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Making tomorrow independence day
Most people who leave the Armed Forces transition effectively back into civilian life, but not all. Stoll – the leading provider of supported housing for Veterans – is there for the most vulnerable. Looking for work in civvy street after serving in the RAF, Nicola Stokes found herself in need of their help. Here’s her story …
Nicola Stokes (pictured top) began her career in the TA when she was 17, before moving to the Royal Air Force, where she stayed for ten years. As part of the Supply and Logistics team, Nicola had the crucial role of being responsible for issuing and checking kit for pilots before they went out on missions or training exercises. She spent around half of her career with the RAF in the UK, and the other half serving on tours and training exercises in the Falklands, the Grand Canyon and Afghanistan.
Unfortunately, at around the age of 32 Nicola developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Looking back, she now realises that she probably had it for most of her life, however things came to a head after she left the Forces. She felt unbearably low and depressed, and contacted Veterans’ mental health charity Combat Stress.
She was advised to go to the Veterans’ drop-in at Stoll in Fulham. Stoll is a leading Veterans’ charity and housing association that has been helping ex-Service personnel since 1916. It runs a drop-in every second Wednesday of the month, where ex-Service men and women who are in need of support can go in and speak to staff and other Veterans about their options – whether to do with housing, their mental health, developing new skills or just for someone to talk to.
It took considerable courage for Nicola to attend the drop-in, but once she had spoken to Stoll, they acted quickly to find her accommodation and, within two weeks, they had found her a flat in West London. The Civil Service Benevolent Fund helped to furnish the flat, and she now feels at home and settled. She also secured a customer services role at a local cinema.
Dress making is where Nicola’s heart really lies, though, and she is currently looking at college courses to pursue this dream. She already makes cloth dogs for different charities each year, which are always immensely popular. She is also now part of the Combat Veteran Players, a theatre group set up at Stoll as part of its Health and Wellbeing programme for residents and ex-Service personnel in the community.
Speaking about Stoll, Nicola says: ‘Not enough people know about the incredible service this charity provides. I had no idea this help was available to me at a time when I was at my lowest. I’m now settled in my home with a fresh start ahead of me, and that’s ultimately because I took the step to go to the drop-in and ask for help.’
Ed Tytherleigh, CEO at Stoll, adds: ‘Nicola’s story highlights the importance of our personalised approach. Most people manage the transition from the Armed Forces to civilian life successfully, but not everyone does and Stoll is here to support vulnerable Service leavers – those who need our help the most. Arranging accommodation is vital so that people like Nicola have a place they can call home. It is great to see that Nicola has now also found work. That means she can live independently.’
Top tips for getting back into work or training
Employment adviser Jenny Evans works with Stoll and Walking With The Wounded to help get Veterans back into training or work. Since November 2015 she has worked with 51 beneficiaries, supporting 26 into employment. Here are Jenny’s tips for you if you are looking to find work …
- Get networking: widen your horizons – talk to family, friends and other people you know to explore alternative options about where work might be available.
- Do your research: make sure you find as much information as possible on the company, its values, culture and the job role before you go to an interview. It is important to know if it’s the right fit for you – and you’ll come across as well informed in the interview.
- Online application forms: if you are applying for a job role online, it’s a good idea to keep a hard copy of what you write and also save it in Word, just in case your application times out. Make sure you have included everything you need before clicking send to complete the process.
- Prepare for success: preparation is key! You may be asked competency-based questions in your interview, so it’s a good idea to have two or three specific examples of when you have done something and the outcome, to back up your answers. Practise being in the interview situation with friends, family, mentors or colleagues.
- Know the finer details: know your travel route, timings and interview address well before the day of the interview. Print a copy of your CV to take with you, and make sure you have contact details of the company you will be interviewing with, just in case there is a delay.
- Look the part: making a positive first impression will communicate your dedication to the role. Clean shoes, an ironed and smart outfit will all help to ensure you come across as professional. The organisation Suited and Booted (see ‘Key contacts’) can help with supplying a suit.
- Be grateful: remember to thank your interviewers for the opportunity and their time. No matter what happens, every interview is a learning experience.
446 Fulham Road, London SW6 1DT
t: 020 7385 2110
Stoll’s drop-in runs every second Wednesday of the month at its Fulham site (see above), in the Community Hall
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