Submitted by KS180 on
Trying to get out of government IT. I love the IT field but getting really tired of being in government. I have come close to getting three jobs but the fact that I have 18 years in government is causing other companies from considering me.
I got a job in govt IT last year in another state but due to a lot of uncertainty I will be returning home (without a job so far). Hoping to use this opportunity to get out of government and into something else.
How do I transition to another venue?
Any suggestions will be appreciated and entertained.
Changing Company types
What about Government IT is bothering you? In what ways are you held back by the inherent nature of Government IT? And why do you think the private sector will be different?
What, exactly, do you want to do?
These questions are essential to your next move. Work through the interview prep series, and make sure you understand your strengths, weaknesses, leadership style, accomplishments, and your life's trajectory.
You need to tie your accomplishments to the factors that differentiate the public from the private sector. Demonstrate that you are a good fit for the private sector.
You may need to take a step back/down in formal title when you make such a switch. Nothing wrong with it; just recognize that it happens. With good skills in the private sector, you will recover quickly and your career will grow.
[PS: I'm a big fan of Mary Burton's "In Transition" book for career professionals making such a move as yours. There are great exercises which culminate in a very detailed "ideal" job description and a "marketing" program to sell yourself to your prospective employers. It's great, it’s time consuming and it's not easy, but in conjunction with the MT interview series, you'll be in very solid shape. I used the program when I switched from corporate IT to consulting, and it was crucial in helping me land a job that I loved and was very successful in.]
Changing Company types
I don't understand what it is about 18 years of good work is preventing you from getting a job? I think some clarification here will be enlightening.
As John said, the interview series will be a terrific help in organizing yourself for interviews.
Changing Company types
have you tried looking for companies which have the government as their customer - your experience would be useful then - and it might be a good stepping stone.
As others have suggested, are you clear about why you want to move out of the public sector and what it is you are really looking for?
Things that frustrate me about government
OK, maybe it is just my current job in government but there are things I find frustrating in government.
Too slow. Takes forever to get anything done. Two projects a year is a major accomplishment. Decisions take months.
People in government don't understand the profit motive. I have actually been told that in an interview when I was one of three in final consideration. This was after being phone interviewed twice.
People in government like buying $400 hammers. Where I currently work everybody admitted the wiring vendor is charging us too much but threw up their hands when asked what can be done. I'm rewriting the wiring specs to go out for bid.
I believe I work as hard as they do in private industry but make $30,000 - 45,000 less. 50+ hours a week.
Want to do something that has an impact and where people care about what they are doing.
I am preparing a list of things I want from a job and the interview podcasts have been immensely helpful.
Government does have a good pension and you do get experience in how to effectively fire somebody.
I am looking into companies that work with government (Deliotte) but they might prefer federal and my experience is local.
Thank you all for the suggestions and I'll check out the book.
Changing Company types
That seems like a reasonable response to me.
So basically your; impression is that people assume as a director of IT for a government agency you wouldn't be sensitive to costs and efficiencies. So, focus on those issues on your resume and be prepared to discuss them in your interview. For instance, include a bullet for getting a bid to reduce the costs from the wiring contractor.
I think you'll be fine. I wouldn't automatically rule you out.
Thanks for the vote of confidence
I do mention on my resume how I reduced telecommunication costs by 50% in three years and a couple other cost savings. I'll put them towards the top of the resume and see if that gets their attention.
Which gov't lets you fire people?
[quote]Government does have a good pension and you do get experience in how to effectively fire somebody.[/quote]
I'm curious about effective firing in government. My impression of government is that it's virtually impossible to fire people, largely because of a very powerful union and managers who don't know how to manage. Do you mind telling us which government, and what you meant above?
Re: Which gov't lets you fire people?
[quote="rthibode"]I'm curious about effective firing in government. My impression of government is that it's virtually impossible to fire people, largely because of a very powerful union[/quote]
If it's anything like here in the UK then you'd know how to fire effectively [b]due to[/b] a very powerful union.
What is an effective firing? I think it would be one where the person being fired had actually done something to deserve being fired (or failed to do something) and had no credible case for unfair dismissal or discrimination, as opposed to simply being the easiest scapegoat for the manager's (or manager's best mate's) latest disaster or the first person the manager happened to see when they decided that a bit of blood on the carpet was needed in the run up to salary negotiation time. If the union is strong then that forces managers to dot all their 'I's and cross all their 'T's, make sure that their case is rock solid and generally be really sure of their case. It tends to prevent spurious or dodgy sackings, and is a heck of a lot cheaper than defending a court case and dealing with the fall out of a discrimintion case.
I get the impression that the contributors to these for a tend to be basically decent, fair, honest and reasonable people (or are at least good enough liars to appear basically decent, fair, honest and reasonable). There are a lot of people who aren't decent, fair, honest and reasonable, some of whom are managers who will abuse their position for their own personal gain and aggrandizement and that of their friends. I believe that Mark once commented that many of the tools they are teaching us could be abused by an unethical manager.
Re: Thanks for the vote of confidence
[quote="ksweeney"]I do mention on my resume how I reduced telecommunication costs by 50% in three years and a couple other cost savings. I'll put them towards the top of the resume and see if that gets their attention.
Make that stronger. You didn't just reduce costs. You negotiated vendors cost down by 50%.
A hypothetical example - you don't just save 30% on material costs. You reduce 30% of material costs by analyzing waste usage and implementing new business practices to cut material usage.
Don't sell these things short.
Changing Company types
Nice addition Brian. Good questions and answers all around.
SOAP BOX ALERT - RANT COMING
From my painful job hunting experience, life is not all about being interviewed by highly competent people who are all Manager Tools disciples. I can actually hear Wendii groan through the internet when I tell her some things recruiters want me to say and do, like the one today who wanted me to put some humour and creativity into the resume because he liked that, but had no clue if his client did.
So when Kevin says he gets pushback, he does. Recruiters and hiring managers who just spew what they have been told have biases. If you try to move from a for-profit to a non-profit, your motivations are questioned as are your ability to deal with that "culture". The same goes the other way. Everyone has heard how government workers are slackers (not true for the most part) and recruiters question their competency and work ethic and ability to be current.
It is easy to forget that when we are offering advice, it is not an ideal world out there. There is stupidity and bias and all the interview practice in the world may not be enough to overcome that.
Thank you for the advice and some answers to questions
Brian, Will, Wendii, rthibode, stephenbooth_uk, asteriskrntt1, jhack. Thank you all! Your advice is excellent and I will tweak my resume to incorporate a couple of these suggestions.
Stephen is right about the skills you learn in government in firing someone. An effective firing is one that sticks! No recourse, no arbitration, no fifth chances. You also learn how to handle, and discipline, political appointments. When I get together with my PI friends (private industry) they cannot believe the stories I tell. Working for government has taught me how to CYA so well nobody can fire you for cause. There's always at-will but you still need some kind of reason even if it flimsy. All skills I hope I never have to use.
There are slackers in government but there are slackers everywhere. The difference is nobody cares if they see a Fortune 100 employee slacking but a government employee..."I pay your salary" get to work. You have a 1,000 pairs of eyes on every move, every decision you make. Even if it is a good decision if the public doesn't understand it you spend the next six weeks telling people why you did something then hopefully they are onto something else. The public does have a short memory.
Having said that; there are a lot of good people that work for government. It's the slackers that give us a bad name.
I am still going thru the interview series and find them terrific. Hopefully, I'll have an interview soon and then I can practice the offer section.
Changing Company types
An addendum to asteriskrntt1's rant:
When I changed careers (from corporate IT to consulting) I kept running into recruiters and others who were only interested in placing me into positions that matched what I had already done.
I call it the curse of competence: if you've done something well, employers want you to keep doing it....over and over and over again.
The challenge is to recast what you've done so that it highlights your ability to take on the new role. That requires digging deep to understand what you are really good at, and making sure those deep skills shine through when you tell the stories of your accomplishments and leadership.
Sorry, I'm a little obsessed with firing these days!
Very interesting discussion.
Stephen Booth wrote:
[quote]If the union is strong then that forces managers to dot all their 'I's and cross all their 'T's, make sure that their case is rock solid and generally be really sure of their case. It tends to prevent spurious or dodgy sackings, and is a heck of a lot cheaper than defending a court case and dealing with the fall out of a discrimintion case. [/quote]
I like this idea in principle, and am a fan (and member) of union. However, in my experience in both government and higher education, managers don't fire incompetent/lazy people, they promote them, give them false positive references for a lateral transfer (make them someone else's problem), or HR advises (off the record) to steer the person toward long-term disability based on stress. These aren't isolated cases. In fact, HR at my university could recall only one firing in the past 10 years (of a red-handed thief).
Just to be clear, virtually everyone I've worked has been competent and hard-working. I do not mean to reinforce any stereotypes about government/union workers.
I would agree that IF you manage to fire someone in a strong union, you'll have to do it effectively. The question is whether people who deserve firing usually get fired.
Kevin, if you have the skill to fire people effectively, ethically, and legally, is this a skill you can convey on your resume or in an interview?
Everyone, is it ever appropriate to raise such a sensitive and negative topic during a job search? (Hire me, I'm a hatchet man!)
How did we get here?
We have strayed off the topic of switching careers and I'm well on my way to getting the process started.
I agree not all the people that should be fired get fired. When I came to work this morning it didn't say Garden of Eden and life is unfair.
I have always tried to do my best; that's all I can control.
Re: Sorry, I'm a little obsessed with firing these days!
[quote="rthibode"]However, in my experience in both government and higher education, managers don't fire incompetent/lazy people, they promote them[/quote]
My experience is that incompetant/lazy people who are good friends of senior managers tends to get promoted, those who aren't good friends of senior managers tend to get fired. You do get some people shunted sideways, usually because the manager who wants rid of them cannot be bothered to do the work required to achieve an effective sacking.
Both of these I see as a management problem. They're probably much more prevalent in the public sector than private as there's less profit focus, large private sector organisations seem to also breed this sort of behaviour as they often have the resources to carry a proportion of deadwood and inefficient/ineffective employees that smaller companies don't. It was also probably a lot easier in the past as changes in public policy (here in the UK at least) and corporate models have triggered budget cuts (so there's less funding for the deadwood) and increased exposure for such managers.