Two years ago Sam was a Royal Tank Regiment Officer, sat in the audience of an OA Employment event wondering what his next career move would be. After 12 years in the Army, leaving as a Major, Sam successfully transitioned into a civilian career and returns to share his advice with fellow job seeking officers.
Sam, after so many years in the military, how did you start your search for a civilian role?
I knew I wanted to settle in North Yorkshire, so my transition focused on roles in York and Leeds. The OA provided a number of key services during this time including initial career coaching and CV writing skills, access to and advice on networks, and specific careers orientated events. The OA also support various military networking groups including Two Roses, the meetings of which I regularly attended. I’ve lost track of the number of coffees, chats and beers I have had with people I have met at OA events. Networking really is key.
Tell us about your career since leaving the military.
My first role was a Programme Manager for First Group, working to establish a new business services center in Leeds city centre. The job was great and taught me that there were great roles available in industries I’d never considered before. We implemented process improvements tools, new ways of working and new systems (from Amazon Web Services) which gave me a great set of experiences to build on.
After about 18 months I was ready for a step up and applied for a Head of Group Change role in a growing insurance firm closer to home. This role is fascinating, covering mergers and acquisitions, operational support and group transformation. The business is moving quickly and there are some amazing opportunities for progression and promotion.
Although I had no ‘commercial experience’ entering my first role, I was confident in the knowledge and experience gained in my military career; resilience, leadership, stakeholder management and relationship building. The OA and my wider network helped me to articulate these skills, and the fact I had not worked for a civilian organisation before did not hinder me.
Do you have any tips for others looking to secure their first civilian role?
I think my advice can be summed up in a few key points:
- The jobs market is huge, so narrow your search down by skills, sector or location. Unless you do, you’ll have too much to choose from.
- Don’t disregard firms, sectors and industries just because you don’t know about them. In my first role I implemented some market leading digital tools, artificial intelligence and predictive analytics – I didn’t fully appreciate that those opportunities were available in a bus company.
- Networking is the most valuable way to spend your time. Whilst it may not lead to a job directly, it will help you find the right sector, the right level, and the culture for you to approach. It’s equally valuable in helping you find out where not to apply too!
Have a safety net. Joining the Reserves offers a financial cushion should you have a gap between jobs or find yourself unexpectedly unemployed. It also provides opportunities for AT, sport and adventure that might be lacking from your new civilian role. If you don’t fancy the Reserves, then at least make sure you save a few months’ worth of mortgage payments to cover a gap between leaving the Army and getting a job.”