You’ve been working in the public sector for years now and you’re starting to feel restless. Fearful of an uncertain future? Need a new challenge? Or just a feeling that you must either move on or stagnate?
Whatever your reasoning, we take a look at what you should do next.
Is the climate so bad now that I should just sink back into my shell and let the storm pass?
No, not necessarily. For a start, anyone who is thinking of sitting out this period of turmoil may be in for some unpleasant surprises. The message could be, move before someone else moves you.
I've been in the same job for 15 years. Surely I can't find another job now?
If you have spent 15 years in the same job then you must have been good at it, and you should be able to use this extensive experience to very positive effect. Think how your role has changed over that time, how you have taken on more responsibility, how you have used your initiative to improve things, and how you have influenced others.
Each of these are positive points to add to your CV, or points to speak about in interview or assessment situations. You know this sort of organisation inside out – tell them about it and get that better job!
My role has been outsourced. Is this not the case in all areas of the public sector?
Not the whole public sector but, yes, outsourcing has become a fact of life across large swathes of it as the cost savings prove irresistible to senior managers. If you have lost your job to an external contractor the first thing to remember is that it was nothing to do with your performance and everything to do with cost cutting.
Certain areas such as IT support staff, payroll staff, admin and manual workers are particularly vulnerable. Once it happens, the onus is on you to decide which way to go – whether to seek a sideways move within the same organisation or to jump to an equivalent job elsewhere within the public sector.
Alternatively, you can seek redeployment with the new contractor, a possibility that might be offered at the time of outsourcing. In each of these cases your experience has real value, but it is up to you to make best use of it.
What's the point of getting another job in the public sector if my pension will suffer in the long run?
In theory moving from one public sector job to another should not adversely affect your pension as there are favourable transfer agreements in place across a majority of employers in this sector. You should, of course, always check with the provider if you’re worried but it is worth bearing in mind that moving out of the public sector altogether is much more likely to damage your final pension.
Other conditions such as holiday entitlement, sick pay and other benefits do vary across the public sector and it will be up to you to negotiate changeover terms.
What are career prospects like in the public sector these days?
The massive upheavals that the public sector is going through is creating opportunities as well as redundancies. Now, more than ever, government departments and local authorities need highly adaptable managers and staff with an array of transferable skills. If you have the skills then check out the lists of vacancies. And while you’re still on the inside, you will get first bite at lots of the job opportunities.
Won't I earn more by moving into the private sector?
Not necessarily so, by any means. A survey last year found that on average public service salaries were actually higher by approximately £2,000 per year. Of course, there are much bigger differences in both directions depending on individual jobs. If you have professional qualifications in, say, accountancy or law, then you might secure a bigger pay package outside.
We’re also in a time of pay freezes for many salaried staff. High fliers in the civil service and other parts of the public sector have accepted voluntary bonus freezes while their equivalents in the private sector have very conspicuously not done the same. But these are temporary – history suggests that when they fall too far behind, private sector salaries have a habit of moving back into the lead.