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Jumping to the Private Sector

DecaturHawk

Cyburbian
Messages
880
Points
22
Well, after nearly 18 years as a public sector planner, I have been offered a job with a consulting firm. While the initial salary offer doesn't knock my socks off, the potential for growth there beats the heck out of the 3.5 percent per year I'm getting here. The job is in a great new city (Grand Rapids), with a firm that appears committed to its employees and its clients. They have assured me that I will average 2 night meetings per week and they give comp time for anything over 40 hours/week. I'm also impressed by their assurance that they are trying to stay ahead of the staffing curve; instead of letting business build to the point where they have no choice but to add staff, they are trying to anticipate their staff needs and have enough people on hand as the business grows.

I would be interested in hearing the experiences of any Cyburbanite that has made the jump from the public to the private sector. Was it easier/harder than you expected? Was the time commitment much greater than before? Were the expectations more difficult to handle? Do you like consulting better, or not? Is it more interesting/challenging? What about the differences in culture, etc.? As always, opinions from The Throbbing Brain (TM) are greatly appreciated.
 

Chet

Cyburbian Emeritus
Messages
10,623
Points
34
Congrats DH! I made the jump last December. A few thoughts...

The jump was pretty easy, but the timing was good for it - around the holidays and new years when the firm was slower paced and people could spend time working me into the fold. Now that we're in a busy spell, I pretty much set my own work plan and report in as necessary.

Find out what % of time you are expected to be billable. Comp Time for night meetings is nice, but keep sight of your billing goal, as bonus and profit sharing will weigh in on your use of it.

How established is the practice? Are you required to do alot of marketing and if so, is that something you will enjoy? Learning to write proposals has been interesting. Luckily we have a great marketing team.

Time commitments are what I expected, but not necessarily in the tasks I would expect. Will your schedule be flexible? With my public sector job, I could easily flex hours at a moments notice, if the staff was around and no meetings were scheduled that they couldnt handle. Here, time off must be much more deliberately taken.

I also find time commitments to be much more cyclical in the private sector, from extremely busy to moderately busy to slow week and over again. Public sector work tended to have lower peaks and valleys, much more "routine oriented" rather than product-outcome oriented.

I'm not sure I like it better, since I really like public sector planning. It sure isnt worse! It is different in one respect -- much less stress! Any stress I do get is from short timeframes and not from brow beatings! It seems the dark side is "one step further back from the edge" in this regard.

VAST differences in culture, but that is largely due to my specific firm and not from the industry sector I think. Our owner believes in empowering employees and giving them their space to succeed, and be there to give them tools to help them assure they do. This firm has one numerous awards for workplace satisfaction, business of the year, yadda yadda, because of the management philosophies employed here. Our employee separation rates are extremely low. In 8 months I have never been witness to anyone bad mouthing a supervisor or a coworker (except on the softball field!). I hope you are walking into a similar culture, and from your "stay ahead of the curve" comment, sounds like you are.

Best wishes on your transition!
 

Wannaplan?

Bounty Hunter
Messages
3,217
Points
29
Congratulations! Welcome to Michigan! You will love it!

Hopefully we won't be competing against each other to score projects. :-D
 

SW MI Planner

Cyburbian
Messages
3,194
Points
26
I haven't made the switch, but wanted to say CONGRATS! I hope you love the firm, Grand Rapids, and Michigan!
 

michaelskis

Cyburbian
Messages
20,176
Points
51
DecaturHawk said:
The job is in a great new city (Grand Rapids), with a firm that appears committed to its employees and its clients.

Congratulations! I am sure that you will love living there. I think that there are now 6 or 7 of us in SW Michigan, so we will have to meet up sometime for beverage of your choosing. Maybe we can all meet up for taste of Kalamazoo on the weekend of the 24th...

Are you going to have direction such as residential or downtown redevelopment?
 

Maister

Chairman of the bored
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
28,716
Points
71
Congrats!!! Welcome to SW MI. I made the jump in the opposite direction - went from private to public. I found the $ better in the private sector but found the time demands insane, not to mention all the time spent recording, documenting billings on the quarter hour. I have been fortunate to work with a great bunch of folks in both realms though. You should seriously look me, SW MI Planner, and Michaelskis up and we can do G.R. or Kalamazoo.
 

Big Easy King

Cyburbian
Messages
1,361
Points
23
DH, congratulations on the offer.

Today marks my one-year anniversary in the private sector as a project planner/consultant. Prior to my current position, I was a senior city planner in the public sector.

The public sector provided me with a foundation of planning experience that I apply in the private sector. The scope of work is larger now since evaluation is mainly conducted on large projects, i.e. bridges, transportation projects, etc., and the time commitment is greater. However, I'm more comfortable with the scope of work in the private sector because it continues to enhance my professional growth in our field. I am fortunate to have experience in both sectors of planning.
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
Points
34
Leave me a reminder to update the Cyburbia map. I won't get around to doing it for a while.
 

Gedunker

Moderating
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
11,494
Points
41
Congratulations! I'll be following this post closely as I might be doing something similar sooner or later.

BTW: does this mean you'll soon be GrandRapidsHawk? ;-)
 

jestes

Cyburbian
Messages
230
Points
9
I suppose that I should chime in here. I made the switch from public to private exactly three weeks ago. I am not sure if three weeks is enough for me to draw any conclusions from yet but here goes.

As far as the money is concerned, there is no comparison. When asked in the interview what I needed salary-wise I offered a figure of nearly 50% more than I was making in the public sector, they didn't even blink (maybe I shot too low!?!).

One thing that I am having to seriously work on is my time management and more specifically, the accurate documentation of my time. Fridays have been a real pain in the butt trying to recall how every 1/4 hour was spent over the last five days.

I do like the fact that I don't get calls every 10-15 minutes from bosses or the public with requests for seemingly irrelevant data or information that takes time away from the task at hand.

I have found that top-down communication is much better in the private sector. My boss actually encourages me to call him with questions or to discuss issues/projects that I am working on. He also seems to enjoy getting the senior level staff together on a regular basis for a chat session to get a feel of what is going on. During my time in the public sector, I can't remember a single staff meeting of department heads taking place, ever. The only staff meetings that took place were the ones between myself and Dragon. As far as the public sector bosses (elected officials) were concerned they were content being left alone unless there was a major crisis to be managed.

Finally, I am really excited about the new job because the work is incredibly interesting. Examples include: writing a plan for a project demonstrating the beneficial use of dredge material; developing abstracts and community/market studies for several Brownfields projects; developing landfill permit applications, etc.
 

sisterceleste

Cyburbian
Messages
1,519
Points
22
Maister said:
I found the $ better in the private sector but found the time demands insane, not to mention all the time spent recording, documenting billings on the quarter hour..
Ditto...public sector to private and back to public....I had no life in the private sector. I learned alot and have been able to benefit from the time in the private sector. Give it a try, should you ever go back to the public sector, I've found upper mgt. likes to see someone with experience on both sides of the fence.
 

DecaturHawk

Cyburbian
Messages
880
Points
22
Thanks all, for the words of wisdom. I'm really excited about this change and think the timing is right. I remain concerned about the extra time commitment but I think that this firm is committed to its employees so I'm hoping that it will not get out of hand.

Now, I'm swamped with all of the details involved in getting a house on the market and moving out of state. This is actually much more intimidating than the job change. I'm hoping to make it up there by late August.

As to a username change, I'll have to talk to Dan about that. I suspect that I will have much less time for slacking, in any case.

To the Cyburbians in West Michigan: First round is on me. :-D
 
Messages
1,264
Points
22
I've been looking to hook up with private sector for 2 years and counting. The public sector has a very low ceiling regarding salary and upward mobility and I'm fed up with it. DecaturHawk, if I were you I'd jump at it in a heartbeat. But that could be my unhappiness in my job situation speaking for me.
 

ssc

Cyburbian
Messages
209
Points
9
Just do it!

Take the plunge!

I for one miss the private sector and am heading back ASAP. I'm getting sick of the low payscale, budget cuts, bored beaurocrats, endless paperwork, responding to a neverending stream of phone call inquiries - most of which are "not my department", and not having time for the fun stuff - comprehensive planning, downtown plans, etc. etc. etc. :-#

I will miss the short hours of public sector life though. And evening meetings are just a fact of life whichever sector you are in...
 

PlannerByDay

Cyburbian
Messages
1,827
Points
24
DecaturHawk said:
To the Cyburbians in West Michigan: First round is on me. :-D
DecaturHawk,

Welcome to the Mitten State. Grand Rapids is a great town. And when you get to town we'll have another SW Mich Laefest.
 

Repo Man

Cyburbian
Messages
2,549
Points
25
Congratulations!

I made the jump (but jumped back to the public sector about 2.5 yrs ago). I actually really enjoyed the private sector, more so than the public sector. The reason I went back was the money offered to me was too good to pass up. I am paying for that decision to this day :-\

I love the fact that in the private sector you can concentrate on project much better. You don't have some crazy b--ch coming in every 2 days complaining about how her neighbors are encroaching onto her property line while the City refuses to do anything (of course that is a purely hypothetical scenario ;) ). I loved working on different projects with different Cities and I liked meeting residents and elected officials from different areas. The hours were somewhat flexible. For example if you had a late night meeting the firm didn’t mind if you came in later the next day or took a couple of hours off on Friday afternoon as long as it didn’t conflict with any client meetings.

I also liked the perks. There seemed to be more of a “team” concept and after my first month there I was already going out for drinks with co-workers. Also the firm is not under the microscope that public employees are under, so there are nice parties, softball and other sport sponsorships, and profit sharing opportunities. These firms have to offer benefits that are similar to municipalities because they are competing for the same types of employees.

The thing that I didn’t like was the up and down times. At times you would be so busy that putting in 50-60 hours in a week was the norm, especially with night meetings and driving. Then other weeks you would be lucky to have 20 billable hours. I always had this feeling that if I didn’t have enough to do that I would be where they would look when they cut positions.
 

Seabishop

Cyburbian
Messages
3,838
Points
25
Congratulations Grand Rapids Hawk, and good luck with the move.

I'd love to take the jump but my resume has been used as toilet paper by every consulting firm in southern new england. I've been waiting years for my very own "Hey, I got a new job" thread. But just you wait, 15 years from now it'll be a great thread with lots of funny pictures of office workers giving people the finger.
 
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