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Life After The Military- Written by Tommy Watson

In 1985, I joined the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and spent 26 years in service. I found transition relatively painless and totally immersed myself in resettlement and my entitlements.

I wanted to ensure that I was re-skilling into what I wanted to do, and not what my advisor thought I should do. I researched well into geographical employment in relation to where I wanted to settle and I was very realistic about pay. Expectation Management for Ex Forces is a real problem, as some will tell you “You’re worth more than that.”  My belief was go in low, earn respect and work my way up which I have done for the past 7 years. I was very interested in Training & Development and the CPD environment and as such wanted to focus on working with others.

Leaving the military is always going to be challenging on some level, however, planning ahead as early as possible will give you the best chance of success.

Understand all of your entitlements and ensure you take everything that is available to you.

Military Entitlement: Your Rights andentitlements explained (JSP 534 Tri services Resettlement Manual)

Military Resettlement:  The Resettlement Guides include useful reference documents, articles for further reading and comprehensive listings of links to external sites relevant to each topic. Some guides also include checklists to highlight the key points

There are other challenges in leaving the Armed Forces that I will not cover in this article; however, during my transition and subsequent careers, I have found that the skills gained during Armed Forces service can give you a distinct advantage in the job market.

Employers in the Main are keen to hire candidates with transferable skills as they see them as being better at problem solving, thinking outside of the box, delivering to deadlines and meeting expectations.

Professionals who have served in the Armed Forces are widely known to have an excellent sense of work ethic, dedication to excellence and a strong desire to succeed in difficult circumstances. Having never worked a 9-5 job, the Ex Forces employee looks only to deliver without clock watching.

These attributes combined with the invaluable skills acquired during service can give you a real advantage when applying for work.

Transferable Skills

Here is a list of some of the transferable skills you may possess. Think about how you can incorporate them into your CV or how you can convey them in an interview.

1. Communication skills - Critical in conveying orders and articulating information clearly, effectively and persuasively.

2. Leadership/Management skills - The ability to inspire, influence, motivate; assess situations, make decisions; take risks and determine goals; achieve results through resourcefulness, creativity and teamwork.

3. Analytical skills - Used to evaluate data; research, compile, and interpret information; apply logic; handle numbers; and determine patterns.

4. Organisational skills - Includes time management; the ability to prioritise, disseminate and record data; generate accurate reports; manage resources; multi-task, administer, direct and coordinate.

5. Technical skills - The application of practical expertise and hands-on proficiency, with specific equipment and machinery, software and hardware, chemical substances, techniques and procedures.

6. Personal qualities - Having integrity, loyalty, resilience, character; self-discipline and control; being punctual, reliable, responsible, structured, resourceful and mission-oriented, with a can-do attitude.

7. Interpersonal skills – Understand cultural differences, the ability to listen, take orders, cooperate, supervise, negotiate, guide, empathise and be part of a team. 

These skills are relatable to a long list of disciplines and occupations, some of which include the corporate, government, arts and security sectors. However, translating them to your CV can be tricky when you are used to using military acronyms and jargon. For help writing your CV, see the guide on CV writing.

There are also organisations such as the Career Transition Partnership (CTP) during the Transition phase that includes programmes for Early Service Leavers, General Service Leavers and Wounded Injured and Sick (WIS) .

There are also organisations like Walking with the Walking  and the RFEA who can help Veterans and families with employment support throughout their working lives.

Translating your skills

Few people in the civilian world understand that the army is not just about soldiers. There is a generic view that they all served on operations and they were all war fighters. The diversity of Forces personnel is vast and where a job exists in civilian life there is generally a comparable job in the Forces.

Army Careers

The Army recruits to more than 100 separate roles in seven categories, demonstrating the range of careers on offer. Here are some examples of what is available in each career area

  • Combat - infantry soldiers & officers, paratroopers, tank crew member, Drivers, mechanics, medics etc
  • Engineering - aircraft technician, infrastructure engineer, vehicle mechanic, bricklayers, Joiners, Surveyors , planners , construction project managers.
  • Human resources and finance - education and training officer, HR officer, Royal Military Police soldier , accountants , auditors.
  • Intelligence, IT and communications - intelligence officer, legal officer, operator military intelligence.
  • Logistics and support - driver, chef, logistic supply specialist.
  • Medical - biomedical scientist, mental health nurse, veterinary technician.
  • Musical and ceremonial - household cavalry officer, household cavalry soldier, musician.

RAF Careers

The Royal Air Force (RAF) splits its jobs into the following categories:

  • Aircrew - pilot, Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) pilot, weapon systems officer.
  • Air operations support - aerospace battle manager, air traffic control officer, flight operations officer.
  • Force protection - RAF Regiment officer, RAF Police, firefighter.
  • Intelligence - intelligence analyst, intelligence officer, photographer.
  • Logistics - chef, driver, logistics officer.
  • Medical and medical support - medical support officer, pharmacy technician, RAF medic.
  • Personnel support - chaplain, media operations, physical training instructor.
  • Technical and engineering - communications infrastructure technician, electrician, weapon technician.

Navy Careers

The Royal Navy is organised into five services:

  • Fleet Air Arm - fighter jets and helicopters.
  • Royal Fleet Auxiliary - provides fuel for ships and supplies for personnel.
  • Royal Marines - an elite amphibious fighting force.
  • Submarine Service - also known as the 'Silent Service'.
  • Surface Fleet - destroyers, frigates, minesweepers, aircraft carriers, etc.

Across these five services, there are nine branches:

  • Aviation
  • Chaplaincy
  • Engineering
  • Logistics
  • Medical
  • Royal Marines Band Service
  • Royal Marines Reserve
  • Royal Naval Reserve
  • Warfare.

Women in the Armed Forces

According to the most recent figures, just over 10% of the regular Armed Forces personnel are women, while women currently make up only 3.6% of senior ranks.

However, in October 2018 the UK government announced that women would be allowed to serve in all British military roles - including frontline infantry and Special Forces - for the first time

Here are some examples of how your skills can be translated to civilian roles:

  • Aircraft Technician - engineering sectors; mechanics; energy industry; air traffic repairs.
  • Submarine operations - complex computer programs; high tech communication systems; cryptology.
  • Armed Forces chef - food service; catering; events; restaurant business; personal chef; food safety/inspection/distribution; culinary specialist.
  • Combat Medical Technician - Hospital ER, Paramedic, Medical Consultant.
  • Special Forces - law enforcement; nuclear power plant security; bodyguard; private detective; hostage negotiations; film consultant; MI5.

When it comes to writing your CV, it's important to remember to translate your skill set into terms that businesses will understand. Many businesses know very little about the military, so taking the time to translate each role and your experience into business terms is important.

However, it's important to remember to leave out any combat experience. This does not translate into the business world and may give the wrong impression.

Employers want to know about your skills

Your military experience is an asset and should be there for businesses to see. Anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong. Employers generally know the value of bringing veterans into any team, and if you have clearly laid out how your skills and experience can improve their team, they can see the benefit of bringing you on-board.

Remember to be punctual, be confident, polite and friendly.

Employers are not just looking for people with the right skillset, but someone who will get on with their team and come to work with a smile on their face.

 If you would like more information about our Employment Programme, click here.