From Private Sector to Public Sector: How to Successfully Transition to the APS

Are you a Client Services Officer, Software Engineer or Data Analyst working in the private sector? Are you thinking of transitioning to the public sector? 

If you’re not an Australian Public Service (APS) employee, you might have preconceived opinions about working in the APS. Some of the well-known benefits of working in the APS include excellent pay, job security, a generous superannuation scheme and performance pay (for some Agencies). 

How true are these perceptions? And if you’re planning to transition to the APS, how do you stand out despite competing with hundreds of applicants for one specific role? 

Here’s our best practice advice to help you decide if a career in the APS is right for you. Read our tips below on how to get started with your APS application. 

Know your key motivators

Wanting to work in the APS because you believe you’ll make more money, work fewer hours or have no hassle are not necessarily the right reasons. 

You need a strong reason for wanting to move from private to public. 

Government Departments and Agencies are looking for applicants who are motivated by and able to use their competencies to deliver quality services to improve the lives of Australians.

So before lodging your application on the APS website, do a little self-reflection. Ask yourself: 

Why do I want to work in the APS? 

What Agency or Department do I want to work for and why? 

What type of work am I interested in? Is this aligned with my qualifications and past experiences? 

These are the types of questions you will usually encounter when applying for a job in the APS. Preparing for these questions will help you make a good impression. 

Determine the job level appropriate for your experience. 

You can use the APS classification level (APS, EL, SES) as your guide to work out the right level, but you have to be realistic. If you have no previous experience in Government roles, you may need to start at a lower level to account for your lack of APS experience. 

Identify your transferrable skills

The trick to making an effective switch to the public sector is being able to fulfil the requirements of the person specification. The focus is on having the right skills to perform the job. 

It helps by re-examining your experience and reviewing your resume with regard to your accountabilities and achievements. 

You can also carry out an honest analysis of your skills and see where the gaps lie. From this point, you can work towards developing your skills independently or invest in professional development. 

It’s also key to highlight your transferrable skill, combined with a level of self-awareness for your personal development while transferring to the APS. 

To identify your transferrable skills, you can talk to colleagues you have worked with to help you reflect on the duties you have undertaken previously. You can also seek assistance from a professional resume writing agency. They can help you identify many of your strengths by comparing your past experiences with the role requirements. 

Learn the APS language and tailor your resume

Speaking of resumes, a common problem with private sector applicants is they assume that the selection panel will just ‘get it.’ 

Private sector employees learn their fair share of jargon. It’s a challenge to drop the jargon when you’ve spent years using this language at work. The public sector won’t use the same language as your past positions, and the jargon might be met with incomprehension or annoyance by the selection panel. 

Research the Government Agency or Department thoroughly and learn specific terminologies before you apply for any vacancies there. This will demonstrate your awareness of their requirements. 

Analyse the job ad and look for keywords listed in the vacancy. Once you’ve identified these keywords, use them throughout your resume and provide proofs or examples that you possess these skills and/or attributes. Use figures and numbers, as necessary, to demonstrate the outcome of your actions

It’s equally important to tailor your resumepitch and/or selection criteria for each role. Submitting a generic resume is a great base but it will not make your application stand out. 

You have to make sure your resume is using the public sector language. For example, ‘secretariat’ instead of ‘administrative,’ ‘stakeholders’ instead of ‘clients,’ and ‘policies’ or ‘legislative frameworks’ instead of ‘regulations’.

Start applying

If you’ve taken a keen interest in a public service career, don’t wait any longer. The longer you leave it, the harder it may become to get in. 

Start building your public sector experience with contract roles to test the waters. Contract positions are frequently available for all sorts of jobs and are excellent ways to get an APS experience. 

You can also express your interest in temporary registers. 

If you need to complete your selection criteria or pitch, there are tips on our website on how to put together your responses in line with the APS writing style. You can also contact us if you’re seeking assistance in preparing your application documents for the APS. 

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