I’m not sure if any of you have experienced this, but a thought that has been on my mind since I’ve started thinking about life after university has been whether I want to work for the private or public sector. As someone who has experience in both sectors, I find it even harder to decide, but I have found many opportunities and advantages for both.
The first thing that comes to people’s minds when they hear “public sector” is the government. The fact that Ottawa has a large population of governmental employees definitely contributes to that thought. What I’ve noticed with my experience in the government is primarily how focused they are on recruiting students and incorporating a work-life balance element. With the baby-boomers retiring, it will be our generation that soon will be pulling the reins.
Governmental departments and agencies hire students, and they do this through FSWEP (Federal Student Work Experience Program), internal pools, CO-OP or even word-of-mouth recruiting. I got my job through FSWEP. And yes, it did take a long time to hear back. So for those of you whose applications have been sent to managers and haven’t yet heard back from them, it takes time, so don’t be discouraged!
The government also collaborates with the YPN (Young Professional Network). This network offers many activities and networking opportunities for youths, which allows students working for the government to have exposure to not only other students, but to different employers as well. Furthermore, being a student and working for the government means there is a possibility for bridging, which essentially means that students can be integrated into positions after the completion of their educational program.
The private sector seems to be a popular choice for many, and I’ve often heard from others that depending on the company, there is more room for growth, particularly “career progression.” A lot of private companies are smaller in size, with sometimes no more than 40 employees, which contributes to the idea of faster growth and promotion. In my personal experience, I was able to see career progression put into action. Once my colleagues were comfortable with their job duties and performed successfully, they were given more responsibilities, and within a year, some were promoted.
Organizational culture is also a huge factor that I’ve seen emphasized in the private sector. It’s true that within the sector one will find many different companies, each with their own set of values and beliefs, which makes it easier to determine which one best resonates with you. Interestingly enough, many private sector companies have government departments and agencies as their clients, so there is a level of collaboration between them.
At the end of the day, the public and private sectors offer many things, some very similar, and some very different. It’s important to determine the factors YOU would value in your future job, and use these to guide you to your ideal job. If possible, try to get experience in both sectors. You can also get advice and suggestions from friends, family, career specialists, etc. about which sector to choose, but at the end of the day, nothing beats your own experience. Always be mindful that whether an opportunity you choose works out or not, you will always learn something from it.