Being a successful private and public sector interim is a challenging way to live. Resource Manager Alison Young shares her experience of the factors interims need to consider if they are to succeed.

As the interim management industry has grown, interims with a strong track record of delivery in both the private and public sector have found a variety of opportunities. However, in what is still a challenging economic environment, the question of being able to straddle the sector divide successfully and switch between one and the other is often asked. In short, I believe that you can be both a private and public sector interim, but there are some key things to remember if you want to do it successfully:

Don’t Become Entrenched

Whether most of your experience is in the private or public sector, it is important not to become entrenched in either - having a good mix of both is incredibly helpful. It is also important to note that there is a market perception that skills are more easily transferred from the private sector to the public sector, so the move across may be easier for private sector professionals.

Programs and Projects

In terms of trends, where there does appear to be an increasing amount of switching between the two sectors is in the area of program and project management. If you are a private and public sector interim, having the ability to manage and deliver specific initiatives is a skill very much in demand, irrespective or what type of organisation you gained your experience in.

Prescriptive Needs

Don’t be disheartened if you aren’t making the leap across sectors that you wanted to. Remember, clients have very specific needs and are often prescriptive in the type of person they want and the experience and skills they must have. The market is still challenging and it still belongs to the client.

Healthy Requirements

Another area that is seeing an increasing amount of successful transfer is the health sector. With an unprecedented amount of change happening, the demand for transformation professionals has risen sharply. Areas such as the NHS, with its new structures and frameworks are specifically key for interim professionals.

It Doesn’t Suit Everyone

Lastly, it is important to remember that this chopping and changing between public and private sectors doesn’t work for everybody. Although there is a lot of diversity in doing this, what also must be remembered is that there is also a very large cultural divide between the two areas that not everybody can bridge.

So, working as a private and public sector interim is possible. However, it is essential to remember that they are still both very different in the way they operate and what they expect.

Have you had experience of working in both sectors? What would your advice be for a private and public sector interim? Share your comments below.

photo credit: Lori Greig via photopin cc

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  • Michael Ware

    Alison, I have managed to undertake assignments in both the private sector and the NHS. However, I have only been able to move between these sectors based upon people I know, as ISPs adopt a rigid tick box approach

  • Michael Ware

    Alison, I have managed to undertake assignments in both the private sector and the NHS. However, I have only been able to move between these sectors based upon people I know, as ISPs adopt a rigid tick box approach

    • Alison Young

      Michael, many thanks for you comment. It is all about connections. We do find that this can be the case in some instances when trying
      to move across industries, even within the private sector. Clients can be risk averse and want someone who has been there, done that and got the t-shirt.

  • Staś Chobrzyński

    Of course it is possible to move between the Public and Private sectors, in the same way that it is possible to work across industries (e.g. NHS / Local Government, or Dairy Industry / Construction), but one has to be prepared to work hard at the move and be very flexible in the solutions one delivers to the client.

    You also have to have an open mind to the solution that the client may think they want to implement, be prepared to put in the time to do the background research or ‘homework’ on the sector / client and be flexible in how as well as what you do.

    Not easy, but the rewards are immense satisfaction when you can ‘cross fertilise’ ideas and solutions to deliver a successful outcome for the client.

    How do I know? Because I have done exactly that, working successfully in industries as diverse as Nuclear Reprocessing, Contact Centres, NHS, Food Industry, Local Government, Construction, Medical Research, Railway Engineering, etc.

    • Alison Young

      Stas, many thanks for your comment. I do appreciate your
      words as someone who has managed to span both the public and private sectors, showing that it can be done. My blog is written purely from my perspective of working with interims and what they seem to find in the market and what we tend to see on the roles we resource for.

  • Stephen Reimer

    I agree with Michael, the NHS often put up the shutters to those without NHS experience. This may not be true of IT and higher strategic work but in Finance it’s almost immpossible even with other Public Sector experience which dove tails with Health.

    • Alison Young

      Many thanks for your thoughts here Michael. Agreed that this is definitely a trend we see within health as clients become more prescriptive in their needs. The commercialisation of the NHS seems inevitable…

  • Harry Cruickshank

    The answer is yes, but with caveats. I have some experience to base this on, having worked largely in the private sector but with a long assignment at the LDA on several different projects.
    First, you need to be able to adapt to the cultural differences (leadership styles, language, political considerations, etc). Second, despite the public sector becoming more commercial, only a proportion of its leaders recognise the value an experienced private sector interim individual might.
    Perhaps Alium could host some seminars to help ‘bridge the gap’? I’ll come and support you!

    • Alison Young

      Thank you for your comment Harry, and I do very much agree
      with you on the ability to adapt to the different cultures being important and not everyone recognising the value of an experienced private sector interim…it is definitely a topic that appears to be growing in interest and I’ll be sure to let you know if we can do an event on it, as your input would be useful.