By Elizabeth Harrin (London)
The Wall Street Reform Act introduced a raft of new rules with the aim of stabilising the U.S. financial systems. These rules now need to be implemented, and someone has got to do the implementing. Are you in the market for a new job? Maybe a move to the public sector is the right move for you.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission alone is expecting to recruit for about 800 positions [PDF], according to Chairman Mary Schapiro. “A principal lesson learned from the financial crisis is that, because today’s financial markets and their participants are dynamic, fast-moving, and innovative, the regulators who oversee them must continuously improve their knowledge and skills to regulate effectively,” she said. “In response, we have created and begun staffing a new division, the Division of Risk, Strategy, and Financial Innovation.” This new division will look at new products and trading practices.
“As part of the now completed reorganisation of the Enforcement Division, we created five new specialised units, as well as a new office dedicated to the handling of complaints, tips, and referrals,” Schapiro added in her testimony to a House of Representatives sub-committee meeting. These units cover areas like asset management, structured and new products, and securities. “Each of the specialised units is in the process of hiring additional professionals with specialised experience to assist in investigative and enforcement efforts,” Schapiro said.
The SEC is not the only agency hiring. “The next year of rule writing will test the very talented staff of the CFTC [Commodity Futures Trading Commission],” said Gary Gensler, Chairman of the CFTC. “Our staff has significant expertise regulating the on-exchange derivatives markets that will translate well into regulating the over-the-counter swaps markets. Still, we need significant new resources.”
In addition, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a completely new creation, and will need staffing from the ground up. Although we can assume that some federal staff will transfer in from other agencies, it’s also fair to assume that the Bureau will be recruiting.
So if you have always wanted a public sector job, this could be the moment to jump from the private sector. Be warned though, making the move to the public sector isn’t like getting another private sector position.
Moving to the public sector
“There are some definite cultural differences between private and public sector,” says Diane L. Samuels, a career coach. “The private sector, in many ways, seems to always be ahead of the public sector in attempting and implementing cutting edge strategies in the workplace. In fact, a lot of times when we talk about best practices, we tend to look to the private sector. That I think is mostly based on funding. Private sector organisations are more likely to have more access to funding to pursue new business trends.”
However, just because you have spent your working life in private sector finance, doesn’t automatically mean that the public sector hiring managers will want the benefit of your exposure to ‘best practices’. “I think a lot of people moving from private sector to public sector wrongly assume that they will be selected from a pool of applicants simply because they have that private sector experience,” says Samuels. “So do the same amount of research you would have if you were applying for a private sector job. Relying on your private sector experience alone may come across as though you think you are doing the public sector organisation a favour, which is never good in an interview.”
Do your homework as you would do for making an application for any other job. “Thoroughly review the announcement,” says federal employment expert Camille C. Roberts, “and carefully address each requirement by showcasing the best example that will prove significant value to the employer on the candidate’s federal résumé.”
“Before you make your move you need to learn the sector, learn the jargon and use it during the interview process,” says Samuels. “You’ll need to speak in the language or show some understanding of the particular sector. You still have to demonstrate that you know your stuff and how your knowledge can be applied within, and in fact benefit the sector.”
What about the salaries?
While government jobs often come with greater security and a good benefit package, the jury is still out on whether they give you the same earning potential as in the private sector. “Public and private sector salaries are comparable,” says Roberts. “I believe that the candidate should compare stability, long-term benefits, insurance, flexibility, telework options, bonuses, and other perks that are offered. Overall, I do believe they are very competitive.”
Samuels doesn’t agree: “Salaries for many positions are lower in the public sector than they are in the private sector,” she says. “You need to have a good idea about salaries for the jobs within the public sector and how they compare to private sector salaries.”
Government posts often have salary bands, with a salary cap – and when you have reached that cap you’ll need to move up or move divisions to get an increase. The potential for bonuses is also likely to be reduced, but you may find that your overall package is still comparable to the private sector with a range of childcare and healthcare benefits thrown in.
Don’t be put off trying for a public sector job – the signs are showing that there is an increase in hiring, and the recruiting managers will be looking for talented professionals, whatever their background. Read up on the federal changes, find a division or an agency that interests you, research and prepare and then apply! It could be the best career move you make.