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Planning on hanging up your rank and uniform on Friday and sliding effortlessly into your new civilian career Monday? Think again! There is serious competition out there, says Sarah Davies, director of I Am Strong Coaching, and you need to be flexible, focused and fully ready to adapt to the demands of your new role
The military equips you with an impressive array of skills from which civilian employers rightly know they can get real value. You have been inherently programmed to turn up everywhere on time, to take immaculate pride in your appearance, to have more than a firm handshake, to deliver results at all costs, to work long hours to get the job done, and to build enduring working relationships – executing today, planning tomorrow and multitasking in the meantime. With challenging operational tours and significant responsibility already under your belt, you are likely to thrive in the civilian workplace – but you will definitely need to be ready to adapt.
Think about those transferable skills – in order to really succeed, you have to make sure you do exactly that: transfer those skills. Once you have accepted your exciting new job offer and signed your contract, take the time to think and prepare, to research your new working environment, the ways of working, the expectations and the management styles, observe the interactions, the meeting formats, the client relationships. Think about how you might need to adjust your working style to make your transition into this environment as seamless and as impressive as possible. Add value and transfer – don’t simply translate.
If you attempt to simply translate the skills and experience you have gained from the military, without adding a layer of reflection and value, you may find yourself learning the hard way. So, be prepared, understand in advance that where, before, you might have had responsibility and little accountability, now the responsibility may be less but the accountability greater; where before you may have held rank, you may now be starting back on that first rung again and in a completely new environment where you are the junior; where before there was obvious, organisational hierarchy, now credibility and reputation are paramount and they are in your hands – no one else is going to take the fall for you; where before you might have been expected to lead from the front, now you may be expected to wait, to watch and learn.
SIX STEPS TO A SUCCESSFUL TRANSITION
- Know why this is the job for you and it will soon become clear to others.
- Take time to understand the culture and dynamics of your new company.
- Keep your head down and your eyes wide open; your time will come. Learn first, lead next.
- Don’t translate, transfer; add value in everything you do.
- Seek out a mentor to support your transition.
- Be you and enjoy it. You can do this!
With so much to adjust to in your life in one go on leaving the Forces, the first few months in that new job can feel daunting and even uncomfortable. You may feel less confident than you are used to, more vulnerable, exposed and less sure of your environment, your colleagues and your role. There is also a tendency for ex-military people to feel as though they are under-delivering or under-achieving on transitioning, placing undue pressure on themselves from the outset.
So stick to the following guidance and set out on your new career path as you mean to go on. You do have what it takes, now take your time to get to know your new company, your new colleagues, your new working rhythm. Take the time to settle, adjust, accept and be accepted, and you will be investing in an exciting future that in turn invests in you.
Sarah Davies (herself ex-Army) is Director of I Am Strong Coaching, a coaching and mentoring practice that focuses on supporting military personnel in their transition to the civilian workplace. If you feel you would benefit from her support, then please get in touch:
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