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Government Shutdown Inspires Career Reboot

Q: I'm a consultant and all of my clients are in the government sector. Working on my own has been challenging and the government shut down has put me over the edge for more reasons than temporarily not getting paid. I would like to look for a full-time position in the private sector because I want stability. How do I position myself in other industries after ten years in the government sector as a writer. Also, how do I articulate that I am not jumping ship merely because of a temporary downturn in my business.

A. The federal government shut down has left us all feeling uncertain about the immediate economic future and it has hit furloughed government employees, contractors and vendors particularly hard. As much as being your own boss has many advantages, it is stressful and major events that impact your economic livelihood would cause you to consider other options.

Begin your search by working on your resume with the help of friends or a professional resume writer. You want to make sure that your skills and accomplishments in the government sector are expressed in a way that hiring managers in other industries can also see your potential value to them. Make sure you focus on the measurable results generated by your writing. For instance, if you wrote white papers, how many people read them and what do you estimate was your sphere of influence? Did your writing impact revenue or cost savings? If so, quantify and highlight it.

Changing industries involves creative thinking. Which industries are most closely related to the government sector? Look for similarities in style, culture and structure. Align with organizations which are highly regulated, hierarchical and influence driven. Organizations with federal mandates, (think FDA; medical devices, phones; EPA; environmental; automotive, etc.,) state organizations or public/private partnership.

Start by leveraging the people in your current network to introduce you to their contacts within your target industries. You must again leverage your current contacts to begin meeting with people in those sectors.

As you meet with contacts in various industries discuss your skills, contributions and the impact and value you provide. Ask them which internal roles sound like what you were to do for your clients.

Having these net titles will your allow your networking to be more effective as you can help others understand the kind of roles you are seeking.

Once you have your industries and roles narrowed down, make a list of companies you want to pursue within them and query your network to see who knows people. Arrange face-to-face meetings with networking contacts whenever possible and go into those meetings with specific goals in mind, whether it’s a job lead or another introduction. Focus on what excites you about their industry and transitioning into an in-house role, rather than explaining why you are leaving your industry and consulting status. Send thank you notes promptly and keep everyone in your network updated on your job seeking efforts.

Consider joining relevant industry associations and get active. The more you network and the more people that know you are looking for new opportunities, the more likely you will find the right fit for you.

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