Written by: Donna Kirk – The Pro Forum Community of Practice

Few of us start work as school leavers and remain in the same job or role until we retire. There was a time when this wasn’t the case (hard to believe we know) and people started a job that developed into a career that transitioned into moving up the ladder by virtue of being there the longest. And it happened in both private and public sector roles.

The working environment has changed and there is a cross pollination of public and private opportunities.

Two disciplines or professions that are seeing an increase in opportunities between the two are:

  1. Project Management
  2. Procurement & Contract Management

So how do you transition between the two – if you are a project manager working in the public sector and want to move to the private, or a procurement professional that is wanting to move from the private sector to the public sector?

Firstly – recognise that your skills are transferable if you are agile and resilient!

There are plenty of skills in common between the public and private sectors but it your direct comparable experience is less important than your willingness and ability to adapt and learn.

Skills and experience in issues management, crisis management or change management are vital for both sectors.

The ability to lead and manage complex organisations or projects, lead diverse teams or managing communication processes.

Understand varying terminology and processes.

In the public sector you work in procurement – in the private sector its purchasing or finance.

In the private sector you might be quite comfortable having a coffee with a potential contractor discussing various options. In the public sector this could present a conflict of interest.

Understanding comes through knowledge – do your homework and get a better understanding of the differences between the two.

Don’t get hung up on a job title.

Questions are often raised such as “If you are transitioning between public and private sectors, should you expect to transfer at the same level?” or: “How do you identify seniority in the corporate world and how does it correlate to government titles and levels?”

For the Public sector

  1. The structure is pretty much the same across the Commonwealth and all States and Territories, and
  2. The structure does loosely mirror what you would expect to see in large private companies, frontline staff, management and senior executive.

At its simplest, the hierarchy of Government looks like a pyramid, with the majority of staff at officer level ‘doing the work’, with two levels of management above:

Pay Differential

Both sides of the public and private sector debate think that the grass is potentially more lucrative on the other side.

With the new wages policy for Commonwealth Public Servants introduced in November 2020, public sector wage rises can no longer exceed wage rises in the private sector and it will allow Commonwealth public sector wage rises to follow the private sector wage growth.

There had been a long-held view that with the Government setting a cap on Commonwealth public sector wage growth sent the wrong signal to the private sector. A current belief is that Commonwealth wages policy should not be used as an excuse or signal to restrain private sector wages growth. This policy will address that.

Therefore, it may well be that the thought that one sector pays higher than the other will over time erode.



Regardless of which side of the divide you currently work in, crossing over isn’t as problematic as perhaps it once was.

Do your research, identify your existing skills, and consider if you hold qualifications that could be easily valued in either sector.

Also consider what motivates you. Do you thrive on innovation and fast paced development, or do you prefer a structured approach?

Identifying what you are really looking for and what you believe you can contribute is the first step in transitioning. don’t got for a job because of the pay package or the title. You have got to be true to yourself and know what motivates you and where your skills will be valued most.


NOTE: The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter, and specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances. The content must not be relied upon as legal, technical, financial or other professional advice.