Job hunting success in the finance sector is all about clearly matching your military experience with the competencies required by the job.
So says Barney Meehan, former Army Captain and now HR Project Manager for Employee Services at Nationwide Building Society.
Ahead of the application process and interview, spend time considering the competencies your potential employer is looking for. Develop some concrete examples of how you meet each competency, with examples from your military career.
Don’t forget obvious questions like, “Why do you want this job?” or, “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”
Test your answers on friends, both with experience in the military and without. The latter will help you avoid military jargon that your civilian interviewers won’t understand.
Whether in banking or elsewhere, all employers ask for the same so called soft skills. They include being able to influence, communicate, negotiate and work as part of a team.
These are exactly the skills you will have honed while in the Services. In fact, you’ll have developed some in the most testing of environments.
Think of a few examples of each soft skill and when you’ve put them to use in the field. Emphasise that you were able to learn these skills on the job, and that you would welcome developing any new ones the job requires.
Banking and finance is one of the most closely regimented private sectors, with lots of paperwork, obligations, legal checks and inspections.
Working in this way will be nothing new to you as an ex-officer. Be prepared to talk about the rules under which you’ve become used to working, and why regulation was important in the roles you played.
Give examples of why you made particular decisions, taking into account the rules or protocols that were at stake.
Bear in mind that in the private sector you could be working with much flatter chains of command than you’re used to. Employers will want to know about your own decision making under pressure, not when you passed the decision on.
Using systems and tools
In the Services you will have worked in chains of command, tested scenarios and carried out War Gaming exercises. You’ll have used software modelling and protocols. These are all systems and tools, though you may not be used to calling them that.
Tell your potential employer about what systems and tools you’ve used, how you made the most of them and their limitations. Talk about how you might have improved them.
Just like in the private sector, there will likely have been gremlins in the systems you’ve worked with. Employers want to know about how you’ve reacted when things went wrong.
In banking and finance, employers are rightly concerned about values. Regulators want financial institutions to demonstrate they have their customers’ interests at heart, that their assets are secure, and that they behave ethically.
That means the application process in this industry is bound to challenge you about value based decisions.
These will be the easiest question to answer, because values will have been at the heart of your military career. Practise a few examples of where your values have driven your actions and decisions while in the military.
Leadership is another central tenet of the Services so it can be easy to overlook what leadership experience you have had. Or you can feel embarrassed to continually say: “When I was in Afghanistan…”.
Remember, your interviewers don’t know you or your experiences. Don’t be reticent about real examples of leadership you’ve provided, even in the most extreme of circumstances.
And don’t be afraid to show how you’ve fulfilled some of the competencies they’re looking for just because the examples were in some exotic part of the world.
Qualifications are certainly not necessary to move into the private sector, but they do demonstrate a commitment to transitioning.
If there’s a specific area you would like to move into, such as HR as I did, then a professional qualification from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development might be most relevant.
Otherwise, a good all-round transition qualification like PRINCE 2 on project management, something on Risk Management, or an NVQ in Business may help you get your foot in the door.
Hear Barney Meehan talk about how he transitioned from the military to becoming HR Manager at Nationwide Building Society, as well as the Nationwide’s initiatives for employing former Services personnel.