You’ve done well in your federal government career, but you have various reasons to consider a leap to the private sector: Although you’ve progressed on the GS pay scale, you’re looking for more upside potential. Or you want to apply your considerable skills in a more entrepreneurial environment. Or you’re frustrated by the budget, staffing and mission uncertainties that come with this rookie White House administration. Or maybe some combination of the above.
Whatever your motivations, this is a great time for government employees to consider private-sector career opportunities, with open jobs reaching a record 6 million in a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report.
But before you start applying, take care of business – by thoroughly revamping your long-form federal resume into a two-page resume for the business world … whether you’re interested in managing a local concern or signing on with a Fortune 500 corporation. Here’s how.
STEP 1 – Make the decision to consider career opportunities outside of government. The transition from federal to private-sector employment presents some challenges, but you are up to the task. So commit to taking a good look at what’s out there!
STEP 2 – Identify two private-sector job postings of interest. Consider which of the many skills you’ve developed in the civil service will be most transferable to the business world. Focus on the private-sector opportunities that you’ll be most passionate about.
STEP 3 – Start writing your private-sector resume. Highlight core competencies that you have developed working for the federal government, especially those that are transferable to the private industry and to the specific role that you seek.
STEP 4 – State relevant, impressive accomplishments and match keywords from your federal career. Use language that will catch the ear of the private-sector employers you want to work for; use keywords that figure prominently in the job postings you’re targeting. Avoid acronyms and jargon that may only have currency in government. Your transferable experience and accomplishments will impress; your mastery of the language of federal bureaucracy will not. Additionally, many private sector forms will use automated systems for keywords from their recruitment advertisements.
STEP 5 – Keep it short. If you’re working from a typical multi-page federal resume, condense it to no more than two pages in 11-point type. Eliminate the inessential; cut irrelevant experience and avoid describing accomplishments that don’t translate well to a private-sector job application. At the same time, assume that your audience knows nothing about the inner workings of your government agency or department. Where you must explain, keep it very brief.
STEP 6 – Ask a friend or associate for feedback. Give a trusted person your resume – on paper – and a red pen to mark it up with detailed, thorough and unsparing feedback on the form, content and prose style. Try to find a reviewer who is employed in the private sector, preferably someone who works in the industry you’re targeting. Ask them to imagine themselves as your hiring manager and to give a thumbs up or down as they read each line.
STEP 7 – For each job posting, create a customized cover letter. Write a letter to your audience of private-sector recruiters, human resources professionals and hiring managers that provides a bridge from your government experience to the requirements of the position you seek. You can mention your reasons for making a move to the private sector, but maintain a positive tone throughout.
Use our free, fast and excellent Cover Letter Builder: Click here.
STEP 8 – Track your private-sector employment applications. Use online tools, email and phone to monitor the progress of your applications and to follow up personally as appropriate. Keep pace with the private-sector hiring process, which can move more quickly than government recruitment.
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