Posted on February 7, 2019
My blogs, while I try to hit poignant subjects, are often prompted or seeded by conversations I have on the subject of transition.
One subject of which I have personal experience and I have tried hard to resolve in my own mind over the past few years is the civilian perception that the ex-military are arrogant or over-confident.
As we all know, this is something that gets the hackles up in all of us. BUT, why are we perceived this way? What is it that we do in our service that makes us this behave such…. AND, LOOK at the lexicon we use; service, commitment, loyalty… it doesn’t really smack of “arrogance”.
In a conversation today, I was describing to a friendly civvy, the basis of the values an ex-service person brings to the employer and it struck me… it struck me, from the very words I was speaking. Unknowingly; subconsciously, subliminally, I was holding the answer to this enigma all along.
We join the military with a view to serving our country. It is a trite and oft-used phrase, but we DO sign a blank cheque to a value upto and including our lives. This is not a cliché, it is not a symbolic suggestion, it is real and something of which we are made aware throughout our training and into service. Our leaders, commanders and politicians know well and speak eloquently about the prospect of “heavy losses” in times of conflict, they do not shy away of calling in that offer in the defence of our shores and foreign interests. However, we know this when we sign up, take the Queen’s shilling, join the Mob…
The training we go through enforces the build of camaraderie, teamship, bonding, belonging. Many have given their lives in the interests of the many and have been rewarded with ribbons – was it Napoleon that said “’Tis a great thing I have discovered today, that men will die for ribbons.”? Heroism is a rare thing, but something that is seeded in the training we undergo, for at least a number.
Throughout our service, we are required to do multiple roles within our trade. It struck me today that, within the Police, within the Fire Service, within the NHS, shifts are manned to an appropriate level and people make their way into their place of work and do the jobs that are required of them. And fantastic jobs they do too.
In the military, however, we are established to a certain level, and we are required to deploy to any “hotspot” in the World that our Politicians vote to send us. We cannot afford to send a full shift pattern and all the necessary resources in support; not only because they would present a far larger target for the enemy forces. We need to be lean, skilled and agile. For this to be the case, people need, no NEED to have a multiplicity of skills; they NEED to be trained to be able to step-up; they NEED to understand the Commander’s intent and make decisions in line with that intent or mission. We NEED to have a superlative level of confidence in our abilities to ensure our shores are not overrun and we do NOT become a slave nation and we will give our lives in that defence.
This requirement is never called upon of our civilian contemporaries (excepting Police, Fire and Ambulance, of course). Civvy life has a more “one-man-one-job” mentality and people with a couple of disciplines are considered talented – you hear the phrase ‘triple threat” often used in performance arts. If that be the case, I would suggest that many ex-military are a quadruple threat?
When we transition into civilian life, we are advised to put “everything” on our CV to show ourselves in the best possible light; sell yourself, show what you can do etc, etc, etc. Rubbish! You detail your broader skill-set, then you tell prospective employers that you have “several skills” but they see it as your not having decided what role you want to take. This is why you “position” your CV to the role that you are applying for… Get it??
When we transition into the civilian organisations and work the extra hours requested, lead on tasks that are given to a team, take control of high-pressure situations, step up and volunteer for extra shifts or additional duties, we do this because we have been trained to react in that we. We have had it instilled, drilled-in, impressed into our Psyche that we deliver at whatever cost to ourselves or our wider families. In civvy street, there is seldom loss of life (notwithstanding the acts of heroism od recent terrorist attacks), more a loss of reputation or business.
Outcomes. Impact. Results. They are all different in civvy street and we need ot recognise this. MT ADVICE? Under play your skills on your CV, over deliver in your service to your new employer. BE the person the military trained you to be and be humble as demanded of your “service” recognising that the people with whom you work, while they might not have your diverse skills, commitment, task orientation, loyalty or leadership, are nevertheless committed to earning a living to provide for their families and protect their own “home shores”.
Be proud, be brilliant and still be humble. The motto of our own Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, sums it up for me “Serve to Lead”.