Finding a Flexible Approach to Work after Service Life, by Harriet Rogers

Harriet Rogers shares her story about wanting a new career that is more flexible and not office based.

It was during my career transition workshop, run via CTP, that panic began to set in. My fellow officers announced their chosen industries to work in after leaving the military – Project Management, Consultancy, Defence Sales, Finance – making me feel increasingly like an imposter. I introduced myself and feebly squeaked that I wanted “something flexible and online.” I felt mortified that I did not have a better plan.

Despite 12 years of commissioned Service and working in high pressure environments, I suddenly doubted if I could adapt to my new career. I appreciate I am not alone.

More officers now want flexible working in their civilian careers, but have no idea how to make this happen. The demands of juggling two Service careers with young children is just one of the reasons why my husband and I are leaving the RAF. Instead, we are moving abroad for my husband’s new job. This will help to improve the work-life balance and capitalise on the skills we have gained in the military. I am taking a break from the traditional, rigid work environment, to develop new skills and a career that fits around my children. But stopping full-time work is terrifying, and you worry about how difficult it is to return.

I will not characterise this as a ‘female’ issue, but it increasingly affects serving families and anecdotally it is often mothers that leave early. At a recent resettlement event several mothers who served told me they were leaving due to a combination of having young children and regularly relocating. They planned to use their career breaks productively, by developing new skills and a flexible second career. I was impressed with how they remained energetic, focused and looking for a new challenge.

But the path to flexible working is fraught with its own challenges. The current transition model is designed to get you into your next job, not coach you through a prolonged period of change. The issues faced by Service personnel wanting an alternative to full-time work include:

  • How do you make an effective transition years after your ‘official’ resettlement?
  • How do you find sustainable employment if your first attempt fails?
  • How do you get a foot in the door when you are not physically there?
  • How do you build a network when you never stand still?

I am gradually figuring out the answers to some of these problems, while I fumble my way through this new landscape.

Since the CTP workshop, I have improved my copywriting and digital skills. There is so much information online, and I am a member of a group that supports women to learn coding. Whilst the formal resettlement training may only be available at the time you leave – rather than when needed – organisations like the Officers’ Association and X-Forces provide life-long career and welfare support. They reassure you that, although it may be a different career path to many, you are doing what is right for you.

I am still finding my way, but I know that the community of former officers will help. That spirit of sharing resources and giving encouragement continues after leaving the Services. So if you have been on a similar journey please do share your thoughts and ideas with me on LinkedIn.

Join the OA Network
The OA has a mentoring network of former officers. They have successfully transitioned, and are happy to share their experiences and give advice. Contact them via the OA Employment App.

Book your Career Consultation
Book a career appointment with an OA Career Consultant. It is free, confidential and provides practical advice on making your transition a success. Book your career consultation.