Here in Washington, D.C., I’ve observed an interesting trend: private-sector companies are often reluctant to hire professionals who are currently employed as government contractors. Sometimes they believe their company culture will be too different from a government organization, and the contractor won’t be successful. Other times, they think that the practice of bidding on work, as is customary in government contracting, could be a deterrent at a commercial company.
However, plenty of people want to make that switch. Their contract may be up and they’re interested in a new challenge, or they’ve learned about a different industry and are pursuing that passion. Whatever your reason, you’ll have to overcome the existing mindset of employers that may be a bit hesitant to hire a former government contractor.
These are three tactics – “Laura’s Life Lessons,” if you will – to help you make the transition from government contract positions to private-sector employment.
- Maximize your marketing potential.
Silence potential objections by demonstrating to employers that you’re on the cutting-edge of their industry. Keep up with industry trends and hot topics by attending conferences, participating in webinars and setting up Google alerts for relevant industry news stories. Prove you’re up for the challenge: consider obtaining professional certifications specific to your industry. An HR professional, for example, might earn a SHRM-CP.
- Supercharge your networking game.
Let’s face it: sometimes you’re a good fit for a company, but management may still be on the fence about hiring you. Having someone on the inside who can vouch for you – or simply hand your resume to the right person – can help push your candidacy forward. But how do you break in if you don’t know anyone?
LinkedIn is a great starting point for connecting with private-sector professionals in your field. I also advise attending networking events and conferences. Practice your elevator pitch in advance – know how to succinctly talk about yourself, what you do and what you’re interested in. When you’re chatting with other people, resist the urge to immediately ask for a favor. Start with how you can help them. How can your experiences and insights help them address a challenge their company is facing?
Keep track of your conversations by writing down one or two things you talked about with each person on their business card. When you follow up, you’ll be able to send a personal note referencing what you discussed, helping to turn a single meeting into an ongoing relationship.
- Partner with a Search Firm
A recruiting firm can give job seekers a critical competitive edge – and I’m not saying this just because I work for one. As a recruiter, I partner with multiple companies at a single time, giving me a unique insight into hiring challenges, company goals and the most sought-after skill sets. When I work with job seekers, my goal is to turn these insights into objective advice that can help job seekers improve their resumes and highlight essential skills.
None of these tactics is a silver bullet on its own, but together, they can help you make the leap from government contract work to full-time, private-sector employment.
Have you made the switch, and if so, which tactics were most successful for you?