Transitioning to the Private Sector

According to Paul Gietzel and Pamela Cook in Advancing Philanthropy (March/April 2011), today there are increased numbers of private sector employees who want to work in nonprofit organizations.  Every week, The Chronicle of Philanthropy features interesting people who are moving from successful business careers into the nonprofit world.

The opposite is also true.  Every day, nonprofit employees make the transition to the private sector.  Because the nonprofit and private work environments are different, former nonprofit employees are likely to experience tough challenges in making this transition.

I have modified the recommendations from Gietzel and Cook to recommend how to make a successful switch to the private sector.

1.       Talk to others who have made the transition.  Find out what they have found most rewarding and most challenging about making the switch.

2.      Determine what kinds of private fields excite you.  Where would you like to work in the private sector?  What are your interests?

3.      Evaluate your job skills and experiences.  There are many different kinds of positions in private sector.  Figure out those that match your job experience, skills, and interests.

4.      Develop a realistic expectation of the work environment in the private sector.  Your work environment in the private sector is very likely to be different from your nonprofit environment.  Determine whether this new work environment is for you.

5.      Do your homework.  Private organizations will expect you to be very committed to their missions.  Make sure that you are comfortable with a company’s mission, products, and services before you consider applying for a position.

6.      Be patient.  In today’s economy, switching to the private sector may take time.  Explore your options carefully, network with private professionals, and become more informed about the books and Web sites that can help you make the transition.

People have different motivations for switching from the nonprofit to the private sectors.  Determine your motivation, what kinds of companies or fields really interest you, and figure out how to make a successful transition that will benefit both you and your new company.  You can forge a rewarding career in the private sector, but it will take planning, realistic expectations, and dedication to make the switch.

1 Comment

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    April 8, 2013

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