About what seems 150 years ago, as I prepared for that moment of handing in my ID card for the final time and joining civvy street I reflected on what I knew, what had my army training taught me? I knew all that brass had to be picked up, I knew how to watch my arcs, I knew that I had no live rounds or empty cases in my possession, and I knew that the SQMS worked magic with a Norwegian container.
Other than that, my August career as number 2 on the GPMG didn’t seem to align well with being the CEO of a blue-chip company or a dolphin trainer or lead guitarist in a rock band, in fact nothing I thought might be useful to me in the next phase. I was wrong, I was wrong because of all the skills the army had taught me without me knowing I was being taught.
Now if you are in the same boat and preparing to take part in the Career Transition Programme you are no doubt wondering why leaving the service is almost as difficult as joining it. Well maybe, but rewind to the day you joined the Army, Navy or Airforce? Your first meeting with the red-faced NCO who seemed to know everything that there was to know, and was keen to remind you that you didn’t?
Why else would he (or she) throw all your stuff out of the window? Remember how high the 12-foot wall was? (it was 12 feet) how difficult it was to strip and assemble your personal weapon in the time allocated? Or how much further it was to walk when the bloke reading the map couldn’t? The same is true with civvy street. If I have learned anything it is that no matter how difficult the task, or how confident everyone else seems to be, neither is necessarily true. In my experience almost everyone is learning on the job. Now obviously you do not become an airline pilot or a dentist without training but then you would not have conquered that 12-foot wall without someone showing you the value of a cupped hand.
The army and I’m guessing the other services (whoever they are?) would have mentioned C.L.A.P. (no not the one the MO warned you about) but instead, Clear, Loud As an order and with Pauses? How else could you get served at the bar? Let me offer an alternative.
Choice, you are about to become your own posting branch, you may not know where you want to be, and your choices may be defined by circumstances such as geography and living near mum, kids’ schools and the availability of work. What you can do however is to weigh up all your options. I would caution against just living near your last posting, this is a new start. Make your plan, use the appreciation skills and do what service men and women do best: plan but be prepared to change the plan. CV. There is some discussion as to whether you should adapt your CV to make it easy for a civilian eye. That is one option but if a company is employing you for your skillset then they will understand who you are without having to translate the CV, except of course for military acronyms which are annoying and mean nothing to a prospective employer
Loyalty, firstly you will notice that this can be difficult to find in civvy street, that said people will admire it in you. Particularly loyalty to the people around you. The most important thing to a company is the bottom line. Demonstrate that a loyal and happy team delivers that bottom line.
Adaptability, if your career is anything like mine then every couple of years you change role, location, job title and targets. In a civilian CV this may well be a weakness, in yours it shows adaptability, and you should capitalise and emphasise this quality.
Professionalism. Whatever you end up doing do it well, you will get noticed. Stand out. The “Grey Man” quality is not useful here.
My company, Pimento Connection was formed in a bar by servicemen about to leave the services for a new career. As the bar bill rose, so did our confidence and we elected to look after each other wherever we could. In effect we decided not to worry about civvy street but let civvy street worry about us. It worked and we can help it work for you too.
Join us on the Veteran Connection page of our website, www.pimentoconnection.com and register your profile. It is free, anonymous, and invaluable. If we can help you in anyway then get in touch.
Stepping off (left foot) into civvy street is tough.
Tough is exactly what you have been doing since you took your oath of allegiance.
Cliff Allum MBE FRGS