• Michael Weinstock

The Career Canvas (5 - Sector)

Updated: Jan 24, 2020

Organisations are typically divided into one of three major Sectors. The organisational cultures of these sectors tend to differ quite a lot, so your workdays might look very different depending on which one of them you might end up in. Naturally, it is therefor better if you yourself actively decide on which one is for you.

The Private Sector

The biggest sector is The Private Sector. It consists of for-profit companies, that are not controlled by any state or government. This is the global marketplace, where for-profit organisations compete against each other. What characterises this sector is that it has a lot of opportunity. Companies want to grow, and if you can help them do that in any way there is a chance for you to make a lot of money or to be part of building something that can grow to have a a huge impact on the world. It is a sector that is fast-moving, ever-changing, and highly competitive. It is the most dynamic sector, where it is often easy to lose a job, but also easy to get a new one.

The Public Sector

Next up is The Public Sector. This includes any organisations that are owned by the public; and are run on the national, federal, municipal, or provincial level.

These organisations take care of the things that ´we the people´ own together. Such as cultural heritages, museums, libraries or roads. But they also run the agencies that make society function, such as legal systems, policing functions, health services, public employment services, migration services, social insurance services, and so forth.

This sector is characterised by being rule-driven, rather than being driven by profit and growth. Since part of this sector is responsible for creating laws and rules, the entire sector has to make perfectly sure it abides by those same laws.

What is characteristic for this sector is that salaries are not as competitive as in the private sector, that it is slower to change, and that it is ruled by laws and regulations which makes it hard to drive innovation within it.

On the other hand this sector tends to be quite inclusive, since it aims to serve the people. Therefor it usually has policies in place that make sure that people from all walks of life are represented among its employees. It is also often seen as providing quite a lot of job security, since many of its organisations, such as a police force, usually isn't exposed to competition. People also tend to stay longer in their positions as compared to the private sector.

The Non-Governmental / Not-for-profit Sector

Outside of The Private Sector and the Public Sector, there are NGO's, or Non-Governmental Organizations, and NPO's, Not-for-Profit Organisations. These are quite similar to each other, and it can therefor sometimes be hard to differentiate between them. However they do have in common that they both work towards benefiting humanity and society, or improving the world.


NGO's are typically very large, international humanitarian organisations, that get the majority of their funds from governments, without being directly controlled by governments. And that's why they're given the name NGO's. At the same time, however, they are also Non-profits, and will often raise money directly from citizens through donations. Some example of organisations classed as NGO's are Doctors Without Borders, UNICEF, or Save The Children.


NPO's, on the other hand, are typically very small organisations, such as a local charity that raises funds through citizen donations to build a football field in your neighbourhood. At the same time, they are also not controlled by any government.

If you think working in the world of not-for-profits is for you, you are probably doing so because you feel strongly about some cause, such as on of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Not-for-profits will be interested in hiring candidates who feel strongly for their specific cause, since working in a not-for-profit often can demand more of a candidate than for example working a job in the private sector. After all, the goal that the Not-for-profit is trying to achieve is often very difficult to realise, such as ending world hunger or making sure all people on the planet has access to clean drinking water. These kind of goals will often create company cultures where the employees who champion these ideas work tirelessly to do more of the good work, and often for a lower salary than if they would have chosen a more traditional position, such as a 9-5 job in the private sector. Naturally, since not-for-profits depend on donations, it is difficult for them to compete with for-profits for the best candidates, since the for-profits can afford to pay higher recompensation.

Take 5 minutes and write down your preferences! Maybe you know exactly which sector you would like to work in and contribute to. In that case, simply write it down and then follow it up with an explanation of why this is your choice and why it suits you rather than the others. Or, you might want to leave it a bit open, if you plan to transition between sectors during your career, or if you want to specialise in working in the intersection between two sectors. For example, maybe you want to work in a private company, but focus on improving that company's CRS (Corporate Social Responsibility) efforts. Or perhaps you want to work in a private company that is driven by both profit and social impact, such as a Social Impact Startup.

Example texts:

"I would prefer working in the private sector, since I have a competitive nature, and I seek a lot of opportunity to grow. I also like that it is very fast moving and open for new ideas, which will allow for me to be entrepreneurial or intrapreneurial and be part of creating something that can grow and last."

"My preference is working in the Public Sector, since I want to contribute to ensure that our society keeps functioning and keeps serving us - we the people. I want to work in an organisation that works to strengthen democracy and civil rights, and that has an internal culture which allows for diversity and equal rights".

"I want to work in an NGO, because I want to make real change in the world, where it counts. I am driven by my mission, which is to work to make sure that everyone in the world has access to clean drinking water; the most basic requirement for survival. I want to work in an organisation where this belief that water is a human right is shared and where people give their all to make this a global reality."
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