How to research for a successful transition, by Lisa Jones

Lisa Jones is a Career Consultant at the OA. She shares her top tips on researching to find the right career after leaving the Armed Forces.

Start Early
The earlier you start the more time you will give yourself, and be able to do justice to your ‘reconnaissance’. There are so many opportunities out there, and it will take time to research them fully and identify where you feel you would fit in best.

You can start by doing some research online, where there is of course a huge amount of material and information. People will be impressed if you can demonstrate a certain level of knowledge. Read blogs, follow organisations on social media and look on their website.

You can then move on to face-to-face research.

Network, network, network
Meeting others through networking events, or one-on-one if you can, is probably the most effective way of gaining information, and improving your knowledge about both sectors and specific organisations. Approaching people for advice and guidance can seem daunting, but do not forget that they were once in your shoes, particularly if they are ex-military themselves.

You will learn a huge amount of useful information from existing employees, which will help you to understand why you want to work in that sector or specific organisation. This information will also prove invaluable at interview.

To this end, it is also important to be able to market yourself effectively, understand the skills you are ‘selling’ and how these might be attractive to an employer.

Areas to consider in your research

  • Culture and values of an organisation
  • Quality of people you will work with
  • Type of roles available and where to pitch yourself – what variety exists and what do these involve day to day?
  • Geography, including your commute. Do you like to be close to transport links, shops, restaurants and other offices? Or are you comfortable working in a remote location?
  • Skills required to do the job. How have others found the transition? What did they find easy? What do they wish they’d known?

Social Media
Social media is a powerful tool. The best way to find and contact the right people is through networks such as LinkedIn.

Remember:

  • Connections breed connections – make use of your second level contacts to broaden your reach
  • Follow organisations and learn about what the latest trends or developments are in that industry/sector/organisation
  • Managing your visibility online is critical to searching the hidden job market, but personal contact will help to ‘seal the deal’
  • Widen your network
  • Meet people through mutual connections
  • Highlight your skills and experience to a global audience.

However, there is no substitute for getting in front of someone and creating an impression. A good face-to-face meeting, followed up by a thank you note, can be remembered for months to come.

About Lisa Jones
Lisa left the Army in 2001 after eight years’ service and embarked on a career in investment banking, where she managed the Listed Derivatives client services team at Morgan Stanley and worked in Prime Brokerage at UBS. She left banking after eight years to study the Persian language, putting this new skill to good use with the FCO in Afghanistan in 2010-2011. She joined the OA as a Career Consultant in October 2012.

To get a free career consultation, register with the OA.