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Making the Change to Working for a Private Company

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Are you making a switch with a new job from a public to a private company? Considering a new job in a different industry, and realizing that industry is mostly private, but unsure what the differences would be? Hear about a few of the differences, garnered from first-hand experience, and shared with us by veteran executive assistant Aimee Reese.

As an administrative professional, much of how you work with your executive is the same whether you work for a private or public company. You will still handle travel, scheduling, minute-taking, and the like, while serving the critical function of the gatekeeper.

But there will be some differences if you’re used to a public environment and are stepping into a role with a private company. These differences will center around:

1. Decision making

2. Management structure

3. Career advancement

4. Turnover

So let’s dive in and explore what those differences look like.

Decision Making: At a private company you can expect to reach decisions a bit faster than you would at a public company. Be prepared if you are looking for a decision on a project or meeting you will probably get the answers much faster in the private sector than the public sector, so you should be prepared to move quickly. There are generally more layers or decision-makers involved in the public sector. It would be smart to anticipate a quicker flow and a difference in managing stakeholders if you’re used to a different framework.

Management Structure: At a private company there are generally fewer layers in management. The structures are not as deep in upper management. In the public sector you can have several layers of management before the top executive. Outside of decision-making, which we already discussed, this will impact team structures, project team dynamics, team specializations, and a host of other things that impact productivity and project management.

Career Advancement: When you work in a private company, especially much smaller private companies, your options for advancement may be more limited. There may just simply be fewer spots. Or, the process to advance may be more involved, with a greater volume of boxes you have to “check” before you advance. With less deep management benches at private companies, the management positions available may be fewer. However, you can still explore training and continuing education, so that you can grow. All growing or growth-minded companies, regardless of status, will usually have professional development programs to supplement growth separate from role changes or advancement to management.

Turnover: We’re in a time where a lot of turnover is normal. However, public companies tend to have higher retention rates, as people move within those companies more. When switching to a private company that has higher turnover, you may find you don’t have as consistent of a network of “go-to” people or points of contact that help you get things done for your executive. You’ll need to be flexible and learn how to work with different types of workers and professional profile-types, whereas before you may have focused on learning the specific ticks or preferences of individual people.

There are always pros and cons working for both private and public companies. In your position as an administrative professional your focus will always be to take care of your executive. You must learn to adapt to change in either situation – there will always be change in any type of organization or companies.

Before you take a position, decide what your long-term goals are, and in what environment you thrive best so you can weigh all your options. This will lead you to explore the best fits for you and your boss, and your career.

American Society of Administrative Professionals

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