Charlie Gordon from Capco explains how the key skills that ex-Military gained in the Armed Forces can really shine in management consultancy roles
It is a nervous time when you are preparing to leave the military. The ‘all or nothing’ reality of a career in the military takes away the need to make a lot of life’s choices – where to live (decided for you), what job to do (limited options), what’s for supper (rations) etc. Upon leaving you are hit with more decisions to make at once than is comfortable. Your next career is arguably the biggest of these.
Everyone who has experienced transitioning will have typed “jobs for ex-military” into Google rather hopefully, probably more than once. The truth, of course, is that you can do anything you want. With an older, wiser head you now have a second chance at picking the perfect career for you. This is both liberating and intimidating. My first piece of advice is don’t be afraid of getting it wrong first time. You almost certainly will.
A good starting point is to remind yourself of the skills you have honed in the military. The principle one of these is management. You are a leader, someone who can understand the aim of a task, develop a strategy for tackling it and guide a team through it to completion. This is a highly prized skill and one which our peers in industry have not spent so long perfecting.
The second key skill we have is in communication. We understand the critical need of effective 360° communication and are used to dealing with senior stakeholders. Again, do not underestimate how valuable an asset it is to be able to confidently and clearly outline a plan so that everyone understands it.
There are many more generalist skills we have tested and proved to a level far beyond our civilian peers – discipline, calmness under pressure, teamwork etc. These are all valuable commodities. So what to do with them?
Any career involving management and interaction with people will want to hire ex-military. Especially jobs that are project based, because we have spent our military careers switching roles every two years or less and are adaptable as a result. This means you just have to pick the industry. Do you fancy retail? There are almost limitless companies who will hire you as a product manager, operations manager, in-store manager.
If you are unsure of which industry to focus on, or where to position yourself within it, then think about management consultancy as a starting point. To be a consultant you need all the skills I have outlined above, skills that you have. Once you are part of a consultancy you can try different industries from project to project ‘civilianising’ your skills and working out what excites you. The crux of your job will be to find out what the client needs (often different to what they want), define a plan, present it back and manage a team to its delivery. This could be doing anything.
There are many consultancy workshops out there for ex-military that are well worth attending. I went to a few and was most struck by Capco’s, where I ended up joining. These workshops don’t only tell you about the company, but about what consulting really is and what the sector currently looks like. Capco focus on the Financial Services industry, which struck a chord with me.
The amount of financial services institutions recruiting ex-military just goes to show that you need not worry about the holes in your content knowledge for any future role. You can develop all the business knowledge you require on the job. What is much harder to learn without experience are the management, communication and delivery skills we have proven in the military. These skills are why an ex-military officer is a valuable resource.