Luke Mitchell describes his journey from the Military to Civilian employment. He details the problems he had once he had left.
The message here is to prepare your Transition as soon as possible. It doesn’t need to be written in stone, but preparation is never wasted. Give some thought to your “exit strategy”, plan, network, and be in a position to get the job you want and deserve.
Thanks to Luke for being so candid –
My final day in the Royal Signals was 1st April 2013… an April fool indeed. I had served 14 years and was leaving having been a SSgt YofS for 3 years. I left for the sake of my children, whose heath was suffering as a direct result of my service.
I had been offered a job in the USA and seeing as intermittent job-hunting in my last 6-8 months in the UK had produced nothing, off I went. I was given no help or advice from CTW about moving abroad but LinkedIn saved the day with plenty of people offering genuine help and advice. Following complications with the Visa system in the US, 3 months later I returned, no job, no home, 1 suitcase to my name, savings gone. Thankfully my sister offered a sofa and I knew with my skills, qualifications and experience I’d be settled into a new life in no time.
I estimate I applied for at least 300 jobs in the space of 3 months. I’ve re-written countless CV’s, and even had one made by a professional CV company. I am on the books of 6 recruitment agencies boasting speciality for Ex-Mil, SC/DV or Defence contracts and at least 10 others that are Telecoms specific, to no avail.
I read lots of great advice for job hunting; “don’t undervalue yourself”, “gain commercial experience then get your ideal job later”, “network, network, network” all good advice but after 300+ applications, to all manner of jobs, at wages ranging from £23k to £60K (I was on £40k in the Army with subsidised living) I have managed 1 interview and although I didn’t get the job this strengthened my resolve that I am well trained, experienced and good enough to compete in this market place.
After 3 months of never even hearing back from applications (I have received 10 replies in total), I decided any job would do. It turns out I am too old, too experienced, not good looking enough, not a student, too intelligent etc to do any shop, bar, minimum wage job. It is a hard day to learn you can’t get a job in Mcdonalds (and it was a big bite of my pride to ask).
So why am I so unemployable? Is it because I’m ex-Army? Is it because my HND isn’t a degree? Too old at 37? 16 years comms experience not enough? Or maybe the “type” of comms in the Signals is different to Civi street (all covered by the same ISO/IEEE/TETRA standards). The fact is, because I never get a reply, I really don’t know why I can’t get a job, or even an interview but if you are thinking of leaving the army consider this, all learned the hard way:
- ExForcesNet/LinkedIn/Shield/facebook and friends in general have been amazing, whom you know is vital to survival in the real world, embrace it, use it and give back to the next guys needing help.
- Your CV needs to be checked and re-checked, and relevant for the job you are applying for, if they ask for a minimum requirement, make sure your CV shows you meet it, most are scanned by a computer so exact phrases matter.
- Recruiters lie! No job is yours until you get your first pay cheque, many don’t even exist, and this is a massive problem within the recruitment industry as names on their books are just as important as finding people jobs.
- QUALIFICATIONS! There are certain qualifications that are a must. At entry level I see loads of jobs for Level1/2/3 service for desktop support so get your Microsoft certification, I see very little to use my ITIL service management qualification on though. The other ‘must have’ is Cisco at all levels. Finally riggers and LTE specialists, all over the world, as long as you have a head for heights. The Mobile world is moving fast but mainly employs on a contract basis.
- If you’re thinking of moving abroad do your research, even within Europe there are rules, regulations and Visas and this all takes time, 12 months is not very long and in most cases you’ll need a job offer before you can even apply.
The good news for me is, after a battle with unemployment, insolvency and depression, just when my self worth really was in doubt I got an interview and offer of work at a good level, with a good company, restoring my confidence and reminding me of all those people that said “realise your own worth”.
However this job offer came at the same time as my US visa. The job I will be doing in the states is not communications based and only for 6 months so the struggle goes on, albeit in the right direction but it does prove you CAN teach an old dog a few tricks, as I work to identify entomological species through DNA extraction and analysis!
I hope this has been an enlightening tale; I would be very interested to hear if others have had similar experiences to me and am happy to help anyone who is going through a similar experience. As far as moving to America is concerned I think I’ve read almost everything there is to read as no help has ever been available, so if anyone is thinking of it, I’d be happy to point you in the right direction.