Job Change-Public to Private Sector

by Alan A. Malinchak, CEO, Eclat Transitions

This article offers my reflections on the changes you will need to consider and begin as you approach your next successful career beyond your current career in public service.

In 2002, I was:

  • two years from FBI retirement eligibility,
  • a Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) retiree (not by choice),
  • and had two daughters bound for college.

I realized I would need to continue employment beyond.  My two year path to prepare for a career in private industry was a sound plan, but as I look back I was woefully unprepared.

I got lucky.

Since retirement from the FBI in 2004, I have been fortunate to work for two government contractors, ManTech International and Homeland Security Solutions, Inc. – where I experienced a successful journey with each of these companies. I have learned the ins and outs of employment within private industry and government contracting. Change is inevitable and controllable. The most difficult aspect of preparing for your transition is “not knowing – what you don’t know.”

The first piece of advice I would give you is to start preparing NOW – long before you intend to retire.  There is a great deal you will need to do to prepare to land a GREAT job in private industry. Preparing over time will reduce the stress and put you several steps ahead of those you will be competing against in the private job market. You know hard work – your public career has expected this of you. You can do this; you simply need a plan – a roadmap of what to do. To make a plan, analyze the direction of your path and make logical decisions. To guide you along your path, consider engaging in the following considerations.


Start by knowing your numbers.  Determine your financial living plan.  Determine how long you want/need to work. Calculate all the factors related to your income needs now and beyond the net value of your government retirement check.


You will experience fear and anxiety of the unknown, conflict over financial considerations, and emotional ups and downs during the process of your professional reinvention.  You will be leaving a profession where you have contributed and made a significant difference in the world. You will be leaving a 20+ year comfort zone, where you have experienced success and have an established identity for the unknown. As you plan for this transition, you may not know what you want to do or what you are qualified to do. You may need new professional credentials/certifications beyond your current knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs). For the most part, you are going to be starting over – you will be the newbie once again. You will need to invest time, energy and finances into preparing for your next career, since “Who You Are” may not be “Who You Will Be.”

Evaluating the Job Market

You will need to understand the areas of growth in the job market, by industry and by location. Learn what professional positions are in demand now and what/where are the trends. Evaluate whether you want to work for a corporation or a small business, publicly traded or privately held company. Are the companies you are interested in profitable, stable and do you believe they will survive the next economic downturn, fiscal cliff /sequestration?

Non-Profit, Public, Private or Entrepreneur?

Do you have the desire, finances and drive to start your own company, to be your own boss? Do you understand marketing, customer base, and are you ready to work 24/7? Building a career path map that allows you to find a relatable position in a non-profit, other public agency, private enterprise or as an entrepreneur should focus on your interests, qualifications and financial needs. Have you conducted an assessment of your competencies?  Are there gaps in your competencies and the skill set necessary to be successful in your post-government/public service career?  Which competencies translate well to business needs? What are you missing? How do you acquire what you need? How much time do you need and at what cost?

Business 101

Do you possess business acumen? Are you knowledgeable about business drivers, things like revenue growth, profitability and program execution?

Are you familiar with corporate hierarchy, titles, roles and responsibilities? In business, you are either overhead (cost the company money) or direct labor (generate income for the company). Knowing which position to target based on your qualifications, potential to add value to a company and your comfort zone is essential. A company’s growth is dependent on business development and its pipeline of future contracts for goods and services. Learn the drivers of what enables a company to grow and succeed and how your capabilities are essential for their continued growth. Are you familiar with the world of government contracting and private industry? Do you know the drivers and timing for corporate hiring?

Professional Certifications/Additional Education

Most likely you have been involved with, supervised or led projects and programs throughout your career, but do you have a Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification? If you are involved in network or cyber security operations, do you have certifications in A+, Network+,  Security + or are you a Computer Information Security System Professional (CISSP)? You may have the operational experience and skills, but you will need a professional certification to be competitive in private industry. During your career you may have been involved in acquisitions, contract review or personnel human resources.  Did you acquire any internal public sector certificates that will enable you to get to the next level of an external professional certification? Professional certifications are valued by performance based businesses that direct bill to their clients and are the backbone of private industry. Have you acquired or do you need additional education that can be leveraged to be more competitive?

Security Clearances

Do you possess a government security clearance? Your security clearance has monetary value in private industry. Maintain it. Ensure your reinvestigation is complete.

In the next post, we will discuss finding and negotiating for your new job, and making the transition to your new job and life.

What have you done or what do you plan to do now to prepare yourself for this transition? My next post will discuss finding a job and completing the transition.