Why a Jack-of-All Trades Should Look at Public Sector Jobs

Hiring managers for public agencies often place a greater emphasis on some aspects of a resume than do their counterparts in the private sector.

Erik Wieland, director of IT services for the University of California San Francisco’s Department of Medicine, says a key distinction is that public-sector manager’s aren’t seeking someone who can write code that can lead to future profits.

“We’re looking for someone who will stay for the long haul, who can interact with customers at all levels, who can work in a team, and who is a lifelong learner,” Wieland explains. “That’s why it’s important to show progressive responsibility, job growth and continuous learning and innovation on a resume that you send to a public entity. I’m much more likely to hire someone who is self-taught than someone with a certification, since it displays the candidate’s ability and desire to learn and grow with the job.”

In other words, an IT professional with broad experience — as opposed to deep expertise in one particular area — would likely fare better in a public sector position, where resources can be tight and IT staff have wider responsibilities.

Public sector organizations and institutions are also mission-driven. As a result, Wieland advises job candidates to do research on the agency they intend to apply to, and include in their introductory statement why they want to support the organization’s mission or serve its customers.

“We’re all too familiar with people coming from the private sector during a recession and leaving as soon as the economy turns around,” Wieland says. “Those who stay are here for the meaning they find in their work, as much as they are for the salary, benefits and work-life balance.”