Paul Coverdale shares his transition story to becoming a freelance Sustainability Consultant.
Tell me about your military career
I joined the Royal Navy as a warfare officer straight from university. I was lucky enough to spend several years doing what I joined up to do – frontline weather forecasting at sea as a hydrographic and meteorological specialist. Following an operations tour in Basra, I became a Principal Warfare Officer. I returned to my specialisation at the end of my career.
Why did you leave the Armed Forces?
I’d reached a pension point at 16 years and it was a logical step to leave as it coincided with some big life changes. I’d always known the military was never going to be a career for life and there were other things I wanted to do. And, being honest, I’d stopped enjoying it.
What steps did you take as part of your transition?
I signed up for the CTP, and used my ELC and resettlement allowances to the full, attending the Advanced Management Achievement Course at Manchester Business School six months before leaving. I wanted to return to full time academic study with a view to changing career, so I spent a lot of time researching Masters Degrees to find the right course.
What OA services did you use and how did you find them?
I was told about the OA at a CTP workshop and booked myself in for a free career consultation. Lisa Jones, an OA Career Consultant, really helped me to manage my transition and understand how to embark on the next steps. It is good to know that I can always go back to the OA for further support.
How did you get your first job after leaving the Armed Forces?
I secured my first job almost three years after leaving the Armed Forces, having enjoyed a career break to retrain and spend more time with my family. In that time, I completed a full time MSc in Environmental Technology at Imperial College, did voluntary work and started my own project – Future Debates. When I was ready to return to work, I successfully applied to become a Development Manager for Future-Fit Foundation, which helps companies to be environmentally restorative, socially just and economically inclusive
How did you gain new skills and experiences?
Some were of my own volition e.g. joining my local branch of the British Legion (I organise the Poppy Appeal where I live), and helping out with various voluntary projects in my community. To broaden my practical skillset, I enrolled on one of Escape the City’s career accelerators about two years ago. Over the course of three months I learned an incredible amount about myself, what my passions are and how I can channel those passions into work, as well the confidence to try new skills and ideas.
What advice would you give to Service leavers?
Adopt a growth mindset. All the skills and experience you acquired during your career will be useful, but don’t rely on them alone. Since leaving the Armed Forces I’ve learned how to create my own website, started a blog, organised events, appeared on live TV, spoken in public and collaborated with many people and organisations. All of this was possible because of my willingness to experiment. Not everything worked, but that doesn’t matter.
If you want a new career then spend time identifying your skills and what sort of work you enjoy. You can then find out what extra skills you might need. Stepping away from a secure career is an important decision, but also an opportunity to reset and make changes in other areas of your life. In the first six months after leaving the Royal Navy I started my degree, bought a house with my partner and became a dad. All big changes but planned, which made the process easier. Even if you have a new job lined up, pause to think of the possibilities that your new found freedom can give.