resumes for private sector

If you are a government employee about to retire and enter the private sector, be prepared for radical changes to your resume. The biggest – and potentially upsetting – change will be that most of what’s on your resume is irrelevant to companies that you’re interested in. Resumes for government employees entering the private sector require you to re-think your audience; private sector employers are interested in more in the outcomes of your accomplishments than the status of them.

Government resumes are big on mentioning who you worked with, what committees you sat on, and as this bullet from a recent client’s resume noted, who you liaised with:

Liaison to Department of State, Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC), Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control &  Border Protection National Targeting Center

But what does that tell employers who are probably eager for your skills and experience, but are more interested in your ability to solve their problem, advance their mission, and overall succeed at the job they are hiring for. The answer: little to nothing.

Here’s a bullet from the same resume that begs for detail to make it relevant: “Participated audits of Certified Undercover Operations at various field offices.” First, determine what is relevant to employers by reading the job description carefully. If the position that you want to apply to wants candidates who conduct investigations into malfeasance, or success with operations, then I’d amend the same bullet to explain what these audits uncovered, what your role was, and how the outcome achieved the goal of the audit. As with any resume, quantify when it’s meaningful to do so; qualify every story you tell, even if it’s in a bullet.

Government employee resumes typically contain so many acronyms that a hiring manager in the private sector is clueless about what the acronym means, and more important, why it matters to her. Leave out acronyms unless they are widely recognized by the general public, and if there’s no tie-in with what the employer is looking for you to do, why even mention it?

Often government employees have received a lot of training, which they naturally list on their government resumes. But when government employees look for work in the private sector, it’s a good idea to eliminate training or certification that has no place in the private sector. We removed these (and many, many other trainings from one client’s resume:

Undercover Managers School; Supervisory Leadership Training ;Advanced Supervisory Leadership Training;  Customs Basic Enforcement School; Undercover Managers School, Legacy Customs Special Agent Cross-Training  

But we kept these: Combating Terrorism Networks Seminar Arms and Strategic Technology Investigations; Customs Fraud Investigation; Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Seminar

As a citizen, I am grateful for the courageous government employees who devoted their careers to eliminating drug smuggling, human trafficking, and child exploitation. But I can’t think of any private sector businesses looking for candidates to carry out these duties – although if any of these are what you did, there are probably nonprofits who would love to talk to you.

On the other hand, if you investigated money laundering, breaches in cybersecurity, or terrorism, you’re gold for many industries. So let’s make sure your resume is focuses on telling some relevant stories about how you addressed these contemporary concerns.

If you’re a government employee entering the private sector, and would like help revising your resume, check out my pricing and process. 

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