hardest thing to prove when you’ve worked in the public sector is that you have the commercial acumen to make it in private business. Otherwise, it seems the skills that employers are looking for are, encouragingly, the ones that you develop as a means of survival in the public sector – resilience, managing change, leading teams, influencing stakeholders, a willingness to push back against difficult managers (Lord, have I got some stories to tell…)
Transferable communications skills
Having worked in comms in both sectors, I’d say that the skills you need to succeed are pretty much the same for either. My starter list would include a continuous focus on the audience, a sound understanding of the market you’re working in, imagination, flexibility, tenacity, a sharp eye for managing budgets and people, an understanding of strategy (and how it differs from tactics), a willingness to get stuck into delivery (and the practical know-how), a healthy respect for deadlines, the political nous to navigate layers of management, good writing skills and an eye for detail. I see no reason why having the skills to work in one should somehow bar you from working in the other.
The importance of social networks
I was struck by how few people at the event said they felt confident using social media as part of their job-hunting armoury. Sadly, opting out isn’t an option. Research suggests that 100% of recruitment consultants use LinkedIn as a tool to identify (and weed out) candidates for posts, and that the size of your network is important. Something like 85% of them use Twitter for the same reason. Not having an online presence suggests that you haven’t updated your skills in a decade and aren’t really playing the game – not having a LinkedIn account now is like not having an email address was ten years ago.
Barbara Gibson – our social media guru – recorded this on her phone at the event I went to, demonstrating a neat way of gathering content for a blog or website at the same time as cementing a link with a potential contact – wouldn’t you be flattered if she asked to interview you? And wouldn’t you put the link on your site too and link back to her? Genius!