Fixer: Should I jump ship for public sector fun?

11 Jul 2019 By PM Editorial

Things appear rosier in local government, but I'm worried it's too late to make the move

I speak to a lot of people who work in the civil service or local government and they seem to really enjoy their roles. It’s not something I have experienced in the private sector (mostly hospitality). But having been to a couple of interviews, I have the sense my past experience isn’t being valued. I’ve been asked a lot about whether I understand the civil service but not a lot about my own skills. Am I too senior, as a head of HR, to make the transition?

One of the benefits of having worked in consultancy for some time is perspective. And too often, I can say, the grass appears greener in another sector – whereas the reality is often very similar.

There are as many organisational culture variations in the civil service as there are in companies and the criticisms you’ve levelled are, ironically, often heard in public sector organisations.

The civil service does have a long legacy of hierarchy and defined ways of working based on the bureaucratic leadership model. It famously offers greater job security, benefits and a broad church of opportunities. But it is hardly immune from change and the pressure can be just as intense as the private sector.

It does rather sound like your issue is more with your current working environment. It may well be worth a conversation with a mentor or a coach to reflect objectively on your career goals, strengths, preferences and development areas and then either to make changes where you are or look at organisations across sectors that are a closer match.

As for seniority, that isn’t without its challenges either. Sadly, recruiters often use terms like “digital native” or “too experienced” to hide prejudice against more mature employees. But never underestimate the value of experience and wisdom. 

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