You’ve enjoyed your military career to date but you’re starting to think about the future; what lies ahead in terms of the civilian jobs market, what kind of opportunities are out there and where do you find your fit? All this and before you’ve even started to think about potential future locations, salary, mortgages, pensions and schools.
Nobody said it was going to be easy, and certainly the onslaught of Covid-19 isn’t making anything simpler, but if you had wanted an easy life, you wouldn’t have joined up.
Let’s put things into perspective. The current news headlines are brutal: job losses, cutbacks to investment and organisations regrouping to reassess their operational business models. Where does that leave you and your plans for transition?
The key statistic to consider before panic sets in comes from the Office for Veteran Affairs latest Veterans Fact Sheet 2020; 86% of Service leavers are employed within six months of leaving the Armed Forces, with a further 8% either in full time education, training or not actively looking for work.
You’re leaving with a skillset that is valuable; and there is overwhelming evidence to suggest these skills are sought after. Good news indeed. Leadership, focus and the ability to see a task through to completion are just a few directly attributable to you as a Service leaver.
Whilst there might be companies out there subscribing to an out-dated and inaccurate misconception of a veteran, there is now sufficient evidence to point them in the right direction. The Veterans Work series of reports established the empirical benchmark for organisations seeking to employ veterans. Evidence, that despite Covid – the future is bright. So what are the personal challenges facing you today?
“Resettlement is not something that’s done to you but rather something you undertake,” comments Neil Marshall, Chief Executive of the Forces Pension Society, who left the Army after a 30 year plus career. Neil argues that as a Service leaver you need to be in the driving seat; able to take control of your transition and in a position to develop and use the networks around you, that exist.
“There’s a great network of people and organisations only too willing to help. Speak to them, develop your own network and let them advise and influence you.”
The value of networking cannot be under-estimated in your civilian career planning. “It is the most valuable activity you can undertake and connecting with the right people can be your most useful asset when job searching or building a business” advocates OA Career Consultant Jo Sturdy. “Developing your own network is crucial to helping you find not only that first civilian role, but your second and third. I can’t stress how valuable LinkedIn is as a tool to help you do this and it’s why I advise all my clients to sign up to the OA workshops we run.”
It is arguably more important as a networking tool in these times when there is less opportunity to meet socially or via work. Adam Waters, Director of Academy and Creative at BFBS, and a popular keynote speaker at OA employment events, goes one step further. ‘Take social media seriously. Employers are leveraging LinkedIn to not only advertise their roles but to seek out new candidates and if your profile isn’t up to date, you risk losing out to a fellow job seeker whose profile shines.”
Adam believes that developing your own digital brand is the way to go – as an extension to your CV. “Its not just your LinkedIn profile that matters, it is your overall online brand. Look at the photographs you have, comments you have made and any videos you have posted. Make sure they support your credibility as a job seeker and do not detract from it. Above all, keep it real, decent and kind.”
When it comes to the all-important CV, Fiona Jackson, OA Career Consultant has seen them all and pulls no punches when reviewing a military CV.
“Own your CV. It has your name at the top and should be about YOU, not ‘A member of the Armed Forces’. Your CV is your passport to a new civilian career so has to relay the full extent of your skills and abilities concisely but in a way a civilian employer will understand. It is not just about describing your roles.
It is also critical that you have your CV reviewed by somebody who can help you translate your military skills into key skills an employer not only recognises but values.”
Fiona argues that time spent doing this before applying for roles is time well spent. She also advises clients to book in for career consultations with the OA, RFEA or the CTP to take advantage of the available support from trusted career experts.
Johnny Clive spent ten years in the Blues and Royals and left the Army ready for a new challenge. He undertook a career consultation with the OA primarily to have his CV reviewed: “I found my career consultation with Lisa Jones at the OA exceptionally helpful. Lisa not only reviewed my CV with me in detail and discussed my career aspirations, but also signposted me to events and organisations she thought might be of interest to me.” Johnny subsequently met the head of military recruitment scheme at KPMG and after a series of interviews secured a role as a Project Manager.
And what about the all-important commercial awareness you hear so much about? It’s a term that is frequently used by Service leavers, concerned that they lack this ‘skill’ but what does it really mean? In short, it is the ability to understand what makes a business or organisation successful.
In reality, this can simply be translated as an awareness of how a particular sector operates, who the major players are, what recent economic, political or regulatory changes might have impacted the industry and what emerging challenges or opportunities for the industry might be. Demonstrating that you ‘get it’ is always positive, particularly if you can relate your knowledge to a particular organisation.
Lisa Jones, OA Career Consultant comments: “It is true that many Service leavers cannot demonstrate tangible or practical experience of ‘commercial awareness’, so it’s important to focus on the skills you have which are equally as relevant.”
Lisa is hugely optimistic when it comes to advising Service leavers and veterans on their civilian careers and urges them to examine what they’re good – risk management and mitigation, an ability to build relationships and manage, stakeholder engagement and the ability to focus on delivering to the client’s needs – rather than focus on what they don’t have.
If seeing the work of the Armed Forces on home ground during the Covid-19 crisis hasn’t convinced British business of the value, skills and efficiency that comes with a Service leaver then nothing will.
Your key steps to overcoming employment challenges:
- Take Control of the journey ahead
- Network to build connections
- Build your online brand
- Use LinkedIn
- Get your CV reviewed externally.
Join the OA Virtual Employment Forum on 1 September. Register here.
The Forces Pension Society will run a pensions webinar with the OA on 15 September, National Pensions Awareness Day. Register here.