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The journey from military to civilian life: veteran experience and advice

Transitioning from military to civilian life can be daunting. We asked a few of our veterans about their experience transitioning from military to civilian life and the advice they would give to others looking to do the same. 

Jon Neve, Sapper RE and Data Science Consultant:

Transitioning from Military to civilian life was initially a struggle for me personally and it can be a real challenge to grasp what direction you want your life to go in. Having autonomy over choices that were previously abstracted away from you can be both a negative and a positive experience, especially if you don’t have a career path lined up after exiting the Forces. From a career perspective specifically, I also found it intimidating looking at roles and seeing degrees listed as requirements. This personally was a big factor for me as I had spent the years I could have gone to university in the Military, therefore, I felt “behind” where I should be at that point in my life and felt partially excluded from roles.

My advice to someone who is leaving or has recently left the military is that you are not “behind” individuals who have gone to university or have specific career experience. Other candidates may have that desirable degree in the field you’re applying for, or those required years of experience in a related role prior, however you will have a unique skill set from your time served. Many employers value this, but first you need to fully appreciate the value you bring to a role and advocate as to why it’s an advantage. Technical skills can always be taught, relevant experience is naturally acquired overtime, yet the unique qualities you bring to the table as an ex-Forces candidate are what can help stand you out of the crowd.

Paul Buckley, Warrant Officer Class 1 – Logistics (Supply Chain) and Senior Business Transformation Consultant:

The transition from military to civilian life was not easy as expected. The management of expectations was the most difficult aspect to deal with. In the military you have an ethos and strong sense of belonging and core values (commitment, courage, discipline, respect for others, integrity and loyalty) was a massive part of this. Society as a whole, doesn’t directly adhere to a set of core values and this is hard to understand at times. It has taken me a number of years to adapt to the different mindset of civilian life and this has impacted the relationship between me and my partner at times.

Further to focusing on the professional elements of transitioning to civilian life, for example formulating respective CVs and identifying transferrable skills, I would suggest concentrating on the management of expectation as detailed above. Realise that the support network that you formerly had within the military service is not replicated in civilian life and that your family, close friends and your new place of employment are the ones that will be the ones to help and support you through the transition to all aspects of civilian life.

Paul Parsons, WO2 Systems Analyst RLC and Senior Business Transformation Consultant:

In my experience, quite recently I may add, my family was extremely supportive. My wife recognised the stress the unknown horizon presented me early on.  Our original plan was to buy a house closer to the end of my service. However, her suggestion to move earlier (2 years prior to departure) allowed me to focus on one less thing closer to the time. I was lucky, my wife is a professional and has a wealth of experience in the civil sectors. She helped me transition my military skills and attributes (In military lingo) into a civilian context, the Career Transition Workshops (CTP) try to do this, but not at a one-to-one level.

I was similarly lucky to be working in UK Strategic Command (DSCOM) for my final post. Techmodal were there also providing the technical side of digital transformation. I forged relations with the TM Developers and learnt a considerable amount. They were supportive and helped massively in translating my knowledge and skills accrued in DSCOM with that of civil industry. Its in many thanks to those individuals that I now work for Techmodal.

As I have said on many occasions, I fought my self-doubt and aimed high with Techmodal.

  • Reach out to people in the Industry for guidance prior to leaving.
  • Believe your military service counts.
  • Don’t be put off by imposter syndrome, accept there will always be some things we don’t know, but there’s always people that do!
  • As per my last comment. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. There is no such thing as a silly question only a silly answer!
  • Keep your military networks, they understand you.
  • Make new networks, they want to understand you and may already do!
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