Public or Private Sector

I once had a lunch at a friend’s place and her Dad simultaneously praised public service jobs for being good, stable places to be (he tries to get her daughters to join) while being critical about the work of public servants (“what do they do?”). I cannot be sure when he was being serious but one thing for sure, our views of public sector work is muddled and often confused.

Likewise I have someone in my family who used to think private sector is bad. Because it’s all about the bottom line and profits. I often say, well, you could also see that public service is often about meeting KPIs, which isn’t that different even if those KPIs are to drive some underlying good for the public. The chase for numbers and quantifiables is evident and taken as a natural product of “scientific management”.

Having been in both I think it is important to see that a large bureacratic private organisation can be not so different from a ministry while a newly set up statutory board can be not so different from a start-up. Often the skillsets valued would not be too different even when they place different weights on the specifics.

So it boils down to what you want to grow in. Public sector work will be more big picture from day 1 while private sector may involve greater dive into details and big picture work only later in your career. These generalisations are not super helpful and as I already made it clear, there’s a need to look at a specific job role and organisation in order to make the decision. Public or private itself is more of a label that tells very little to someone who has not any experience of either.

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