Matt Driver and Phil Hayes, Coaches at Management Futures, explain how coaching can prepare you for your working life after leaving the Armed Forces.
Coaching is vital to a successful transition. Leaving the military and starting a civilian career is a huge change, involving more than swapping jobs: you need to find new purpose and decide your next steps. Many Service leavers apply for jobs without fully thinking about the impact, ending up in unfulfilling careers. Coaching helps you gain clarity of thought and action, so you make the right career choice.
At its heart, coaching is a speaking and listening exercise. It will encourage you to consider important questions you may never have previously considered, so you think about your life in different ways. Everything you say is confidential, so you can voice concerns and private aspirations. A coach also gives honest frank feedback, helping you to develop.
Sometimes, coaching is wrongfully considered a soft option. Our experience is that being coached can be tough, because at its best you scrutinise yourself. In the military you gave and followed orders, but you now need to decide what are your values, goals and next steps. This can make you anxious, but coaching provides a safe space to explore ideas.
A coach can help you understand how your military skills and experiences are applicable to your new chosen career. You can then identify your skill gaps and how to gain relevant experiences. Coaching can bridge the gap between the military and civilian worlds. In addition to learning more about yourself, a coach can help you adopt a softer style of leadership and learn how to build professional relationships that are not based on rank.
It’s important you find the right coach for you. Make sure they’re qualified by a respected body, such as the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) or European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC). Ask what Continued Personal Development (CPD) they do, so you know they actively improve their skills, and see what sort of people they have already supported. However, a good coach doesn’t need to be an expert in your field, because they guide you to help yourself.
You should consider coaching as an investment rather than expense. Getting the right support early on can have a positive dramatic impact over several decades. I have seen many people flounder, because they did not invest in professional guidance.
Finally, learn some coaching skills. Ex-Service Personnel often make great coaches, but even a basic understanding will make you a more effective manager. It will also train you to take an active approach to your professional development.
Ask the Expert
You can read Matt and Phil’s answer, as well as those of other industry insiders, in the latest issue of Pathfinder Magazine – the monthly magazine for Service leavers. The OA edits a regular article called ‘Ask the Expert’, where a career question is answered by a panel of experts on the topic discussed. Read the full article.
Get more great advice on how to achieve professional goals
Rory Underwood MBE, the former England rugby star and RAF officer, is giving a presentation in Bristol. He will discuss his career journey and share how you can have post military success.
The event is open to serving and former officers, plus spouses, and takes place on Monday 17th September at 6:30pm, at the M Shed in Bristol.