Meri Mayhew joined the RAF in 1989 and served as an Air Traffic Control Officer until 2003. This is her transition story.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the RAF, particularly the interesting and varied roles, the camaraderie and the social life. A professional highlight was my tour in Afghanistan, running day-to-day air traffic operations at Kabul International Airport. My husband is still serving in the RAF and I left because trying to manage career progression with co-location was becoming harder.
I had 12 months to prepare for leaving the RAF, and I took full advantage of the resettlement package on offer. This included attending a Career Transition Partnership resettlement workshop and registering with the Officers’ Association. I also completed a couple of training courses to add to my civilian-recognised professional qualifications.
I have worked in the charity sector since leaving the RAF. My first role (which I secured after seeing it advertised in the local paper) was as Chief Executive of a local independent charity near our home. This was a great first job after the RAF, giving me good all-round experience of every aspect of managing a charity. Following 3 years there I went on to complete an Open University honours degree in Business Studies, before joining the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) for 6 years, initially as the Development Manager and then as Head of Policy. These roles at FiMT were extremely interesting and gave me experience of working in a UK-wide charitable trust with a greater understanding of policy and strategic development. I then felt ready for a fresh challenge and was offered a 10-month secondment in the Ministry of Defence as the Charity Adviser to the Veterans Strategy. This broadened my experience further and gave me the opportunity to interact with civil servants across Government departments, giving me a better understanding of the public sector.
My secondment finished at the end of March 2019, and by that stage I knew that I enjoyed working pretty autonomously, and had developed sufficient skills, experience and credibility to try self-employment. In April 2019 I set up my own private limited company (Meri Mayhew Consulting Ltd) and am now working as a Charity Consultant (working exclusively in the military charity sector at the moment, but this could broaden in the future). In order to achieve this next step, I took advice from the Officers’ Association, and also attended two short courses run by X-Forces Enterprises who support members of the Armed Forces community considering self-employment. All the information, advice and guidance I received from these organisations was excellent, with very knowledgeable and approachable people, and lots of support.
It is very early days for me in this role and I am learning a huge amount in my first year. Even at this stage, though, I am finding a lot of advantages in working for myself. I am working in an area I enjoy very much; I find the work very satisfying and rewarding; I can work part-time; and I have control over my work/life balance (most of the time!).
There are, though, important considerations with being self-employed. For example, unless I find and secure future work, then the work could dry up, and income is more varied than a regular salary. I have been fortunate so far in that I have not yet had to actively seek work – probably due to an extensive network which I have built in previous roles, but I am not complacent and always have an eye on the future! I have also had to learn how to manage different work strands when working for several different organisations concurrently to ensure I can always meet my commitments to the standard I set for myself.
Overall, I feel that the move to self-employment was right for me and I am enjoying it very much. I also know that the support and expertise of the Officers’ Association and X-Forces Enterprises have been invaluable and meant that I was well-prepared every step of the way.