In an environment of risk and uncertainty, why do military people shine?
There has undoubtedly been a great deal of uncertainty over the past few months. If nothing else, COVID-19 has heightened uncertainty over almost everything. The economy, employment, finances, relationships, and of course, physical and mental health. It is a fact that as human beings, we crave security. We want to feel safe and have a sense of control over our lives. For some, the current situation has robbed them of this.
Multinational professional services firm, Deloitte, has said during the pandemic that ‘no country, company, executive team, or individual leader will be immune from COVID-19’s impact. No strategy will survive fully intact. Scenario-thinking and sensing capabilities can strengthen the courage and conviction of executives to lead through these unique times.’
The ability of military people to feel comfortable with uncertainty and problem solve with imperfect information is, without doubt, an asset in such unprecedented times. There is no reference case for the COVID-19 crisis. Globally, we have faced natural disasters, flu pandemics, Black Monday and the 2008 financial crisis and yet this pandemic has touched us all unlike anything before.
Our capacity to use the uncertainty to challenge existing thinking is invaluable. Organisations prize diversity of thought and varied perspectives as it allows them to offer a range of solutions to problems.
BCG, the top tier strategy consulting firm, values ex-military personnel due to their ability to ‘get stuff done’, to take ownership and responsibility, to adapt and overcome, and above all, to feel comfortable with uncertainty and bring structure.
Don’t limit your challenges; challenge your limits
Acting in the face of uncertainty is something military people have to deal with throughout their careers. Whether it is coming under rocket fire in Helmand Province, or on a tank live firing exercise in Salisbury Plain, the ability to make informed, accurate decisions in life-critical situations is essential.
However, this is not to say that military people are not able to understand different perspectives. All people approach uncertainty and risk differently and we are all unique in how much uncertainty we can tolerate. A good leader and manager can be distinguished by an ability to actively seek others’ perspectives and take these into account when decision making; an ability to consider the implications of different decisions and make choices accordingly.
At a recent virtual event hosted by the OA, Josh Vause, a senior operations manager at Amazon, spoke about a member of his staff who had approached him to explain that he was struggling with the heat, as the temperature was 24 degrees. Josh had been on patrol in Afghanistan in full kit with a temperature of over 46 degrees, but understanding his colleague’s perspective helped him to incorporate different scenarios and reactions into his decision-making. This in turn helps him to make better decisions that are suited to a wider range of clients.
More employers than ever before are appreciating that hiring military talent can bring many benefits to their organisations. This is evidenced by the fact that 2020 has seen a record number of employers honoured by the Ministry of Defence with Defence Employer Recognition Scheme awards. These awards recognise the support for armed forces personnel from employers who proactively demonstrate their commitment to ex-forces personnel in their recruitment processes and who advocate support to partner organisations, suppliers and customers.
Johnny Mercer, Minister for Defence People and Veterans said ‘Business support for the Armed Forces continues to grow no matter the sector, company size or location.’
Increasingly, business leaders understand how a military background can be a valuable asset to their organisations. A significant element of this is their ability to deliver under pressure whatever the environment or situation.
How do you thrive in uncertainty when job hunting?
Lisa Jones, Career Consultant with the OA suggests:
1. Rise above the fray but don’t keep your job search a secret
Accept these are different times we’re operating in and rise above the noise. Don’t keep your job search a secret. Build and utilise your network, get up to speed with LinkedIn (the OA run excellent workshops that are free to attend), book a career consultation with the OA, the CTP or RFEA and explore very avenue open as you start to prepare for your civilian career. Ensure your CV sings your achievements. Undertake video training so you’re prepared and ready to go with online interviews.
2. Don’t Curb your confidence
Yes times are tougher and yes, you might face an extra setback, or a knock or two on your journey to securing your civilian role. Employers are less likely to take a risk with new hires, but don’t allow rejection to sabotage your longer-term career plans. Use your network and access all of the resources available to help reassure you that you’re on the right path. Join one of the many networking groups for veterans and meet somewhere neutral because you won’t be alone in this.
Above all, remember that you have the training, ability and inner drive to maintain your confidence to help secure that new job.
3. Embrace this new ‘operating’ environment
As we have highlighted previously, some job opportunities might be restricted but other opportunities are expanding. Look at what is happening in the marketplace, retailers, for example, are evaluating their logistics operations, recognising the growth in demand for home deliveries with a corresponding increase in the number of job vacancies. Consider your plans. Can you be flexible in light of what is happening and your own circumstances will allow?
4. Separate fact from fiction
As Neil Carberry, CE of the Recruitment Employment Confederation (REC) observed at the last OA Employment Forum; ‘The British economy has always and will always be about creating jobs.’ But often this isn’t enough to reassure us as individuals, so keep focused on your path and be clear about who you are and what you have to offer. Do your research, check in with your OA or CTP career consultant and sign up for jobs boards so you can get a better understanding of who is advertising and the types of roles that are expanding (Cyber, Logistics, Consultancy - to name a few).
5. Focus – get in tune with the ‘Be here now’ way of thinking
Don’t let the current situation paralyse your thinking. Evaluate what your career goals are and how you’re planning to meet them. Use the skills in which you have been trained and take practical steps, highlighted above, to help you move closer to your goals.
‘Life will only change when you become more committed to your dreams than you are to your comfort zone.’ Albert Einstein