How To Tailor your CV for the Private Sector

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Times are tough in Higher Education and many are beginning to look around at opportunities available in ‘the outside world’.

Academics, researchers and HE staff are often anxious about moving into the private sector– fearful that somehow they will lack vital skills or not be taken seriously .

A recent survey by the FT, claiming that 57% of private sector employers are not interested in hiring public sector workers, has only increased this anxiety.

In fact, many private employers are crying out for the skills developed by those in HE (see Translating Your Skills From Academia To Business ). It is a matter of being able to clearly articulate those skills and illustrate how they are relevant to the commercial world. And of having the confidence to try.

Here’s our step-by-step guide to revamping your CV for the private sector:

1)  Be open about why you want to move into the private sector and how this fits into your longer term career plans. Present it as a conscious choice and a natural progression (rather than as an attempt to avoid redundancy or get a bigger salary!). Put this in your Cover Letter

2) Clearly articulate the transferable skills you have developed in your career. Typically these might include:

  • Project management and Organisation skills
  • Research skills
  • Communication especially the ability to
  • Influence and present a convincing argument (vital in funding bids for example)
  • Negotiate and resolve differences through diplomacy
  • Problem solving, particularly the ability to get things done despite bureaucracy 

3)  Translate your skills into private sector language

  • Writing funding bids translates as ‘generating external revenue’
  • Liaising with other departments becomes ‘managing internal clients’
  • Communicating with external bodies becomes ‘building relationships with external stakeholders’
  • Writing the departmental plan is ‘strategic planning.’

4)  Avoid using HE jargon at all costs. Private sector employers won’t have a clue what HEFC is , or the Harris review!

5) Point out the hard accountabilities of your role including improving staff performance and productivity, managing budgets, generating revenue and implementing organisational change. Private employers often assume public sector workers lack business acumen and are never held to account!

6)  Focus on achievements rather than job responsibilities. Illustrate with evidence and explain outcomes. Quantify where possible and use qualitative evidence such as feedback from students and academics

7)  Mention how your role relates to the private sector. Perhaps you use commercial suppliers or provide services to the business world

8)  Make sure you highlight any previous roles in the private sector and any business training received

9)  If you have been with the same employer for some years, illustrate movement and progression in your career by giving each role a separate section, Point out when a move was due to promotion or an increase in responsibility

10)  Be clear about the nature and purpose of your role. Adjust your jobtitle if necessary to make it more intelligible. Explain clearly the purpose of your role and the value you added to the organisation.

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