The Defence Sector – Seamless Transition for Service Leavers?

With productivity up by 29% over the past five years and an annual turnover of £24bn, the defence sector remains a buoyant industry.  The sense of confidence from the sector and its reputation for continual innovation means it still holds its interest and value for Service leavers looking for their next career step.

Following a 22 year career in the Army, Bob Seymour is now an established member of the BT Defence community, with his most recent role as Client Business Development Director. He states that employers in the defence industry appear to be much less concerned with candidates offering specific knowledge and expertise but rather, look for individuals possessing an understanding of the very particular environment, the sector runs.

He says, “Military personnel are particularly attractive to employers in the industry because of their experience in processes and programmes, as well as their ability to deliver complex strategies and overcome multiple issues.” He adds: “More than ever, the sector wants to display transparency and fairness. Therefore, their knowledge of specific commercial rules that MOD must adhere to is also extremely useful.”

What roles are particularly suited to ex-military personnel?

OA Career Consultant, Keith Spencer believes that the sector offers a wealth of exciting opportunities that complement the skills of Service-leavers.

He says, “You could be a key account manager or work within what are known as ’catch teams’ that bring in business for the company.  If you’re a project or programme manager there’s the opportunity to focus on particular equipment within a product campaign team – or there’s scope to work within operational management that brings people and material together to produce specific outcomes, around defence manufacturing.”  He adds “There’s also the specialist route – whether that’s as an engineer, logistician, communicator or an HR specialist.”

Despite the fact that the defence industry poses many contributing factors to a smooth transition, there do remain a number of crucial cultural differences to take into consideration. It’s likely that many Service-leavers will find themselves working alongside people with shared experiences or backgrounds who appreciate a similar sense of camaraderie. However, there are key differences to address. Keith says, “The transition is not a straight swap. Occasionally, it can take time for individuals to develop a more empathetic style of leadership and behaviour.” He adds: “You’re now on the other side of the customer/supplier relationship, so your loyalty lies with the commercial success of your employer.”

Top Tips

  • Don’t assume that you know everything because you’re from a defence background. There are still different processes and a commercial language to adjust to.

  • You might be joining a business that is predominantly ex-military but be aware that the recruiting team could have little or no knowledge of the military environment – You will need to tailor your CV for each and every role.

  • Be realistic about salary expectations – don’t ask for much more than you are currently receiving as a package, unless you can justify it.

  • Research is a critical part of the process to understanding whether your skillset is a good fit for a particular role but it’s also of equal importance to consider whether it’s a good match for you.

  • What makes you distinctive? Do your qualifications and experiences translate easily to what this company does?

  • Consider the how, as well as the what. For example, how have your wider skills contributed to what you’ve achieved?

(Abridged from Pathfinder, March 2017)