Networking in the Public Sector

Harry Freedman, July 19, 2013

This is a guest post by Harry Freedman, founder of the Career Advice Centre. They provide help to clients of all ages and experiences to progress their careers.  Phone 0845 467 4167 or visit

Career Advice Centre | Jobsgopublic

With the public sector still shrinking, competition for jobs is getting tougher. If you are looking for a public sector job, you need to give yourself an edge.

There are two parts to getting a job. The first part, the bit everybody does, is to fill in the application form. In theory, in the public sector this should be all there is to it. Public sector recruitment is supposed to be transparent, candidates are selected on merit so submitting a good, well crafted application should suffice.

But we all know this isn’t enough. Transparency is all very well in theory but it rarely works in practice. Very often a decision is made, in all but name, long before the job is advertised. Someone has been earmarked for the job, a credible, enthusiastic candidate who has made it their business to be noticed. This is the other part of the job application process, the part that most people don’t do. But it is the important part. It’s called networking. It’s part of your long term career planning.

Networking | JobsgopublicYou need to be visible to maximise your chances of getting a job, and making yourself visible begins long before the job becomes vacant. It begins as soon as you decide what sort of job you want next.

A good networker makes sure they have the right contacts and that their contacts are aware of what they have to offer. You can make contacts in many different ways, through introductions at work, through social media or through events or conferences.  But however you make your contacts, you choose them for the right reasons. They work in fields similar to yours, they know what is going on in their field, they see you as someone who is useful to them, and you see them as someone who is useful to you.

Having a good network of contacts, with whom you keep in touch from time to time means that when a job that you are interested in comes up, the chances are there will be someone involved in the selection process whom you know, or who knows someone you know. Before you apply you can speak to your contact to find out more about the sort of person are hoping to recruit. This should help you to structure your application more closely to their needs. You may be able to tell them something about yourself which will impress them.

The recruitment process in the public sector should be transparent. But, people  being people, it is rarely so simple. Networking is an essential part of your job search strategy. It’s not always easy, many people find it uncomfortable. But it’s worth finding out more about how to network, and learning to do it.