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Leavers’ Link Top 5 Networking Tips for Service Leavers & Veterans

Networking…what’s it all about?  To the uninitiated Service Leaver or Veteran it may seem a little strange to go and socialise or conduct informal business in a room full of people most of whom you don’t know.   But at Leavers’ Link we know and actively promote that networking at events, seminars and industry events days can bring enlightenment, market intelligence and reward!  Here’s our top 5 tips to maximise your networking opportunities!

  1. Invest early in networking.

After many years in Service it’s wise to invest time in finding out what’s really out there in your local area.  What are you looking for?  Of a million and one jobs and roles out there what’s it really like to work in Corporate Construction, Financial Services or Insurance Project Management?  Best to ask those who are out there at one of the many Service Leavers Networking events nationwide.  Most are free and savvy recruiters attend too; checkout the Leavers’ Link, Officers’ Association and Liquid List events pages on websites and LinkedIn pages.

  1. Step outside your comfort zone…there’s a big world of business out there!

So are you looking for a Corporate, SME or a self-employed ‘consultancy’ or ‘interim’ second career…..or you really don’t know?   After starting in the ‘Service Leavers’ arena of events, go explore!  Anything that will aide you from making a poor decision is worthy of investment….but where?  Take Colchester as an example.  A Borough of c.200,000 people, 6,500 business’ with 80,000 employees in the town without a single major FTSE 100 Global Corporate Head Office or production facility; no surprise there are 27 known networking events for SME employers every week!  Choose your sectors of interest and head for step 3.

  1. So where do I find these events? There’s a range of sources to find your local events.

We recommend getting in touch with your local ‘Employer Bodies’ suited to what you’re looking to do.  County ‘Chambers of Commerce’, the ‘Institute of Directors’ and ‘Federation of Small Business’ all have ‘Brand Identity’ and are Armed Forces Covenant Signatories; they host networking events and all have fertile networks and details of other events in your county or region.  It’s also wise to check the Trade Forums of your ‘chosen’ industry;  many host nationwide quarterly or 6 monthly ‘Industry Days’;  guest speakers and trade stands maybe, but they’re also really fertile networking opportunities.  Checkout out who will be exhibiting and do your research before you pitch up;  finally, when you sign up to attend, tell people you’re going on social media…..recruiters and many others are looking!

  1. You are your profile, invest in Social Media and be your own brand!

As soon as you start preparing to hit the market and forever more in business, make sure you’re LinkedIn profile is as smart as you, up to date and sells you as you want to be seen.  There’s so many a Service Leaver profile out there with no photograph, quoting his job as ‘sniper’ or ‘Battery OC’ ;  look out to your network to those old oppos who you know that have left and improve on their offering.  Remember it’s a competitive market place, more so and especially if you have no commercial experience and after each and every networking event those who you’ve been talking too will be checking your profile.

If you’ve a business card, make sure it’s basic, not your ‘MOD J1-9 XXXX- XXXX’ or whatever you were or still are:  Name, mobile number email address, keep it simple and don’t pigeon-hole yourself with a job title.  On social media join LinkedIn Groups that interest you in where you want to go not in what you are.  Engage in ‘Discussions’, but be wise when you do so and if you’ve ‘breaking news’ that you think will be of interest [and will promote you well] Share It; be prepared to engage with those who challenge your opinion!

  1. Follow up, cultivate and re invest!

When invited make sure you follow up and be swift about it!  Get in touch within 24 hours and as your network grows smartly cultivate a top 10 who you routinely stay in ‘Touch’ with;  the Touch is your catch up, call for coffee, intelligent insight, or savvy invitation or offering once every 27 days;  they might not be in the zone to offer you a role, but when you’re in your ‘dream job’ you’ll be surprised by how many of your new professional network do get in and stay in touch!  It’s then over to you to re-invest your time and effort in those c.20,000 Service Lavers coming along behind you every year. Do what you can to influence your business to invest in the Covenant and more employees like you!!

There’s so much more to networking, but we hope that following our learned advice will provide you with some essentials that will endure well into your time in Civvie Street;  it’s the same for all of us as Service Leavers and Veterans, business is competitive and in the view of Leavers’ Link it’s better to be armed and ready with the advantage of with a strong and flourishing network.

Get in touch over our social media platforms to find out more about Leavers’ Link events in East Anglia and other events nationwide.  Facebook and LinkedIn:  Leavers’ link and Twitter @leaverslink

Thanks for your time folks…

The Leavers’ Link Team

Press Release by Leavers’ Link East Anglia – A busy night’s networking…

MP for Colchester, Sir Bob Russell MP has shown his enduring support for Armed Forces Veterans and Service Leavers, by visiting Colchester based Networking event, “Leavers’ Link”. This voluntarily run monthly event took place at the Colchester Officers’ Club Thursday February 19th; among the networkers attending this evening event were members of the Armed Forces Community in Transition, Veterans, members of the business community, training organisations and Service Charities.

Sir Bob mingled among the networkers and spoke with all comers to provide words of advice and encouragement to Service Leavers, and to thank members of the business community for giving up their time to provide genuine help and advice at what is a time of great uncertainty for many members of the Colchester Military Community and their families. In East Anglia there are approximately 1000 Service Leavers per year from all 3 Services; many find work within 3 months of leaving, their transferable skills attractive to many sector specialist employers where there is a well matched skill set; for some it is recognised that that their journey will be much tougher and networking, well entrenched within the business community as a part of daily life is a recognised but currently not formally MOD supported route of getting in touch with employers and decision makers in the business community.

In a short address Sir Bob applauded Leavers’ Link and their supporters for their considerable voluntary and unfunded efforts and was keen to recognise that though networking with Leavers’ Link and other networking events may not be a direct route into work, 65-85% of all jobs are found through someone you know. He also actively encouraged Service Leavers to engage early with their local communities and businesses through simple and effective networking, no matter what area of the country they intended resettling to. He also commented that he was delighted to hear that Leavers’ Link had expanded it’s monthly regional networking format to include Peterborough and Norwich and that it was his firm belief across East Anglia and nationwide that employers were only too keen to take on talented, well trained well disciplined young men and women with a good service background, who were not afraid of embracing personal change and a hard days work.

Mr John Vickers Chairman of the Leavers’ Link, an Armed Forces Corporate Covenant Signatory said he was delighted that Sir Bob, a member of the influential Defence Select Committee had come back to see the progress Leavers’ Link had made in the 3 years since his previous visit in 2012.


Leavers Link 19 Feb 14

The secrets of networking to success in business explained expertly by Leavers’ Link Chairman John Vickers; as Sir Bob Russell MP and assembled networkers from the Service and business communities listen and enjoy the relaxed setting of the Colchester Officers’ Club.

A service leavers view…

This month we have a guest post from an imminent service leaver…


The Importance of Networking

‘It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you’

In October 2014 I tentatively entered the period of uncertainty that all service leavers have no choice but to enter. Unlike any other job where you can find a new company to move into, secure a new job and then hand your notice in to your current employer; the services do not allow for this. Nearly everyone has to take the step of handing in their notice before having the security of a new job to go into.

I was told of the importance of networking by numerous people and organisations as I started out on the road to transition. However, I was particularly dubious to the benefits of networking probably because I wasn’t entirely sure what it meant. I decided the best way to establish whether this networking idea was worthwhile or not was to give it a go. I have absolutely no doubt that this was the best decision I have made regarding my transition to civilian life. Since attending the Liquid List event in November I have gone on to attend two more networking events in Norwich, including the Leavers’ Link, where I have met a number of brilliant people. Although I am not yet in a position where I have secured a new career to move into and prove the quote at the head of this article I have no doubt that this is accurate. The people who attend these networking events probably won’t be able to offer you a job; they may do, but probably not. However that is not the point. At the Career Transition Workshop (CTW) they will talk about third order networking contacts, where somebody you meet will be able to put you in touch with somebody they know that may be able to offer better advice. It is the person that this contact puts you in touch with who is often a key decision maker within a company; the person who may be able to offer you a job.

It would be disingenuous of me if I was to say that all who attend these networking events offer sound advice. I would say the vast majority who turn up are there because they want to genuinely help. There will often be people who are there to sell you something; a course or professional CV writing service maybe. But these people are easy to spot (they often come in their company uniform) and therefore easy to avoid if you are not in need of their services.

Having been to three different events and planning on attending my fourth this week I would strongly encourage all service leavers of all ranks to embrace the importance of networking as they transition to civilian life. The earlier the better. If anybody has any reservations about networking or attending an event I would urge them to attend at least one; you will soon realise the benefits and help on offer.

Finally I would like to mention the organisers of these events. They are volunteers and do a fantastic job in putting service leavers in contact with civilian employers and they deserve a big thank you from all who benefit from these events. It should not be forgotten that it is not just the service leavers who benefit, the civilian employers are exposed to service leavers who have a lot to offer. They get to meet them in an informal setting and get to know people that their company may want to offer employment to.

I hope to see you at the next event.


Jimmy Barnard

Leavers Link Networking Events

Hello All

New Year, New Events.  Would you like 2015 to be a successful year?  Well if so its time to get networking!

This week we have Colchester and Peterborough.



Join us at 6.30pm, Wednesday 14th Jan at the Royal British Legion, 210 Broadway, Peterborough, PE7 3NR.



Join us at 7pm Thursday 15th January at the Warrant Officers and Sergeants Mess, Merville Barracks, Colchester, CO2 7SW.  Please meet at 6.30 pm at the Main Guardroom and bring photo ID, otherwise you wont get in!

Why not come along make some contacts that could lead to work, opportunities, ideas and knowledge.  Vitally important if you are leaving the forces or if you are an employer looking for highly motivated people with considerable transferable skills.

We look forward to seeing you.


Check out our LinkedIn or Facebook groups, and out twitter feed for more information and updates.

The Leavers Link Hosts









Ancient Military Wisdom Meets the Civilian Job Market – Part 2: Know yourself and you need not fear…

Hello again, well as promised here is part two of my merging of ancient military wisdom with the trials and tribulations of stepping from the armed forces into the opportunity-filled civilian job market. In my last post I looked at the first part of a Sun Tzu quote “If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles”. In this article let’s look at the other half “know yourself…”

What’s the background? UK unemployment is at a 6 year low, vacancies are up, wage growth is low and there are recent surveys that suggest that almost half of employees are unhappy with their jobs and many are planning to move.  So if it’s important to you to get a job that you enjoy then this blog post might help.

Know Yourself

Now some of this might seem like stating the obvious, but my day to day experience of developing people in business tells me that self-awareness and personal insight is a bit like common sense, frequently not that common. So it’s worth talking about.

How do you know yourself? There are 3 broad approaches: personality assessments, deep personal questioning and external feedback. Either one of these on their own has weaknesses. If you can combine all three then there is triangulation of sorts. There is a health warning though, you still need to make your own independent judgement about what this information is telling you.

Let’s look at each of these approaches in isolation.

1.  Personality Questionnaires

Personality Questionnaires are predominantly online tools that ask a host of questions to try and determine your underlying preferences, the concept being that what you prefer to do, you are more likely to do well. It doesn’t mean that you can’t do the stuff you don’t like well, it just takes more effort. There are potentially hundreds of these tests available, some free, some that cost. There are two different types: ipsative and normative. There are type based and trait based questionnaires. With this plethora of choices how do you choose one that works for you? My personal view is find one that has some reasonable reputation behind it. Ideally take an ipsative questionnaire as this can reduce the chances of you unintentionally faking the results. Regarding type and trait based questionnaires, there are lots available. Type based can be useful in team development scenarios however they can have a tendency to “put people in boxes”. If I was going to pay for a questionnaire to help personal insight, I would go for a trait based questionnaire. You can find information on many of the commonly used tools at the BPS Test Centre . Pulling all this together, if you are going to take a questionnaire to help you know yourself you are probably looking to spend a little bit of money, with report prices varying from £30 to over £100.   Also you may need to have someone qualified to feedback the content of the questionnaire to you so that the correct context is put on it. It’s not always necessary but something to consider. Lastly, why not try a few free ones so you have prior knowledge before you experience them during a recruitment process.

2.  Deep Personal Questioning

This is the bit that sounds simple, but isn’t. It’s a case of asking yourself some penetrating questions, taking some time to think about it and writing the answers down. This will help you gain insight into what you actually like doing, what drives you and where you want to be professionally and personally. You can google whole lists of questions and you can watch motivational speakers on YouTube – I can recommend the Tony Robins TED talk, to give you an idea of what to ask yourself. For me the top 3 questions are; What do you enjoy doing the most? What do you enjoy doing at work the most? And what does success look like to you? If you can tie 1 and 2 together your chances of achieving 3 are much, much greater. Oh and by the way, write your answers down, this gives clarity and allows you to review it easily. Yes I did say that twice…

3.  External Feedback

We all have our own perceptions of how good or bad we are at things. Other than performance appraisals, OJARs, SJARs or whatever they are called in your organisation, unless we are really lucky we seldom get truly honest personal feedback from our peers and colleagues. This is essential for those in leadership positions who are seeking to improve and is potentially very powerful for service leavers. There are a number of ways to get this feedback; 360 degree feedback reports, mock interviews with feedback and frank discussions with people you trust to give you a blunt assessment.

Now Fuse It

Now you have the information you need. Fuse it together, question it and question it again, does it feel right. Be honest with yourself, it’s really important that you are. Now combine this with the recent skills audit that you did once you decided to leave the Services. You did do one didn’t you? You should now know yourself a bit better.

You know your enemy, you know yourself, now you no longer need to fear…

Ancient Military Wisdom Meets the Civilian Job Market – Part 1: Know your “Enemy”…

Ok, what’s hot for people leaving the armed forces? The last round of redundancies, for the time being, was announced on 12 June 2014. The economy is picking up, jobless figures are down and there appears to be growth in the creation of permanent jobs. This could be just clever or incorrect statistics but let’s take them at face value. This adds up to a positive picture for those stepping out into the opportunity packed civilian world.

Does this mean that if you are leaving the Armed Forces that you are going to have it easy? Is your dream job going to drop into your lap? Are employers going to be climbing over each other to offer you a job? It’s probably a no on all counts. You are going to have to work for it and help hiring managers realise what they could be missing out on, many of whom have no experience of ex-forces personnel and even less knowledge of the desperately needed transferrable skills that you have. Of course if the opportunity presents itself, grab it with both hands and don’t let go. However, if you aren’t one of the immediately lucky ones, you need to make your own luck.

So let’s apply some of the ancient military wisdom, of Sun Tzu. How does the quote “If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles” translate across the two and a half millennia to the subtly different world of stepping into the career you want in the 21st century? Let’s look at the first half of Sun Tzu’s quote in this post “If you know your enemy…”

So who is your “enemy”? Well, there are two groups to put into this box: the Hiring Manager and the Recruiters.   The Hiring Manager is the person who is ultimately going to say “Yes” to hiring you; Recruiters are a series of barriers to overcome to get to him or her. Neither are technically the enemy but just humour me here…

The Recruiters

Let’s deal with the recruiters first; note this can be in-house or outsourced. They have a role, primarily to save the hiring manager time and filter out as many unsuitable people as possible. This ultimately means that the hiring manager does as few interviews as possible with the best people, because they all cost the manager time and money.

There are a number of challenges with this, particularly for the service leaver. There are not many recruiters out there who can translate military experience into benefits to a civilian business. To be very blunt – some are utterly clueless, due to lack of experience. Those that can are probably specifically focused on the ex forces market, are ex forces, or are at the higher quality end of the spectrum.

Remember, recruitment agencies need to make money out of selling candidates to clients, that’s business and they fill a useful niche. However, consider the busy recruitment consultant faced with hitting their sales target and with fourteen CVs to sift through. Most they can easily understand, there is one (yours) that looks good but is difficult to decipher, and another that also looks good (non-military) and they understand the language. Which CV is going to the client? Probably not yours…

The Hiring Manager

So what are the Hiring Managers like? They have a problem: they need someone reliable to do a job that will add value to the business; they may need to replace someone who has left, possibly at short notice; or they need different skills sets for their business. Vitally, they need someone who will fit in i.e. someone they can work with. Their time and budgets are limited, they may have limited or even no HR or in-house recruitment support, they may have to spend a fortune with recruitment agencies. They may also be inexperienced in recruiting. However, they will want the “moon on a stick” for the lowest possible price!

Help the Hiring Manager

So how can you help the Hiring Manager hire you? Understand their problem, find out about the business, match your skills to the issues and then find out where your other skills add extra value. Make it easy for them to understand your experience and skills, translate your successes into something that they can quickly match to their needs. Find a way to bypass the recruiters, this will save the hiring manager money and time. If you can find a way to get your name known to the Hiring Manager before you CV goes into the CV sifting machine, then you have a higher chance of being spotted.

How does this work? Essentially, the Hiring Manager just says to the recruiters “look out for this person, don’t sift out” or simply “let’s go straight to interview”. To put it bluntly stand out, get noticed!

Get Noticed

Have you ever spoken to someone and thought “they have done some interesting and successful things. I want to find out more,” or “I could work with that person,” or “I could use someone with those skills”? Even if you haven’t, that is the effect you want to have on the hiring manager. Even better is someone who the hiring manager trusts telling them “have a look at this person”.

  • Can you achieve this with CVs and applying to job sites? No.
  • Can you achieve this through social media? To a degree, with speculative approaches, but that’s an area for another post.
  • Can you achieve this through face-to-face networking? It’s an unqualified yes.

If 65-85% of jobs are found by networking, can you afford not to network? I will leave that answer to you.

Suffice to say face-to-face networking is an art that we can all learn. If we want to learn something the best way is to get a little bit of knowledge and then start doing it as soon as possible. That way we can practice, learn from others and develop our skills. The sooner you start networking, the sooner you will find that connection that delivers your dream job.

On that note, thank you for reading this far. The next post will look at the relevance of the second half of the Sun Tzu quote. If you are ex forces in the East Anglian region – come along to the Leavers’ Link networking on the 3rd Thursday of every month at venues in Colchester. Start investing in your future.

3 Things YOU must do before leaving the Armed Forces

These are challenging times for many people in the global job market, potentially more so for ex-servicemen and women, particularly those with injuries. So it was interesting to hear on the Radio today, and yes despite my youth I am a Radio 4 listener, that additional support for UK veterans is going to be paid for from the Libor fines levied against the banks. Great new I am sure you will agree and yet a thought occurred to me as I drove home this evening. Is the prevalence of support agencies and charities giving some personnel a false sense of security?

When I reflect back on my last couple of years in the RAF, I thought I was fairly focused on preparing myself for entering the civilian job market. It seemed to work for me as I secured a great role only a month after my “demob” date. Consciously, I didn’t really consider any of the support agencies as being an option.

However, when I consider my experience leaving the RAF, my success in achieving my first civilian role was part effort and planning, but also there was a considerable dose of luck. With hindsight I am convinced that I did not actually prepare myself or my networks as well as I could have. Was the subconscious knowledge that the support agencies and charities were available act as a brake on some of my efforts, was I naive about the civilian world – undoubtedly yes

So with the benefit of hindsight what are 3 things that I would have done differently?

1. LinkedIn

I would have spent a considerable amount of time preparing my LinkedIn profile for the civilian market; connecting with those that I knew in the forces and anyone who I knew “outside”. I would have sought recommendations from people in relation to all of my recent roles whilst I was still in people’s minds. I would have aimed to become highly proficient in using linked in for searches and also to develop a presence within relevant groups. All of these I would have started doing in earnest when I decided it was time to move on, ie 2 years before I left the Service.

2. Networking

As well as the social networking I would have joined some local business focused networking groups in order to learn the craft. Incidentally, a great guide to networking is the book The Network Effect. Networking is something I actively discounted because I wasn’t intending on settling in the area where I was current based, wrong move!! Some of my experiences recently have shown that you never know who you will come across, perhaps a representative of a national or global business who may have roles in the area where you may want to settle.

3. Market Research for Courses

Like many people I did a PRINCE 2 course, using one of my ELC’s, because lots of people who were still in the Forces either seemed to be doing it, or recommended it. When I look back at my experience over the past 4 and a bit years did being a PRINCE 2 Practitioner help me achieve the roles I have had had. The simple answer is I don’t know. It may have helped me apply structured processes and use some of the “language” once in a role, so on balance for me I think it was probably better to have done the course than not. BUT what I should have done is done some extensive research in the sectors that I was considering entering. This would have helped me to be really sure that I was going to get a return on investment or at least be happily informed that I was taking a “punt”. What’s the message here? Talk to those that have gone before you, talk to recruiters, talk to people you meet networking, talk to businesses to find out what the market is looking for. Also be aware, be very aware, there are many businesses, focused on service leavers, selling courses that you “allegedly” need. Make sure when you pay for a course that you are really clear how it is going to be useful for you, don’t fall for the sales patter.

Well that’s it for now, I could have written a much longer list, but this will do for the moment…

Best Regards