So, I cannot deny when I was asked by the Institute of Leadership to write a blog for the redeploying leadership page, I was a little reticent to say the least, in my short time in “1 Civ Div” I have come to realise that everyone’s transition is different. As I didn’t join the Army until I was 24, I already had some other experience on the outside, and as a JNCO and middle manager, would my hints and tips be of any use?
When I first got offered my job, I got too excited and went and bought a million brightly coloured socks, just because that couldn’t be dictated to me anymore. I was also thrilled at the idea of growing a beard. So, I felt like my daft response to having facial fuzz freedom wouldn’t make for useful reading.
I deliberated further and it occurred to me that actually, as an employer and leader of people I may have some insight that I wish someone had given me when I was headed into civilian employment, so here I am.
Disclaimer: This Blog is based on my own experience, not everyone will agree on some of my tips.
1) Your vernacular:
The first thing that really worried me was my mouth. The fear of being dragged into HR mere hours into my first day because I dropped a C-bomb on someone was very real, and I figured the excuse “it’s a term of endearment” probably wasn’t going to wash. The reality is that we are, inherently, good at reading the atmospherics of a room and controlling the things we say. Shockingly the same rules apply to civilians as to military personnel:
Know your audience.
There is a time and a place.
Don’t use profanity in professional situations.
This applies to the use of acronyms, the number of wasted emails I have sent defining PSA and COA doesn’t bear thinking about.
2) Your experiences:
When I first interviewed for my role, I was very conscious of the fact I was saying “during my time in the Army” a lot; I also felt like a prat when people would ask me about my service, as the experiences they were asking about were just part of a normal working day to me. My tip is this, don’t be embarrassed about your service experiences. If people ask, it is because they are interested to hear about it. It’s also so important to draw from your experience when making decisions to make the most of what you know.
It may seem that Military and civilian experiences are a world apart – and they are, but find the relevance and it will pay dividends down the line.
Further to this, in the words of Liam Neeson you “have a specific set of skills” that are useful in Civ Div, and employers are actively looking for:
Take no prisoner attitude
A natural problem-solving ability
Developed lateral thinking skills
Well presented and on time
Collected under pressure
And a strong work ethic
Not only that, apply for jobs you think you qualify for and don’t undersell yourself. I applied for an entry-level job thinking my military experience would not be worth the paper it was written on, but I included everything and when I sat for an interview, I was invited to interview further for a management role more befitting my leadership and trade qualifications.
3) Being a social hand grenade:
This one is personal; on more than one occasion I have been named during a “responsible drinking behaviour” brief and I used to wear it like a badge of honour. I was always the risky bet in the NAAFI or on a battlefield study and I have had some amazing times (the ones I remember anyway) like waking up after remembrance in full FADs, Kebab still warm in my pocket. That said, the dread that coursed through me when I was invited to a managers and leaders social event put me in a cold sweat, if my mouth hadn’t got me sacked yet a call for a naked bar probably would.
I voiced my concern to my superiors prior to accepting the invitation and was told not to be so nervous and that I would be looked after – lucky me. I needn’t have worried, going back to my reference about atmospherics I started to understand three things:
- The people who employed me did so for a reason and they wouldn’t put me in a situation that couldn’t be controlled
- The people I work alongside actually welcomed the idea of being on a social with someone who is military, I think they felt it guaranteed a good night
- I was not the only one at risk of being an embarrassment to myself
Embrace work socials and start off slow, there is plenty of fun to be had without breaking into a naked bar or mess football territory.
4) Leadership lessons:
I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss leadership in a blog for this forum. My advice is simply this, use what you’ve learned. There is nothing wrong with a better devil-you-know approach, although there are some drawbacks. In my civilian role I have been told that I can be a little direct when talking to people and not everyone is okay with receiving orders, (using a model pit may have been a bit overkill I admit) but my ability to take control of a situation and lead from the front has been noted. I have also bought a combat estimate/7 questions process into team meetings, why? Because it works and I know it works. It may seem ridiculous, but if it is something you know that has worked for you before, use it.
Ultimately the British Armed Forces has some of the best leadership training in the world, it is something that is bred into us from the day we go to the assessment centre. We get taught to take the “condor moment”, we are taught how to react under pressure and we learn what leadership styles suit us whether we come from the ranks or from commission. Our leadership training teaches us a challenge complacent mentality within the hierarchy and how to lead through adversity, so why not take full advantage of the processes and training laid before us?
5) The Reserves:
My final piece of advice is to look at continuing your service with reserve forces. I have met many a service person who openly declares they are “burning their uniform” as soon as it comes off but consider this.
It’s money for old rope. You might not need to learn anything new to be able to step into a role as it may be something you have been doing for years.
It’s a fallback. I’m not saying go headlong into an FTRS position, but there will always be a way to earn a little extra income with the reserves, especially when the chips are down. This is from experience I currently fulfil a role in a reserve training regiment, without which I could very well have ended up homeless.
It scratches an itch. Like many, I miss my mates and the social element of the armed forces, the Reserves is a space wherein I can be unabashedly true to myself and enjoy all the elements of life in the armed forces that I always have.
I still love putting my green jeans on and standing 10 feet tall when I do.
Besides all this, what you do within the reserved space is a choice. When you feel you have had enough or that you’re holding on for no real gain you can just let it go. In my opinion, the question you need to ask yourself is “Why not?” There is no harm in giving it a go even for just a little while.
Like I said at the beginning of this blog these are some hints I can offer from my experience, but I feel like I should add some honourable mentions for you to consider.
Utilize the civilian accreditation offer
Attend institute forums and seminars for networking
Be bold when applying for a new role
Speak to people who have been through the process of signing off and starting again, listen to multiple sources of advice and tailor that advice to your own needs and requirements.
Enjoy the challenge
I would like to close by saying thank you for taking the time to read through this blog, and I hope you have gained a little something from what will be, at the time of writing, my first article. I am loving life outside of the military and I am willing to speak to anyone should they feel they could do with some advice.
Voices from our community: Jack Smith
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