A Junior Officers Transition from the Military. What did I learn?

12 lessons I learned in a transition from the military. Number 13, life moves on.

For me, I spent over the year in what felt like no-mans land between the security blanket of the Army and finding a new career. These select lessons are in no specific order but could be useful if you are considering or in resettlement yourself. As with most moral military projects, this has been my opportunity to review my year in a cathartic document. In turn, I believe it can help others that may find themselves in a similar position in the future. 

Original article written on Sept 21, 2017

These lessons reflect a challenging period of my life. You are more than welcome to add your own take on these. As with most advice, either take it or leave it. 12 more lessons below.

  1. Start resettlement early. This lesson was repeated over and again with the various people I spoke to who had left the military. Over two years before is ideal. For some, you will have 12 months but this time will disappear fast if not used effectively. Don’t wait until the last few months before making a serious attempt at getting your life in order. Even after leaving, I still consider myself in resettlement.
  2. Roll with the punches. Get used to them. Time after time you will speak with people who appear initially interested but get used to not hearing back either immediately or ever. Even with these contacts, keep in touch and remain positive throughout. A knockback by someone may present an opportunity elsewhere. Come back with an enthusiastic attitude and others will notice. Even when you are down, the people that you connect with on a personal, close and connected level will sustain you.
  3. Seek inspirational mentors. I gained more senior allies. Even now, I can rely on them as sounding boards for advice, coaching and support. Each mentor helped develop me in a different capacity. Some may have yet to realise how important, inspirational and positive a role model they are to me. Ensure that they cover all bases. I learned that you can never have enough. I keep them in the loop when there are changes in my home or personal life. This can be tough when the vagaries of daily life take over but do not forget them. Even a short message to let them know some recent news makes a difference. Even the best people may be distracted and fail to respond but I know that their moral values are honourable. Also, with some, I continue to enjoy their company on the friendliest of terms.
  4. Have meaningful conversations. Listen to people. The classic two ears, one mouth maxim serves an important lesson. Ask about others and it is likely they will be more than willing to talk. Use the full range of your network and talk to people even in industries that you had never previously considered. You may learn something. Also, open-up and be honest from the get-go. I started more meaningful conversations that way. Each has impacted the way I approach life, career and family. However, I strictly warn against asking directly for a job. 
  5. Always follow-up. After every networking conversation, event or interview, follow up with a quick note. This may only be to thank them for their time but perhaps consider adding something useful to the conversation or event that the recipient may find useful. I regularly wrote to thank contacts and found just the small token response helped cement relationships. This becomes harder when in a role but if you forget, see it as something you can change for the next time.
  6. Select and prioritise. Identify an area that you are willing to work within. Stick to it. Once in a role, then use that time to re-evaluate. It reduces you going for roles that are obviously not going to work for you and your family. For example, I worked out exactly when trains went to London and back. Also, I identified the cost so that I could add this to any salary negotiations relatively quickly. This meant that I could focus in on those opportunities that would support my priorities while enabling my aspirations.
  7. Explore outside interests. Watch something informative, different and new. Explore interests that you failed to put in time too while in uniform. Keeping fit or continuing with your hobbies ensures that you remain interested and effective. Else, learn something different. Try for example a new TED talk a day. I used the app to listen, learn or something every morning as part of my battle rhythm. This helped me in numerous conversations.
  8. Be your own best friend. You will make mistakes, you will forget things, you may miss important events. However, if you beat yourself up each time this happens it will have a negative effect on your confidence. Reflect on what happened and why. Then put in a process so that you prevent it recurring in the future.
  9. Explain your offer. What do you have to offer? Write down all the events, people and teams that you had an impact upon. Write down each occasion. Tell a story. For example, what did you input, work out what you personally did and what outcome or impact was achieved. I found that this produced far too much information to put in my CV. I then picked the very best examples to include and kept my notes. These notes I found really useful to revise from prior to interviews. They added variety to my conversations thereafter.
  10. Clarify your needs. What are the essentials for your new career? Is this location, time with family, pay, career progression? Make a list then prioritise it. I used such a list to assess each job application and offer. I found it fundamental to my ongoing progress assessments.What is a desirable or nice to have in your new career? Again, assess these and prioritise them. I included items here such as sector, role, ideal work environment but not desired salary. For this, I wrote down a table of benefits I was after then compared this to my offer. However, again this can change.
  11. Assess all options. I had many moments that I dwelled on decisions. This hindered progress and was particularly bad when in lonely times away from the friendship of the military. Avoid dismissal of ideas offhand. Investigate them until you are satisfied that is right for you or until you have sufficient intelligence to make a definitive decision. Once the decision is made you then can be free from concern. Time waits for no-one, particularly those in resettlement.
  12. Keep copious notes. I had my own diary and notebook purely for resettlement activity, lessons learned and network contacts. This meant I had ready access to information when I needed it. I included all my mind maps, thoughts and observations so that they were easily available. Also, keep a list of phone numbers and recruiters. Perhaps you will never need them but you will be better prepared when another move is needed. Even better would be to build a relationship with a mixture of different recruiters, corporate and agency. Who knows what the future holds. I have since used this to keep myself informed on industry changes.

I found plenty of insightful, timely and pertinent information out there to discover. Moreover, I believe everyone has important lessons to share.

Whether it can help you before, during or even now post-resettlement. This collection is purely mine and written from my own perspective. Moreover, many lessons are repeated from those I spoke with during this period. Most had been in similar situations but each had new insights to learn from.

I believe that your efforts can and will make the career change worthwhile. Every success to you. 

Best wishes,

Mark 

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