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Believe in yourself … and your skills

Believe in yourself … and your skills


20 Dec, 2021

Recent research has revealed that some veterans lack confidence in the skills their military experience can bring to the civilian workplace. It’s a view that, fortunately, is not widely shared by employers …

Around 15,000 people leave the UK Armed Forces every year,* having developed highly specialist and sought-after skills during their time in uniform. Yet, after serving their country, many find it hard to recognise what could make them attractive to an employer once they are a civilian.

New research** carried out by RFEA – The Forces Employment Charity shows that veterans are often too critical of themselves, lacking confidence in the skills their military experience has equipped them with and underestimating their potential as a result. This can lead to some individuals instantly disqualifying themselves from employment opportunities in which they could well have thrived.

The findings showed that:

  • one in three veterans (33%) struggle to identify their relevant skills and articulate them during an interview
  • two in five veterans (40%) would like guidance on how to better recognise the transferable skills they have
  • one in three veterans (33%) say they’d like help with improving their confidence levels in terms of what they can ‘bring to the table’
  • one in three veterans (33%) say they would like help with funding for training and other career development opportunities
  • one in three veterans stated that they had faced a lack of understanding among employers/colleagues about how veterans’ skills from active duty and/or military qualifications translate into a business environment.

Meanwhile, looking from the other perspective, a third (33%) of those involved in making hiring decisions said they would value additional information regarding the transferable skills and attributes that veterans can bring to the non-military workforce. Promisingly, though, one in four (25%) also stated that they would like more information on how hiring veterans can make good business sense and improve diversity in the workforce.

The charity asked both employers and veterans to name the skills/attributes that ex-Service men and women bring to the civilian workforce and found significant differences in what the two groups had to say:

  • 47% of civilians said veterans bring teamwork skills compared to only 31% of veterans
  • 50% of civilians thought veterans offer self-discipline to the workforce vs only 34% of veterans
  • 47% of civilians regarded veterans as being reliable, whereas only 33% of veterans suggested ex-Forces people had this attribute
  • 43% of civilians regarded veterans as resilient, compared to only 28% of veterans.

RFEA chief executive Alistair Halliday

Says RFEA chief executive Alistair Halliday (pictured above), ‘A career in the military develops so many important skills, such as resilience, accountability, teamwork and an ability to be trained. While most veterans make the transition to civvy street with relative ease, utilising the excellent support that is available through CTP, these results prove that veterans sometimes fail to appreciate the value they can bring to the civilian jobs market. So many organisations are crying out for these skills but might not immediately think to look at the veteran community to fill the many roles on offer. Clearly there is some more work to be done so that all veterans and employers can recognise and make best use of the excellent attributes our ex-Forces have to offer.’

He adds, ‘At RFEA we understand that the skills needed for a career in the military make ex-Service personnel a superb addition to the civilian workforce, which is why our teams are so committed to supporting ex-Forces, and their loved ones, to find meaningful and fulfilling jobs. We provide an invaluable, one-to-one support service to make sure our clients have everything they need to showcase the value and relevance of their experience to civilian employers. By doing so, we bring about life-changing transformations for thousands of veterans, and their families, every year.’


Veteran Kenneth Nesbitt, who secured his dream job thanks to help from RFEA

Kenneth Nesbitt from Rosyth, a former CPO in the Royal Navy, sought help from RFEA after he was made redundant. He says: ‘It has always been important to me, not just to get a job, but to actually thrive in a role, in which the organisation and I are a good fit. My RFEA employment advisor understood that I prefer working in a supportive team, and that I need to be stretched and challenged. She kept a lookout for suitable positions, and discussed with me their suitability. She was able to review my applications, and ensure an expert eye and second opinion was always available. During the summer of 2020 a peer support worker position came up with NHS Fife Psychology Dept. Veterans F1rst Point. Thanks to RFEA’s help, I managed to secure what for me is my dream role: supporting veterans with mental health issues. I now work within a small specialist team of three peer support workers (all veterans) and two clinical psychologists.’

If you are seeking information or support, click here to find out how RFEA can help 

About RFEA

RFEA – The Forces Employment Charity exists to provide lifelong, life-changing support, job opportunities and training to Service leavers, reservists, veterans and their families, irrespective of circumstances, rank, length of service or reason for leaving.

Founded in 1885 and operating across the UK, we have the specialist knowledge and understanding to bridge the gap between military life and civilian employment. We work in partnership with other organisations and employers who, like us, respect and value the unique qualities and abilities of all those who have served.

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Click here to read a feature that deals with similar themes, taking a look at the valuable transferable skills Service leavers can bring to the civilian sector.


* Ministry of Defence, Quarterly Service Personnel Statistics Index
** Research carried out by OnePoll from 21–28 October 2021. It surveyed 1,000 UK employed adults who have input into hiring decisions in their organisation, plus 200 UK veterans who are either employed or seeking employment.