Career advice: how to switch sector

Career advice: how to switch sector

What you need to know if you’re considering moving from public to private sector.

1. The work is founded on the same principles
You don’t go to work for a business because you care less about protecting the public. The focus is the same; the tools you have are slightly different.

2. The biggest culture shock is around money
Businesses in the private sector have no right to customers, so you need to win customer loyalty and ensure you fully justify any spending you do. It can take time to adjust to this mentality.

3. Your interventions can have far-reaching consequences
If you put a safety process in place, that might have to be replicated multiple times across a group (depending on your job of course). You have to think about the sustainability of your decisions in a different way.

4. You have to find new ways of achieving what you want
You don’t have enforcement powers so you have to use persuasion and a morality argument. In a commercial setting your job is to ensure your business is, at a minimum, compliant, and you need to work with colleagues to develop appropriate solutions. You have to be innovative and adaptable.

5. Get to know people
In local authorities there’s more of a standardised approach to finding a new job. In the commercial sector, roles may not always be advertised, so you need a strong social network of people in lots of different sectors. Make use  your social profile and CV are strong. 

6. Cast your net wide
Remember that recruiters don’t always think of EH when they’re recruiting for, say, a health and safety role. Work out who the recruiters are: they might not be advertising jobs where you’d expect.

7. Get into the habit of saying yes
Be open to opportunities, wherever they come from. I learned not to say no to new challenges, even if I wasn’t sure I could do it. In a previous job, I became involved in due-diligence work during a business merger and acquisition. I wasn’t necessarily equipped for this to begin with, but the experience taught me so much.

8. Have confidence in your skills
The great thing about EHPs is the skillset and the qualification route: it trains you to solve problems day to day, which holds you in really good stead to work in a commercial environment.

Jonathan Hayes is risk management director at Moto, the motorway service station operator. He is also a member of CIEH's Board of Trustees.

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