Moving to Civvy employment.

Discussion in 'Officers' started by 303SMLE, Mar 28, 2008.

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  1. As always, I've got half an eye looking 5 or 10 years into the future, and I was wondering how Officers leaving at the Capt/junior Maj level found the transition to civvy employment. How easy was it to secure said employment? Were your skills regarded as valuable? Did they enable you to compete with civilian managers of a similiar age and experience?

    I'm aiming my question more at 'Teeth' Officers, rather than REME, RE or Sigs Officers who (presumably) can enter into industry more easily.

    I realise the job market changes, etc. etc. but I'm just trying to get a feel for it beyond the recruiters "firms will be falling over themselves to offer you £100k a year to drink brews" attitude. :D

    The reason I'm asking at this early stage is really just so I can put my (and my fathers!) minds at rest a bit, and perhaps identify if there are any steps I can take to make sure I come out employable. For example, an OU masters has been touted, and I understand some military courses count as credit for an OU MBA. I've no intention of compromising my commitment to my men or my job, but I don't want to inadvertantly short change myself through ignorance.
  2. There are some companies that regard ex forces very highly, recognising management and personal discipline skills amongst many others for being prevalent and a strength of (some) ex forces. There are of course many other companies who believe that management skills of the ex forces are shouting orders and demanding to be obeyed immediately with no discussion.

    It is worth utilising the CTW scheme as there are many companies who contact direct to advertise openings and also hold open days for recruitment.

    At the end of the day if you are good enough a company will take you on. Good luck.
  3. Hello 303SMLE

    I left the Infantry for normal life ( I bridle at calling it "civvy street" somehow ) in 2005. I'm now back in, as things turn out, but I genuinely enjoyed my time out and wouldn't change a thing.

    You are right to look ahead, you'd be suprised how many in your position ( myself included ) do not. Be positive, you have every right to be.

    The transition is - as a general rule - as easy or as hard as your preparation makes it.

    Is it relatively easy to get safe secure and reasonably lucrative employment?

    "Yes", without a doubt. Nobody I know who left is doing badly, and most are doing rather nicely.

    But finding a job which you find rewarding, satisfying and reasonably convenient is a problem for everyone, especially so for someone leaving the Army. Finding out what you want to do is hard and relies heavily on who you are. Note, you are not - at heart - necessarily the man that years of military training and conformism persuades you that you are, or should be! This is more difficult to fully realise than it first seems.

    Personally I would reccomend buying a copy of “What Colour is Your Parachute?” The language may grate but it contains a lot of good advice… and if you leave you will have to get used to reading sentiments which are not couched in Army-speak and assumptions.

    Once you get there, though, things become a lot easier when you can move from soul-searching to investigating practical approaches - I read a quote somewhere which said "The crowd makes way for the man who knows where he is going" and I think when pondering a career change then it is particularly true.

    You may find after a preliminary search that the Army is where you want to remain for the time being, which is all to the good - the soon you thrash things out the better. Its not disloyal - I suspect that very few officers who are unhappy at heart are able to give their best to their soldiers. And if you stay, you will probably commit more and work for them better as a result. My three years out enabled me to come back refreshed and able to put Army life in perspective, for better and worse, and I am happier and - I think - a better officer as a result.

    Were your skills regarded as valuable?

    Yes, definately.

    Why? Because its highly likely that you are intelligent, hard working, stoic and reasonably charming. Err... you did say you were in the teeth arms, didn't you?

    You are also likely to be a good communicator and this is a rarer skill than you might expect. For example I have seen the HR Head of Microsoft UK give a stumbling speech in a situation which a new subaltern would knock into the back of the net.

    Equally I have worked for brilliant entrepreneurs who could talk you out of your life savings but couldn't organise a platoon smoker.

    So in three key areas - general skills, communications and organisation - you are very likely to be competent. With some commercial knowlege and guile you shouldn't do badly at all.

    Don't do an OU MBA if you feel its necessary to compensate for lack of commercial experience. Its not. IMHO an MBA for most people leaving the Army would be expensive, inappropriate and possibly counter-productive.

    Did they enable you to compete with civilian managers of a similiar age and experience?

    Yes, it all depends on how quickly you can adapt them. This is easier than you may think.

    I mentioned before that you should be positive because you deserve to be. But you must be, as well, because no matter how well you prepare you have to cross a divide to join normal life and potential employers want to employ confident, bright, self-aware and preferably ambitious people.

    Perhaps the best thing you can do, outside formal preparation, is "tune in" to the outside world. Maybe that is foolish advice for you - you may be married, and have significant interests and a number of friends outside the Army - but in retrospect I am suprised at how incurious, and probably arrogant, I was about the outside world as a subaltern at RD.

    At parties instead of spending all your time trying to trap, chat to the blokes about their jobs. Be on “receive”, be interested in their jobs and general advice. You may be about to enter their world – to use a military analogy you are a potential officer in their mess. Their advice may give you some good tips, or simply help you tune into a new world and new way of thinking. They may even be able to help you out in the future. I met a guy ( ex-LI ) at a party who later offered me a pretty good job. I declined, but it was bloody tempting…

    Anyway, enough of my pronouncements, you may find these useful...

    General Advice
    I found this thread valuable -

    The List
    Spend a couple of quid on a copy of The List CD, you could do a lot worse than ask the advice of ex-officers with similar military experience to you, and those who work or have worked in areas you're considering -

    You could do a lot worse than putting one together to stimulate some thought on where you've been, where you are now, where you want to be and how your skills can get you there. Getting it to people in the areas you're interested in, even speculatively, could well bring good feedback about your approach, about what they feel your strengths / key selling points are, and where critical gaps are - you can address these with your resettlement leave and grant.

    I am far less qualified to offer advice than the above might suggest, but PM me if I can help, especially if you're thinking about NGOs / Management Consultancy / or Events Management.

    Good luck


    P.S. You may at some point find yourself thinking "perhaps Recruitment would be a good idea." This is a cry for help, for God's sake ignore it! :D
  4. mysteron

    mysteron LE Book Reviewer

    OK, I will give you the story of what happened to me and how I would have done it differently.

    I resigned to leave on Apr 07. In the lead up time to that I did a number of things. I completed all those courses that I said I would do, but never got round to doing - ECDL, Health & Safety courses etc. I ended up blowing my SLC and ELCs on those.

    Lesson 1: Irrespective of how much you feel you can do them later - do them now, make the time.

    I then used my resettlement dosh to do the PRINCE2 Practitioner's course at the Bristol Management Centre ( This course was frankly a skull fcuk. You work bloody hard with plenty of homework and you have to deprogramme 7 Questions and engage civvy thought (actually not a bad thing sometimes). PRINCE2 is like passing your driving test, whilst you are qualified to drive - it does not mean you can, but it is a passport into Project Management environments.

    Lesson 2: Use your ELC and SLC to do the PRINCE2 course about 2 years before you leave, then add a number of tasks you have been told to do and record them as projects for future reference, it will help build up your CV. That way you have used your credits wisely.

    Join a management or Project Management association like APM, CIPD, etc. Get as high as you can and pay the yearly fee. It is a bind, but if you think about it, the real cost is one night on the pop. What is more important to you? Getting pi$$ed or setting yourself up for the future - you will ultimately get some sh!t for that - but I wish I did.

    Lesson 3: Join a recognised and affliated management organisation.

    You, as suggested, am in a similar vein as I was in that you are a teeth arm officer. So build up a contact list now; old boys network, that party where you met that boorish city tw@t that spent 2 hours telling you how much money he makes on every deal; what about that dinner night when you seated next to that old fogey who was a former officer and now does a job that you would rather staple your penis to a door and slam it shut than do yourself. It costs nothing to be polite and nice - one day, one of those people may be that opening in the door that gets you that job. Business cards are a cliche to some people, especially an organisation like the Army that is based on old fashioned values - do not underestimate them, get some decent ones made not some pi$h that you printed off on your Canon Bubblejet printer in the Officers' Mess.

    Lesson 4: No matter how many arrseholes you meet, you will end up working for, with or being introduced to a whole shed load of them. The Regiment you joined accepted you as part of the family because you fitted into their model, that will not happen in civvy street unless you are very, very, VERY lucky and join one of those etheral firms recruiters bullsh!t about. It is all about looking after yourself without appearing to do so. So be nice and build your contact list.

    Do not be disheartened when the internet searches, contact lists et al do not bear fruit immediately. I was once told that you will apply for 100 jobs, get 10 interviews and 1 offer. I did a little better than that - but I got lucky.

    Lesson 5: Even if you are not leaving just yet, apply for some jobs after doing some courses - get interview experience.

    So what happened to me? I now work in Defence and got an equivalent wage (read disposable income) of what I would have had in the Army when I left. I worked for a year got promoted and now on a better pay packet but not much better, I am also continuing to search about for better.

    If you want CV reviews and tips - I am no expert but I know what gave me a job - I will try and help, PM me.

    I agree with Charlie C - as an Army Officer you have loads of soft skills that the vast majority do not. Leadership, communication skills, a grasp of English (you would be very surprised!) and a plethora of other facets make us a breed that is very attractive to employers. I also agree that being a Recruitment Consultant is not a good way to go - I was offered a chance to be one and quickly realised that it would be a mug's game for someone like us. No disrespect to anyone who is on this (I suspect there are not many if at all) but it ain't using the whole skill set you can offer.

    Edited after reading it again and seeing my plethora of speellung mistakes!
  5. mysteron

    mysteron LE Book Reviewer

    Double post deleted - Damn this pesky, slow 3G card!!!
  6. ........... but not so rare as you'd think. If you find yourself having a coffee 'with the team' after the formal interview, you're probably being sized up to see if you'll fit in. I've already taken part in the group dissections of candidates since I joined my new organisation. It's a good process which works - result: everyone happy.
  7. I'm not and never was an occifer, I am however a happy Project Manager doing well and involved in that industry camped primarily off the East coast of Jockland. As an ex SNCO I seem to have made similar errors to Mysteron and would follow his advice should I have my time again but for one point; don't pay to do PRINCE 2 practitioner, it's just not worth it. Far better to get yourself an appointment which involves project management and get them to send you on it then even more important; document your projects and make sure you push the finance aspects. (Civ div generally have a lot of respect for ex - service types but they are all too aware that exposure to finance control and commercial aspects are weaknesses; prove them wrong!)

    Saying that I'm not a fan of PRINCE 2 and it is only used in the public sector, if like me you wanted to escape defence I would (and have) pursue the APM qualification route including membership, PRINCE 2 seems to focus too much on procurement projects and we all know what a feckup that is, much better to be involved in something like Terminal 5 (oops!)

    As a sidenote APM are currently pursueing Chartered Status, should it happen (it will) Certified Professional Practitioners may well become Chartered Practitioners- not a bad thing when negotiating contracts :wink:
  8. I'd just like to add that god knows how my post ended up with four edits, I am not a complete mong ( I think ).

    I had a giggle with my ECDL credits, spanked it on mountaineering and sailing... because I wanted a career in outdoor sports, obviously. Great fun.

    Felt a bit stupid when I fell off a cliff and found myself job hunting from a wheelchair with no courses to shout about, though. ( That is one thing I would definately do differently )

    I did a PRINCE 2 course to get the Practioner qual. Complete doss, no homework, on the lash nearly every night. Didn't really want to go into PM though, just didn't really know what to do and thought "everyone else is doing it, so why don't I... and it'll look better in my CV's "Qualifications" section than PCBC, Coastal Skipper and MLT. Didn't go into PM after all... so that was cash from my back pocket well spent. ( Hmm, another thing I would have done differently )

    Basically I totally agree with Mysteron.

    I worked for an absolutely cracking events Company, brilliant craic, great work, pretty awful money. Earned a good deal more as a Mgt Consultant, but it wasn't fun.

    In itself that isn't a drama - outside the Army your life is your own. You can choose to work in corporate environment in relatively dull work beause you're happy with the security and money it gives you to live your life outside it. Or you could find work which is exciting but risky ( I dabbled in "Dragon's Den" style seed funding which was.... ermmm... interesting... losing 30k of the firm's money to Croatian mafia ). Either of the above can be lucrative and fulfilling.

    I think what you really to need to hit it big on the outside – if you want to - is ambition. You clearly have some to have joined the Army. If you are able to turn that into a skill for self-advancement without becoming too arrogant then the commercial world will become especially kind to you.

    To do that you have to know where you want to be and with some self-interested charm - as Mysteron said - work your way there without turning into a cock-jockey.

    Between now and then is the difficult part but - a couple of hours a week grazing the net and putting together an estimate ( sad, I know ) isn't too hard although its never going to look particularly attractive compared to getting on it in the Mess. But if you leave it cuts down the amount of time you spend job-hunting on the outside which can be pretty dispiriting - waiting for emails & lurking sweaty-palmed with a cup of tea in the reception of an office ready to enthuse about your boundless enthusiasm for the plastics industry. The 100 - 10 - 1 ratio is not a bad one to plan around...


    Same here - bloody 3G card....
  9. I'd add something else, don't waste any opportunities for education. Every course that's made available is an opportunuty to find out about alternative careers, you don't have to put them all on your CV but it's nice to have some "tailoring" ability. In my last 7 years I worked for a BSc, CertEd, Post Grad Diploma in Maths and a load of courses:TNA, Dyslexia Awareness, Training Design; it was a lot of work mostly in my own time because I thought I wanted to be a teacher, when I realised teaching wasn't for me because I hate f*cking kids my world caved in. But those qualifications showed my employer that I had ambition and drive, I applied for 4 jobs on leaving and was offered 3! (no-one was more shocked than me)

    I didn't take the best paid option but I did take the one that offered me the best lifestyle, something you seriously need to think about when the time comes.

    Good Luck.
  10. You need the courses but the key is the interview.
    Ive spent a good few years as a recruitment consultant and the qualifications will get you the interview, but the interview will get you the job.
    The military IS well respected within the private sector, the trouble is that once in the private sector the military trained think they will appeal more to civvie types by playing down their military strengths. This is not the case.
    From the second you've handed in your CV they know your history. When theyve accepted you for interview theyre EXPECTING someone from the military (and its probably why theyve called you in).
    Im not suggesting you make a mile run mandatory for any pie eating desk jockey. But, they are going to be expecting a certain strength of mind that only the military can provide.
    In all truth there are probably going to be problems witin the the team / section youre going to be in charge of, and theyre expecting you to fix it
    If you submit a military CV and they accept you for interview. Be confident in what you know, dont be afraid to talk freely about the hard parts of dealing with civvies and how youll deal with it.
    Ill warn you now, civvies fcuking winge more about what theyre not getting more than anyone. So be prepared for that.

    Fcuk me, thats the longest post ive ever made. PM me if you want anymore advice, like i say ive spent a lot of time in the private sector and a lot of it in recruitment so i know about whooing employers.

    I'll PM you back about my final test for ADSC this Thursday :D
  11. Ord_Sgt

    Ord_Sgt RIP

    Some sound advice there. I'd like to add that finding a job is not really the hard bit, ex-Army by definition have the get up and go to stand out from the crowd and as an officer isn't it supposed to be hard coded in? ;) Finding something you enjoy can be a bit more difficult and a lot of that can come from who you end up working with.

    Anyway good luck with it all.
  12. I think it probably is hard coded in!

    I left some time ago and went to Law School with my gratuity. I'm now a partner in a niche corporate firm. Anyone with the Army on their CV will get an interview here.

    We can teach the technical stuff relatively easily but its less easy to teach people to crisis manage as well as soldiers generally do and few civvies have the same skills and confidence on their feet and in front of an audience.

    I confess I still apply combat appreciation formats to business problems and can be heard muttering "selection and maintenance of the aim" from time to time when people get sidetracked.

    Much of what goes on is nonsense in an "Emperor's New Clothes" sort of way. The Army issue BS detector works extraordinarily well and can be very helpful too.
  13. Ord_Sgt

    Ord_Sgt RIP

    Now aint that the truth. :D Civi timekeeping, or lack of it, is another thing that takes some getting used to.
  14. Much food for thought. Thank you.