The OA Heads For York With First Northern Employment Symposium

We headed north this week for our first ever Northern Employment Symposium at York St John University.

One of the main purposes of running this event was to cater for more officers based in the North. This was a move much appreciated by former Royal Engineer Barry Heap who was happy not to make the usual trip down south.

He said: “’I’ve gained many things from today. Even if I’d only left with one nugget the event would have been worthwhile. I’m leaving with a bag-full of nuggets.”

RAF Air Traffic Controller Karen Lofthouse said: “This event has given my confidence a boost. I know that there are people out there who are willing to help, who appreciate I’m coming with a broad skillset.”

She admitted though she had struggled with networking initially and that it can ‘take time’ to build your network. She added: “You never know what a simple cup of coffee might lead to though.”

The focus on networking as a ‘conversation’, rather than a severe ‘hard sell’ was a point reiterated by Vic Vaughan of The Referral Institute (pictured). He said: “When you’re networking, you’re not looking to sell to that person, you’re just talking to them. It’s unlikely they can help you, but they may know someone who can.”

Peter Boulton, Head of Project Management Services at Transport for Greater Manchester spoke about the need to ‘stay calm in situations, think clearly and act appropriately’ to be a good project manager, while Nick Everard, Managing Director at J1 Consulting stressed the importance of needing to ‘know what you want’ before approaching recruiters.

Jo Anna Robinson, Talent Services Manager at Serco, praised officers for their ‘inherent leadership and people skills’ as well as the more ‘specialist expertise’ they bring to organisations. She emphasised the importance of being yourself and remembering that although civilian employment will be ‘different’, companies are looking for your skills.

James Fisher, who served 16 years as an Officer in the Parachute Regiment joined Deloitte earlier this year as a Manager Risk Advisory . Life in the Army was an ‘incredibly rewarding and enriching experience’, where he led several transformational projects such as the delivery of a new telecommunications system to the Army’s high readiness task force. Interestingly for James, one of the biggest challenges was realising just how transferable his skills were.

He said: “People tend to focus on the ‘soldiering’ aspect of the Services but that’s really only about 10% of what you do. The other 90% is actually very similar to many systems in the workplace – there’s a lot of IT and project management.

As an industry, the Services have probably got some of the most robust management controls as, for excellence to endure, decent management is an essential ingredient.” He added: “You don’t fully appreciate all you’ve done, until you start doing something new.”

James also advised using the training money you receive in transition from the Services, wisely. “Don’t rush in to spending it on any old course that isn’t right. It’s better to use it as a bargaining tool with employers at an interview, and show commitment to investing it in your career.”

Colonel Mike Butterwick of the 4th Infantry Brigade also attended the event and expressed the importance of supporting service leavers as they set out on their next career path. “Now that the OA has a presence in Leeds, I look forward to seeing this developing further, while we build a really good network in the North.”