Making the transition from a military to a civilian career can be a daunting experience, with many ex-servicemen and women unsure as to what their next career move can be. But a career in the armed forces will provide you with a wide range of skills and abilities that can be readily transferred to a number of other vocations.
Your leadership skills and ability to instil confidence in others and get the best out of your team will make you an invaluable asset to many organisations, with many ex-service personnel find employment as senior executives, managers and directors of companies. While your vision to see the bigger picture, analytical skills, quick-thinking and problem-solving ability will make you an ideal candidate for a new career in management consultancy.
Those of you who have spent your time in the forces working in a technical capacity can use their experience and knowledge to launch a new career in the gas, oil or alternative energy sectors, for example.
The demand for skilled technicians of all disciplines is high with electrical, mechanical, civil, telecommunication and computer engineers and technicians highly sought after to fill the chronic skills shortages that the UK has. And medically-trained staff can find themselves working for the NHS or private healthcare sector as doctors, dentists or nurses with an increasing number turning to a life in academia.
Some career paths are more obvious than most. Many ex-service personnel find new roles as private security consultants or take up a position with the emergency services, notably the police and fire service.
So when the door to your forces’ career closes a new door will open and introduce you to a wide range of new opportunities where your expertise and experience will be much sought after across a range of industry sectors
Re-read the job description, job specification and advert. Talk to people doing the same type of job. Try to get supporting information if possible, such as organisational values, departmental objectives etc. List the skills and competencies needed and think about the evidence you can draw from your experience to demonstrate that you have them.
Find out as much as you can about the organisation by networking, looking it up in Dun & Bradstreet at your local library or using the Internet If appropriate to your role, get the annual report, read it and be able to comment/answer questions! If there is a website, check it out for information. If there is any sales promotion literature, make sure you read it. Organisations often have mission/vision statements or guiding principles – find out what they are.
Keep your eyes on the news for any stories about the organisation and/or the sector. Make a note of the facts and try to form opinions.
Check the time of the interview, the date, the location (it may not be at the employer’s offices) and the name and job title of the interviewer. Make sure you know how to get there and how long it will take, given different times of the day and traffic conditions etc. Take the letter inviting you to interview along with you. Have their phone number available in case anything goes wrong. Find out about the format of the interview – it is perfectly acceptable to ring up and ask for this information if they have not sent it to you.
Although your job title may not equate directly to a corporate civilian position, you will have gained many transferable skills that are highly sought after in both the public and private sectors.
Try to provide concrete examples of when you have used each skill so that an employer can see immediately how you can contribute to their business. Instead of saying you’re ‘calm under pressure’, say that you ‘made sound decisions in a hostile environment, resulting in successfulproject delivery with zero loss of assets’.
Don’t forget the additional experience you’ve gained that is not necessarily in your job description – international work, physical fitness and diplomacy are all desirable in the civilian sector.
Armed forces personnel have frequently completed extensive training, which allowed you to complete your job on a day to day basis.
When deciding which courses to include on a CV, firstly remove any that will be irrelevant outside the forces (bespoke IT applications, specific military equipment and so on). Also remove any that will be of no use in your next position so that the CV is tailored to your target job.
Some training is desirable in any workplace – for example, First Aid or soft skills – just remember that your experience should dominate your CV rather than your training.
If the list is getting out of control, simply stating ‘Full list of courses available on request’ is sufficient, but try to be ruthless in selecting key courses before you resort to this.
Leaving the forces can be daunting. After all, you’ve been working in a unique environment and the civilian sector seems to have no direct correlation to your current role.
However, your skills and experience will be desirable on the outside if you market yourself well to recruiters. That means developing a CV that immediately shows your value, in terms that a recruiter can understand.
Here are some essential tips to help you write an impressive forces-to-civilian CV.
Although the free template is self-explanatory and simple to use, there are some fundamental tips that will help you to come up with a winning CV.
You can also read our 'How to Write a Covering Letter' Here