Consultant of the Year’s Top Tips on Transitioning

Richard Graybrook is a Principal Management Consultant at Turner & Townsend where he has been recognised as their 2016 Consultant of the Year.

Richard started working life as a tradesman in the construction sector before enlisting as a combat engineer in the Army, in a career spanning thirty years, and one that saw him commissioned as an officer. He shares his top tips with us about his transition from the forces to a career in management consultancy.

1. It isn’t where you start out that matters – it is where you want to go to that counts!
I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the Services and had a really diverse military career – I started out as a military artisan tradesman in the construction sector, something that has ultimately impacted on my civilian career path.

I then became a Combat Engineer, where I gained experienced in building and demolishing bridges, constructing and breaching minefields and water supply, followed by becoming an Army Diver (Underwater Engineer) that focused on underwater construction and civil engineering. I also then became a Paratrooper which, when combined with my underwater skills, led to me spending time in the Bomb Disposal world. I ended up being promoted to Regimental Sergeant Major and then commissioned to become an Officer.

When I started with Turner and Townsend, I was originally taken on as a Senior Consultant spending the next 13 months shadowing other consultants and learning the ropes to gain industry experience. Following this, I was promoted to a Principal Consultant.

2. Don’t put off leaving just because you don’t know what lies ahead
A second tip for anyone looking to begin his or her transition phase is “don’t be put off “starting the process just because you are unsure of what lies ahead. Make that move, as it’s not the big scary place that people make it out to be. I’ve heard of many people leaving the services and panicking, jumping into the first job that’s offered to them and then leaving within the first 12 – 24 months.

3. Keep your skills and qualifications up to date
Throughout my military career I took an interest in education. I undertook a Construction Engineering degree followed by a management qualification recognised by the Chartered Management Institute. Once commissioned, I undertook a Level 7 Strategic Management Diploma, which I took through to an MBA and also qualified as a teacher.

These qualifications helped me to cement the core skills that most of us have on leaving the Services with actual qualifications anybody in industry would recognise and value.

4. Use every opportunity that comes your way
Having decided to leave, the first thing I did was to attend a career transition workshop where I took the opportunity to have my CV reviewed and was able to learn about the careers fairs and opportunities available to those in transition. My advice is to take full advantage of what the Officers Association (OA), Careers Transitions Partnership (CTP) and Service organisations are able to offer, as they are the experts in their field and are in regular contact with employers actively recruiting former officers.

5. Stay open minded about your future options
Many people take 2 or 3 different jobs before finding the one that’s right for them. Don’t be put off by an industry just because you don’t know about it – it could turn out to be right up your street. Be flexible and learn as much as you can about the options available to you. Some employers are now actively targeting service leavers so go along and attend their insight and recruitment days as they offer great starting points to find out more about their industry and organisation.

6. Don’t forget your family
The main reason for me leaving the Army was because I was living apart from my family and yearned to spend more time with them. I spent a full year planning for my departure as I wanted to ensure my transition worked for us all. I eventually left the Army in April 2015.

7. Network, Network and Network
I attended a couple of job fairs to network and made the effort to speak with potential employers once I was there. One company, in particular, really stood out for me, however, every time I approached the stand to speak with them, they were bombarded with people. After several failed attempts, I finally got the opportunity. It was definitely worth the wait – not only did I find out that consultancy was better suited to my skills, I earned myself two interviews over the coming months and was offered a start date by the end of the year.

Remember that leaving the military doesn’t mean you have to leave that part of your life behind. All my contacts, networks and friends are still military and many of the clients I work for often ask for my advice on recruiting military personnel for their organisations.

8. Don’t undervalue your Service skills or undersell yourself
In terms of the skills acquired during my time in the Services, the ability to communicate with a range of people at all levels is key as you can’t for example, be fazed by someone who is a company CEO. You are there to deliver a service, and it shouldn’t matter whether they are management, director or board level.

You also need good written communication skills; being able to write up clear, succinct reports that focus on the main action points and not be distracted by red tape. That is definitely something that ex-service leavers are particularly good at.