Transitioning from military to civilian life? You’ll want to nail these 3 skills.

Take it from me: the transition from military to civilian life can be difficult. It can be lonely and full of unknowns, especially after a long career. So how can you arm yourself with the skills you need for the road ahead? 

For me, the transition was slightly different. I was medically discharged (which I was not expecting). But the good thing was, I had plenty of time to transition effectively and there was loads of help to assure me that everything would be ok. 

Getting stuck in

So where did I start? Straight off, I was only concerned with wages. I was hell bent on not accepting anything less than what I was currently on in the army. I went to the career transition meeting early on where they helped me to construct a basic CV and made me aware of the various job search engines. 

But what role could I transition to? My idea was to play to my strengths with planning, projects and facilities management as it was all relatable work I had done within the military. 

Cracking the CV

Your CV is so important. Getting on with it as early as possible is a must. 

One of the things I realised quickly was that your CV creates a vital first impression. And it takes time to get it right. 

I would create my CV and email it to someone I knew or had met over the years (whether that be officers or friends that had moved on) to ask them for feedback. I would then repeat the process again and again. Eventually, I got to a point where I sent my working CV off to a professional CV writer to change what I finally had and put it into a better layout and language. 

Next, I attended a Jobs Fair. The opportunities were limited due to my qualifications, but I was liked on paper and in person. I had planned to gain qualifications within the project management world, which again I had spoken to various ex-colleagues about and they advised me on the ones to go for. 

The 3 skills crucial to your success

Aside from the CV, there were 3 skills that were vital to my transition. These helped me to get to where I am today: 

·     Network – Establishing a network of the right people is key. These could be people that you’re not necessarily friends with, but you know of, or are friends of friends. Another great thing is learning how to adapt to the civilian space. Believe it or not, the military environment talks and acts differently to the civilian space. Learning to adapt yourself to this new environment is key. So how do you do it? Surround yourself with positive influences early on and observe what they are doing and try to meet for a coffee for advice as early as possible. Networks can lead to work and that is a fact.

·     Development – Develop yourself through courses available to you through your resettlement. These courses don’t have to be at a huge cost, you can find plenty of free courses online that provide value. Be prepared to develop your personality and thought processes. As an individual, I spent plenty of time learning about myself and how I could be a better person, this helped my network and the relationships I built. This is a clear area to focus on because by developing yourself, you help grow your network, and by growing your network, you create more opportunities.

·     Opportunity – Take opportunities if they come to you. I took an opportunity for some work experience in a department in two different areas. I went to a factory to see how the project management department fits in and then I spent some time on a national project with the facilities management team. Taking these two opportunities, through the network I built, helped me see what was actually happening in these environments and whether that was where I wanted to work. I also took the opportunity to meet new people for lunch or coffee to further grow, develop and seek opportunities going forward, which in the end led to me being employed after leaving the Forces. 

I would say around 75% of my interview process would have been conducted without me knowing it through the three points above.  

Is there a perfect plan? 

The perfect plan to transition from the military didn’t work for me. The ideal world of look at a few courses, complete them and then apply for a job really was harder than I could of imagined. The truth is that whilst so many businesses out there value your time served in the military, it doesn’t guarantee you a job. You have to work hard and keep applying for positions. 

In my transition time, I applied for many jobs and had one interview for a wealth management company. The reason I got to interview stage was because of my CV, but I never got the job. The interview experience was great though. 

The here and now.

The current job I hold as the Operations Manager at Combat Pest Control came through building a network, developing myself and being given an opportunity because of who I was as a person. Yes, Michael and Des obviously had to have a serious chat about me and see my CV, but that was through me asking them to review it for me. They saw my growth as a person over 9 months and offered me a position because of what they saw of me as a person. 

I’m not telling you to not apply for jobs. But I am telling you is – more often than not – the 3 things that will determine your success when you transition from military to civilian life are: building your network, driving your development and being ready for whatever opportunity comes your way. 

If you’ve recently transitioned from military to civilian, let us know your experience in the comments below. 

2 thoughts

  1. Something I tried and worked was to test the CV 18 months prior to leaving, some of you will know when you’re ready to leave in plenty of time, and when you realise the CV works – go to the interview! Get the experience of being questioned and how you handle it…then, when your time comes, you’re ready, and better than anyone else! Good luck


  2. A worthy read from someone who has been there and done it.

    Happy to give my six penny worth, (revealing my age) from a civilian perspective. (30 years in professional practice and industry. Now into my 10th year as an academic). Very strong believer in maximizing the potential of those that have served; for the benefit of all.


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