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Network and recognise your commercial value to secure your future outside of the military …

Network and recognise your commercial value to secure your future outside of the military …


01 Nov, 2018

That’s Rory Underwood’s advice to Service leavers transitioning into civilian employment

Networking and recognising your personal commercial value are two of the key insights former England rugby star and RAF officer Rory Underwood MBE highlighted during his recent talk to a packed audience of serving and former officers in Bristol.

Having left the RAF 18 years ago, Rory has himself faced the challenge of working out what he was going to do next in his career: ‘I was an RAF pilot who played rugby as a hobby, but I still needed to earn a living.’ 

Unable to rely on a full-time sports career from rugby at that time, he found himself using his network of contacts to build training and coaching programmes for businesses. Rory is unequivocal about the value of networking: ‘It offers all Service leavers the potential to convert conversations into real opportunities that you can benefit from in the longer term, so make the effort to speak to people, because you never know where and what it might lead to in the future.’

Understanding the value of teamwork and being able to measure a team’s effectiveness has also been a key driver in Rory’s post-military success in business. His experience as a top sports person, combined with his military insight, where team building is ‘inbred’, has provided him with an appetite to ensure businesses and organisations are able to create the right working environment to help people succeed.

Says Rory, ‘It’s all about putting people into the right roles. This is relatively easy within the military as you know everyone has undergone the same level of training, unlike in the civilian workplace, where everyone’s training, experience and approach isn’t uniform, and is therefore more of a challenge to get right.’

Having undergone several career changes, Rory is frank in acknowledging the uncertainty that change can bring, especially when things don’t go to plan. ‘Change is something I have coped with. There are no guarantees, plenty of uncertainties and you may have to look around for support. However, military personnel are adaptable and trained to cope with uncertainty. There’s a job, here’s a challenge, and they just get on and do it. That’s military people for you.’

Rory also highlighted the need for Service leavers to be more ‘self-aware’ and challenged the audience to value their training, attributes and skills developed during their military careers, commenting, ‘If you don’t recognise your own skills then how can you sell them to employers and apply them in your civilian career?’

About the Officers’ Association (the OA)

As the only Tri-Service charity working with the officer corps, the OA supports former officers and their families, their widows/widowers and dependants by providing advice and financial help, where needed, to enable them to live independently and overcome financial challenges. Last year it supported 1,107 cases in Benevolence, while a total of £1,369k was awarded in grants to people in need.

The OA works with serving, reservist and former officers to help them achieve a sustainable and fulfilling career in civilian employment. Last year, it supported 4,782 Service personnel with OA Employment Services.It also delivers tailored workshops, webinars and symposia, all supported by its online content: blogs, career tips and case studies.

The OA provides insight and research that helps the military charity sector to understand the changing needs of the officer community. Its research also helps it to offer a wider range of services and to collaborate with other military charities to provide the most needed services within the sector. 

The OA has a dedicated team of 130 volunteers, the OA’s Honorary Representatives. They visit those who need support, often in their own homes, and work alongside its permanent staff to seek the best possible outcomes. Where possible, the same staff will continue to support people through their journey with us.


To find out more, visit

Having been a Service leaver, and as an employer himself, Rory calls on more employers to understand the culture and environment military personnel have come from, asking them to support Service leavers as they work to adapt to their civilian environments. While former military personnel are quick to adapt, there are some things they may take longer to get used to and one of those is the more relaxed approach to timekeeping that civilians have! 

Rory shared these insights with Service leavers at a networking event organised by the Officers’ Association (OA) in Bristol earlier this month. The event is just of several opportunities offered by the OA, the veterans’ charity that supports serving and former officers to build sustainable and successful careers after leaving the Armed Forces.

Lee Holloway, OA’s CEO, has this to say:‘We were delighted to hear Rory give a frank and honest talk about the challenges and rewards of his successful sports, military and business careers to date. It was reassuring to hear Rory positively endorse the training and skills sets that we know former officers and military personnel are able to offer business.’

About Rory Underwood

Rory Underwood MBE is a legendary international rugby player, scoring a record 49 tries for England, winning six caps for the British Lions and playing at Leicester Tigers for 14 years. He also spent 18 years as a pilot in the RAF, spending more than 3,000 hours flying Tornados, Canberras, Hawks and Domines. Rory is now an experienced facilitator, psychometric profiler and performance coach.

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