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Army veteran shares insights on transitioning to civvy street

Army Veteran Steve Blake, 41, is a Commercial Contracts Manager at Giganet the internet service provider. He has made a successful transition from a long service career to one in civvy street and shares some thoughts on making such a move.

My last day in the Army was on 24 September 2021, and I started working at Giganet on 11 October 2021. This came after serving 23 years in the Royal Signals and Royal Logistic Corps, which included several tours of Afghanistan, working at Defence/Tri-Service training establishments and conducting Ceremonials in London, to name but a few, eventually seeing me leave at the rank of Acting Warrant Officer Class Two. One of my career highlights was as an Army Photographer capturing the harshness of war to the radiance of Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Like many people leaving the forces, the transition into civvy street was a daunting process, but nevertheless, one that I knew was coming Steve Blake, Army Veteran

I share my experiences of transitioning to civvy street, so that anyone leaving the Military can have a small insight into my journey. Hopefully, something I experienced will be of help to someone else, at least that’s the aim.

Like many people leaving the forces, the transition into civvy street was a daunting process, but nevertheless, one that I knew was coming.

I was fortunate in many respects. I secured a role before I gave Notice To Terminate (NTT) and obtained early release. It wasn’t the first job I applied for by a long shot, but it was a role I knew I’d enjoy, get my teeth stuck in to and be able to make a difference.

Watching people throughout my career and even now via social media, I’ve noted that many bury their heads in the sand, go into denial, or just fail to prepare properly. Don’t let yourself be beaten. You are all well-versed in the 7P’s - Prior Planning & Preparation Prevents P*** Poor Performance - so use them. Treat your transition as another planning task, another operation/exercise and commit to failure not being an option.

I’m sure we all have similar questions about this period of our lives, but here were some of mine:

  • What job/role/industry do I really want to work in?
  • Am I prepared enough?
  • Am I qualified enough?
  • Do civilian employers want me?
  • What’s the competition?
  • Is there really job security?
  • Will I like it?

Normal questions to have, but if you let these points eat at you rather than embracing them, you’ll never succeed.

You are prepared. Your skills are valued. You are qualified enough (job dependant, obviously). You are wanted.

As soldiers (other services available) we are adaptable. We embrace change daily. We overcome problems, often before officers know they’ve got one. We work under extreme pressures and in austere conditions. We achieve things that most civilians couldn’t even imagine, and all as part of our ‘day job!’ For us, this is normal.

Now is the time to find a ‘new normal’, but you are ready for it! You just have to find your place. A role/organisation that you want as much as they want you.

Hiring a veteran is an investment STEVE BLAKE, ARMY VETERAN

So, here’s my advice (for what it’s worth):

  • Networking: It is never too early to network. A lot of jobs are secured this way. Get your face out there, be seen, be proactive.
  • Interviews: Don’t be disheartened if you don’t get one. Chalk it up, move on. If you do get one, great! Use the 7P’s, turn up, look smart and sell yourself. Never play it down, what may seem normal or mundane to you will be outstanding to a potential employer.
  • Accept Change: It is inevitable. Like everything in life, you must compromise. But find a happy medium that makes you want to stay in that role and not just take it because it’s the first role offered to you.
  • Expectations: Don’t expect civvy street to operate like the military, it doesn’t. People will do things differently and at slower rates than you’d like sometimes. They won’t all have the high standards you do, communicate as effectively or even manage and lead as you’d like. Manage your expectations and slowly encourage change if possible.
  • Jargon: Military jargon will soon be a thing of the past (mostly) and you’ll learn civvy jargon, which is often baffling. Your CV will need to be jargon/TLA free, so bear that in mind.
  • Standards: Just because you’ve left the military, don’t forget your roots. Yes, you can grow a beard (I did, and it rocks!), but be smart, be punctual, be all those things you’ve been your whole career, but now wearing your own clothes. Stay true to yourself.
  • Networking (again): Don’t stop networking once you’ve secured a role, just change, and widen your network to include your new role/industry specific contacts. I always profess that it’s who you know, not what, that will get you where you need to be. Be sure to keep your military network active. Help others in the same way you’ve been helped. Pay it forward.
  • Enjoy: It’s not as scary out here as people make out. Not everyone’s journey is easy, I get that, but you pave your own way. Be bold, embrace it and enjoy the freedom.

For employers reading this; hire a veteran for the all-round individual that will bring value to your business and impart years of experience into your team. They may take time to fit in or struggle with the way you do business initially, but they can learn and adapt fast with the right guidance and leadership!

Hiring a veteran is an investment.

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