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




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