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Private or Public sector?????


I have worked for a small but growing city now for the past two years.......I am two classes away from my grad degree.......and the plan has been to work closer to home. I am now being recruited by the planning consulting firm that our city hires (yes they have asked my boss).......So, do I want to leave the public sector for the private sector??? what changes should I expect??? Will it be a good experience? What questions should I ask when I sit down with the two partners next week for lunch?

I feel like I"m letting my current city down. They took me on as an intern.......hired me full time......have been given me more and more work (probably why the consultant is getting nervous).

Any suggestions, comments????


Cyburbian Emeritus
As a precaution, find out what the expectation is for % of billing time, and % of marketing / outreach to new clients. You may find that some firms tret new hires like accounting firms treat theirs - i.e. are billing hours expected to be more than 80 a pay period, plus you have your unbillable admin time, etc. on top of that...

Is this a vacant / existing positon or an expansion of thier staff?

What is the firm's history, and are their contracts with clients long term and / or resistant to short term economic swings? You usually don't think of that on the public sector (unless you're Boiker!) but it is a reality in consulting.

What are the potentials for promotions in either your current position or this position?


bturk's advice hit the spot. In addition to what he said, I'd make sure that the firm supports your professional development via paying for the APA conferences or sending you to seminars, etc.

I left the public sector for private last November and have not had any major regrets so far. My present job has exposed me to far more work than I would have ever done at the city. Downside is, since I'm the only planner in this firm, I have to do ALL of the work. My good relationship with both the local public and private sector planners (primarily through my active involvement with the local APA chapter) has helped to increase my firm's visibility, which benefits me in the long run.

Let me know if you want more details. Good luck! :)

Repo Man

I did the consulting thing for like 4 months. I may have stayed there if a position hadn't opened here that paid a lot more and offered more security. Plus, I realized that the place I worked at wasn't the right fit for me. Too much focus on engineering. I would go back to the private sector, but only to a place that had more of a dedication to planning.

Things I liked:
1. People who worked there were great. They had like 160 employees so it was easy to find people with common interests.
2. Variety of work
3. Ability to focus on only a few projects instead of focusing on projects, plan commisison/council items, counter questions, phone calls, etc.
4. Access to more info/technology/etc

Things I didn't like:
1. BILLABLE HOURS!! It sucks to try and clump your day into nice 15 minute intervals.
2. You are removed from the community you are working with...it is very difficult to hop in the car to check something out and when you do it, you have to bill for it.
3. You don't get to see things through to their completion. You are merely one step in a process.
4. Fear of not having work


Cyburbian Plus
Ya know even with those downsides id take private sector if i could get it. Im sick of public sector work and the silly egos politics between departments and council.


I made the move 8 months ago and haven't looked back since. Alot of the little things are better.

In the gov job you had to be their 8-5 no exceptions, no flexibility, nothing. Now I work 8 hours a day somewhere around the 8-5 schedule. I come in late one day, just stay a little later. Leave early one day, make it up somewhere.

You do have to watch your billing though. You are pretty much expected to be billing 40 hours a week to projects.

The possibilites for advancement are so much greater in my case too. At my old job there was nowhere to go because the upper tiers were just clogged up with people taking up space waiting to collect a pension.

My vote: If the money is right go with it. I don't think you'll regret it.
I recently made the jump back into public sector work after a two-year stint with a consulting firm (after seven years in public sector). Some random observations:

1. Lots of what's posted here is true...you have much to consider
2. It is very difficult to make a profit in planning consultant work
3. I found the disconnection to the communities/clients we worked for difficult to overcome. I'm turned on more by planning for/helping the community I live in and where I'm raising a family.
4. As consultants, you are always the outsider. That can be fun in that you get to turn over rocks and ask questions about situations that local bureacrats don't want to deal with. On the other hand, you never have the knowledge of the politics and players that the locals do.
5. Marketing sucks. No two ways about it.
6. The variety of projects and diciplines available in a consulting environment can be very attractive, as can the pay.
7. Traveling can really suck.
8. Conflicting goals of maximum billable hours vs. not eating up a project budget vs. serving the client's needs.
9. Did I mention it's nearly impossible to make money on planning work? :)

Hope this muddies the waters some more!

el Guapo

It is simple.

Which is more important: money or free time? The choice is yours. Call the ball.

Oh, yeah, and I'm a Libra!
i think el guapo has hit the nail on the head. i quit consulting because we were getting ready to start a family, and the firm i worked for was just not a good match for brand new parents - too many hours, too much travelling, too much stress. However, if career advancement is your priority, you can't beat private sector - rapid advancement, better $$ (generally), better work ethic among your co-workers.

However, public sector retirement was the clincher for me, but then I live in NY, which has one of the best state retirement systems, imo.