Making the switch from private to public sector can be challenging, especially for millennials. Not only are you new to the workforce to begin with but you also have to acclimate to the vastly different cultures amongst the sectors. The stereotypes of the fast paced, cutthroat private sector are vastly different than what many have grown to expect from the seemingly slow and regulated government.
In order to get a better idea of how to most successfully make the switch as a millennial, we sat down with Nicole Bradstreet, Senior Project Officer with the Henry M. Jackson Foundation assigned to the Center for Global Health Engagement at the Uniformed Services University, a DoD entity.
Behind the Innovator
As a Senior Project Manager, Bradstreet is part of the assessment, monitoring, and evaluation team. She explained that her team works with other DoD entities that are going out and participating in global health engagements in the field. “My team works with those in the field to assess the scope of their impact and how they can improve their engagements to further global health initiatives,” she explained.
Prior to her current position, Bradstreet was a Program Officer at the Sabin Vaccine Institute. She learned about the public sector position from an intern at the Institute. “I probably would not have found out about and moved over to the public sector on my own without this personal connection,” Bradstreet explained.
Since making the switch, one main difference has been apparent to Bradstreet. “The pace is a lot more accelerated in the private sector,” she emphasized. She attributed this to the large volume of client based work she was doing in the private sector. “Things go a little slower in the public sector because you have set hours rather than billable hours, where you are working whenever you can,” she explained.
Pros and Cons of the Public Sector
Con: There are no resources for cool projects or career development.
Pro: You can pursue what you’re passionate about.
Bradstreet has been fortunate to have the opportunity to pick and choose projects that have been interesting to her. For example, she recently traveled to Ghana to help work on disaster preparedness training that affected 12 West African countries. “My current position is great because I am able to work on what I am passionate about. I really never would have had these opportunities in the private sector,” she emphasized.
Con: Government is slow to change and lacks mechanisms to foster innovation.
Pro: Government is working to bring in talent that is conducive to innovation.
Bradstreet assured that at the Center for Global Health Engagement, everyone is really trying to be more progressive. Particularly, they are actively innovating how they do evaluations of engagement projects. This allows them to efficiently asses which programs are working and which aren’t. Through these evaluations, Bradstreet and her team are able to then give recommendations to make projects as effective and efficient as they can be.
Bradstreet emphasized that innovation is easy to come by on her team because it is largely made up of millennials with progressive ideas. However, some aspects of the organization are a little more rigid and resistant to change. “Breathing new life into the organization is key to making it more progressive, whether it’s through better citizen engagement or fostering strategic communications in the office,” she explained.
Good leadership is key to developing more progressive work in public sector offices. Bradstreet explained that the Center for Global Health Engagement just hired a new Director who is keen to bring an innovative mindset to the workplace. She underscored, “he’s a good example of someone who wants to push things forward and he’s really a breath of fresh air and a sign of good things to come.”
Advice to millennials
Bradstreet continued that as a millennial, it is crucial to connect with the leadership in your organization. “Find a mentor in the field you are interested in and really get to know the agency and organization,” she explained. With guidance, you can cultivate your millennial perspective to positively impact the public sector.
Love hearing millennial stories straight from the source? Check back the first Thursday of every month for a new inside perspective from young govies. If you want to be our next featured millennial, email us here.
This post is part of GovLoop’s millennial blog series, First 5.