How to leave the Military and get a job that doesn’t SUCK!

Part 1 (of 4) Exploring Your Options

Regardless of which countries flag is on your uniform, if you are about to make the momentous move from a Military life to a civilian one, you probably have some niggling concerns. If you are handing in your combat gear, camouflage cream and personal weapon in exchange for overalls, a business suit or medical scrubs, you are probably wondering how you will fair in the transition from serving your country to serving yourself.

I know this feeling well as I experienced it firsthand 12 years ago when I left the Military after serving 24 years in the British Army. During my service I completed operational deployments in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Belize and the first Gulf War. I participated in special operations including dealing with the aftermath of a terrorist attack on an American plane which was blown up over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, I helped to rebuild schools, churches and Mosque’s in the war torn former Yugoslavia and worked in partnership with the American Drug Enforcement Agency and the Belizean Defence Force to help stop the flow of drugs moving through Central America into the United States.

As I moved up through the ranks during my 24 years of service I learned and experienced a lot and lost some good friends and colleagues along the way. In that time I change rank 6 times and had 10 different job appointments. When it came time to leave the military I was excited to be making the change but also fearful of the uncertainty of what lay ahead. I wondered where I would end up and what kind of employment field job, if any, I would actually qualify to work in.

As I began to look at civilian job postings I quickly realised there was very little demand for a 40 year old retired Company Sergeant Major. The pre-release training provided by the British military at that time was of very little use and consisted of a series of lectures delivered by a team of civilians with no military experience or knowledge. The pre-release training was designed to turn military personnel of 24 years back into civilians in 4 short days. I left the training with a half completed resume, a pile of leaflets on life insurance and investment information and a rapidly growing feeling that perhaps I had left things a little too late. 2 short weeks later my discharge date was up, I was a mister not a rank and appointment, my number was up and I was not ready. Wow, ‘brain freeze’ what the hell am I going to do?’

 Fast forward 12 years from my discharge date– I now work as the Program Coordinator of a Youth Employment program in the city of Hamilton near Toronto, Canada. Yes that’s right Canada, land of the beaver, moose, ice hockey and really, really, really nice people. Oh yeah and poutine (Google it). I have a degree from Edinburgh University and a string of diploma’s and other qualifications that I can now hang my big, moose eared, civilian hat on.

Am I the most successful of all of my military peers? Not by a long shot, but I do feel that I have now made a successful and complete transition into civilian life. Do I think I am the best person to advise you on how to make the move from a Military career to a civilian one? Not particularly, however as a trained Career Consultant and Employment Counsellor who has experienced the military / civilian challenge first hand, I do feel I may have some snippets of information you may find useful. Any well planned military operation has a clear mission and is broken down into clearly defined phases each with its own objective. Career planning and job searching are no different. Your mission is to obtain the best job possible that maximises your strengths and potential and also matches your personality type. The phases are clear, specific steps that help you achieve your mission.

This blog is therefore a 4 phase operation and its mission is to help ‘you’ make a smoother transition between military and civilian careers.

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This post is the first in a series of blogs relating to finding work after the military. Author David Quinn is currently a student in the Career Consultant Certificate Program offered at Mohawk College. Be sure to follow MCACESBlogs, a series of posts assisting job seekers and their peers with the many facets of work search and professional development. Happy reading!