Ma’am to Mrs

A career transition journey from Military to Civilian

Career Transition Reflections – June 2021 — 14th Jul 2021

Career Transition Reflections – June 2021

The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.

Amelia Earhart

The first thing I did this month was attend a wonderful event called Mindset Matters: Beat Imposter Syndrome, become resilient and ooze confidence with CAROL (Lewis) STEWART MSc, FInstLM. This was a really great event with a number of speakers who were incredibly inspirational and motivating. Carol is an advocate for introverted female leaders and strives to ensure that introverted women CAN and ARE good leaders – with a different style! I love the premise of this as it gives me confidence as an introvert to have the confidence and courage to go for my goals.

The next thing I did was attend the CTP event for Pearson, which I was extremely interested in due to my ambition to move into the Learning and Development world. It was a very informative session and I immediately sent LinkedIn connections to some of the members – including Anne Ashworth MSc, Cert Ed (FE), FCMI, AMCIPD, who very graciously accepted my connection request and we have been communicating since.

Anne was gracious enough to put me in contact with a couple of people who run training companies to talk to me about apprenticeship coaching and It’s been a real eye opener. These discussions have been fantastic to help me decide that this is the way I’d like to go, I love helping people and I can feel the immense satisfaction it must give you to help others realise their potential. This is something I’ll be working on more over the next few months.

Outside of this, I attended the Digital Drive County Durham event, which had great speakers such as Geoff Ramm and Pascal Fintoni, covering a number of subjects such as Facebook Ads, Google Ads, Digital Marketing Strategies and the Role of AI in Marketing. This was a fantastic event, and I thoroughly recommend that you attend one in your area if there’s one happening.

Off the back of this, I was inspired to undertake a FutureLearn course in Web Analytics. Thanks to using my Standard Learning Credit to pay for FutureLearn Unlimited, there are innumerable courses available to upgrade your skills and knowledge – I thoroughly recommend taking a look.

Later in the month I attended the CIPD Festival of Work. There were some really interesting companies and lots of free learning classes available to attend. I really enjoyed the one on People Analytics as it chimed in well with the current module of my course.

I also attended an Introduction to Building Learning Cultures webinar with Michelle Ockers, featuring Nigel Paine. The discussion and the content was really helpful and interesting to learn about – there’s definitely so much more I have to learn!

I’ve been helping out with a new Army Campaign with Michelle Wiggins and David Scammell, which is very exciting and will be great for transitioning service personnel when it’s launched. I’ll be writing more about this soon.

Overwhelmed and Anxious – The Importance of Time Management for Resettlement — 12th Jul 2021

Overwhelmed and Anxious – The Importance of Time Management for Resettlement

Anxiety happens when you think you have to figure everything out all at once. Breathe. You’re strong. You’ve got this. Take it day by day.

Karen Salmansohn

I’ve had a bit of a crazy month this month. Everything seems to be getting on top of me and I can’t focus. Part of the problem for me is not being able to say no when I really want to help. I will commit to things, but don’t then consider the time it will be taking up (especially as we only have intranet at work, so anything on the internet will have to be done outside of working hours).

So I’ve had to do some time-management – and I actually asked my boss to help me out in case I wasn’t focusing on the right things. I came up with a list of everything I want to do for my resettlement and then a separate list for the work I want to achieve in the office. Then I went through it and assigned an importance to them all – need, nice to have and drop.

Need

I have a number of projects ongoing at work, so I have prioritised them accordingly and refused to take on anything new until I’ve removed them from my list. Anything else that comes in now I will have to consider the timeline of it as I’ll be finishing work in December.

My L5 CIPD course in L&D is top of the list of course, but I have now also identified a number of other courses that I’d like to complete and use my ELC’s for, so my attention has been drawn towards that – I can’t possibly take on more courses right now, but knowing that I want to do them is enough.

LinkedIn is also a very important aspect of resettlement. Getting to grips with the consistency required is my latest learning curve with that – I missed a couple of days of content and the resulting from in visibility was almost immediate.

Next is my CV – I’ve got a draft sorted, but there’s so much more I could be doing with it. In one step, I’ve made an appointment with John at the Forces Transition Group for a 1-2-1 to go over it, but I want to make some time to step it up on this front.

Attending resettlement events and workshops from CTP is also a priority. I’ve had to remove myself from some of these due to other commitments and I find that I kick myself afterwards. I’m mindful of the remaining time I have left and I would like to fully understand the different industries out there and where my skills may lie within each.

Nice to have

I have now discovered what I’d like to do, which is a direct result of attending an event with Pearsons – I sent LinkedIn connection requests to the people running the event and ended up having a meeting with one of them, who took me through the types of role they have available. She then forwarded my details to other contacts in the same industry. The work of Skills Coach for Apprentices that we have been speaking about really sings to me as it fits within the Learning & Development field and you can have direct impact on individuals’, get to know and advise them and really make a difference to their careers. I feel like this sort of role would fit me perfectly. The people I’ve spoken to have given me next steps to look into, which is great and really encouraging.

Now that I’ve figured this out, all of my mental capacity has been taken up thinking about it and what I can do next. It’s taking up all of my mind and I’m feeling overwhelmed by it all – which is resulting in me not doing the things from my ‘need’ list.

I’ve been approached by Army Comms to help them on a campaign about transitioning out of the military. This is obviously something I’m passionate about, so I really want to help out where I can. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to hopefully give back some of the positive experiences and help others understand that the emotional rollercoaster we’re all on is both an individual and a shared one.

Drop

I’d been asked to help test out a course for transitioning military. It’s an amazing opportunity and I wish I could have engaged more with it. It should only take around 30 mins per day, but I don’t seem to be able to fit that into my day right now. Again, if we had internet at work I could fit it in over lunch, but we don’t – and it’s a 20 min walk back home so I’d not have time to eat if I did that. I was really disappointed that I couldn’t have engaged more with this – and that I’d let down the lovely lady who had asked me to be a part of it; it seemed to come at the wrong time and I just mentally couldn’t fit it in.

So what else have I dropped? I’ll be honest, it’s the constant turnaround of housework! I’ve got the boys helping me out more to get all of the jobs done and set them up a GoHenry account to drop in some money when they’ve done their jobs. I’ve not mowed the lawn for a bit but it’s encouraging the bees to come into the garden, which is great. For me, allowing myself to accept that the house is a mess and the garden needs doing but I don’t ‘have’ to have everything neat & tidy all of the time is a good feeling. I’m still uncomfortable with it – but I know that something will have to drop or my head will explode with the never-ending to-do list.

In the end, I need to give myself a break, allow the less important things to drop and realise what the most important things are for me right now. There’s so much going on and I don’t want to put myself in a position where I burnout and end up hating the transition time.

Defining Personal Values and Drivers — 14th Jun 2021

Defining Personal Values and Drivers

I have learned that as long as I hold fast to my beliefs and values, and follow my own moral compass, then the only expectations I need to live up to are my own.

Michelle Obama

In a response to one of my previous posts about completing self-awareness and trying to discover ‘who’ I really am, I was very kindly advised to consider working on discovering and understanding my values (thank you Sara Smalley).

This reminded me of one of the first exercises I completed on the CTP Website when I first logged in over a year ago. Since I hadn’t properly engaged with my transition at that point, I didn’t really understand what this meant or why I was doing it. So I thought I’d go back and take another look to fully understand my values and drivers. The following are the main points I picked out from that exercise:

  • Loyalty, Integrity, Honesty
  • Alignment with Organisational Values
  • Teamwork & Collaboration – There were a number of divers that fell into this scope, such as good working relationships.
  • Learning & Development, knowledge & helping others
  • Autonomy – to work to my own methods, having manageable stress levels & Life Balance
  • Challenge, Variety, Fulfillment, Achievement

What does this mean? Well, many of the military ethos values and standards are there – and why shouldn’t they be? Who doesn’t want loyalty, integrity and honesty from an organisation that they’re going to devote their time and energy to? These are comfortable for me – as well as the majority of service leavers I would hope. We have an expectation that these values will be present wherever we are and therefore an immediate and innate trust in the organisation which we will work tirelessly towards.

This leads into an alignment with organisational values – if you don’t agree with something that the company stands for at it’s core, why would you want to work for them (and vice-versa of course)? This is why it’s important to research the company you’re applying for. Ensure you’re clear on their values and that you feel you can help them achieve their goals.

Teamwork, collaboration, good working relationships are essential to me. I’ve spent years practicing these things and I’ve also had the displeasure of experiencing a broken team and awful, toxic working relationships. The latter was incredibly distressing for me and my well-being I really suffered – I know for certain how important this is to me and I won’t sacrifice it for anything.

Learning & development opportunities, knowledge building and helping others is also a very important value for me. I love to learn, develop myself and apply this to my workplace. I also enjoy affording opportunities to others and take great pleasure in seeing others succeed in their goals. I firmly believe that we are here to develop the next generation to take over and exceed us. I’ve worked with people who have clung on to their knowledge, making themselves a single point of failure and refusing to pass their knowledge on. It’s very frustrating to work with and they’re not remembered particularly fondly.

Having the autonomy to work to my own methods, employing manageable stress levels and creating a life balance is also something that I’ve come to realise I enjoy. I have very good organisational skills and have no problems working to deadlines – just don’t micro-manage me or insist I work a specific way. I know when my stress levels are up as I start to miss things, which adds to the stress levels. Being able to de-stress at the end of the day and spend time with the family should (I believe) be on everyone’s to do list. Don’t get me wrong, I work incredibly hard when I’m in work, but I rarely have to stay late – and I really don’t want to.

Finally, having a varied, challenging role which makes me feel fulfilled and gives me a sense of achievement (in whatever form that may be) sounds like bliss.

This feels like a good start and gives me something to look for when I’m looking to match my values to an organisations, thank you again for pointing me in this direction, it’s been a great exercise to complete with more understanding of why I’m doing it – and it makes feel feel proud to acknowledge these as my values and drivers.

My Career Transition Activity – May 2021 — 10th Jun 2021

My Career Transition Activity – May 2021

Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.

Abigail Adams

Wow – I can’t believe it’s the end of May already! I knew it would, but the time is going so fast!

I’m finally settling on one area that I would really like to focus on for my next career, which is something that I’ve been trying to work on recently. I’ve had a couple of threads that I had pulled out of my first round of self-reflection, but having then concentrated on those two, I now know that I want to solidly commit to joining the Learning and Development community.

How have I come to this decision? Well really it’s thanks to the CIPD L5 Diploma in L&D that I’m currently undertaking. I’ve learned so much already and have been fascinated by the course content, which has inspired me to research models, strategies and techniques that I’d only previously been vaguely aware of (or not at all) or didn’t have a name for. It’s been a great realisation that I really love this form of work, which I didn’t realise was so closely linked to coaching as well, which someone very kindly suggested I look into. This all seems to fit into the natural way in which I’ve undertaken my path so far – I have a desire to always be learning and the prospect of helping others develop themselves to be the best that they can be is incredibly appealing.

Whilst completing a recent assignment for my course, I came across Insights Discovery & Colour Types in which I discovered that I was classified as a ‘helper’, which is a mix of the green and yellow personality types. It also explained that I had the following characteristics: Introverted Intuition with Extraverted Thinking. For me, this helped me realise that whilst I am introverted, I have the ability to think like an extravert. This makes sense to me in that I am writing this blog and putting myself ‘out there’ on LinkedIn. I’ve always had really great and positive comments about my ability to communicate and build communication networks etc. I tend to do this online rather than face to face, which leans towards the introvert side – I’m fascinated by this!

Anyway, I’ve also been busy doing other things this month. I’ve taken up some of the events on the CTP website.

The first one of the month was the Transition to Teach event. This was really interesting and included a number of ex-forces personnel who had made the transition following this pathway.

The next one was my very first Employment Fair. There were a large number of companies here, some which I recognised and some that I didn’t. I was really nervous attending this – especially when I went into rooms and I was the only one there so I had to converse with people! CTP very handily sent out a document beforehand detailing the industry, role types and locations that all of the companies were involved in, so I at least had a clue about what I wanted to ask. This additional document helped me to pick out the ones that would be in my location and figure out whether we were suited to each other.

A third event I attended was the Women in the Military event held Eloise Cheales This was really interesting and very inspiring. There were a number of ex-service personnel present, who had left at varying ranks and stages of their careers. They discussed their journey’s so far and were available afterwards for a Q&A session.

Next, I undertook the LinkedIn Masterclass held by trishmullen via the Forces Transition Group – FTG. I would say that this has provided me with the most value so far in my journey – bearing in mind that I’m not actively looking for work at this point. The key takeaways from this for me was surrounding connections, posting content, keywords, things to post about and general advice to get yourself out there.

Since this masterclass and the realisation that I want to go into the L&D industry, my LinkedIn presence, learning and connections have increased massively. The posts I now see are focused towards L&D, I’ve either followed or connected with leaders in the industry and commented on their posts – which I would never have done before – and I’ve found them nothing but helpful and positive (rather than patronising and dismissive as I’d previously assumed they might).

Due to the work I’ve put in to my transition so far and the fantastic support of John Stephenson , I’ve been asked to participate in some amazing things – all of which will be coming up soon!

I’ve learned a lot in May 21 and I’m really looking forward to June!

Habit Check — 6th May 2021

Habit Check

Happiness is a habit – cultivate it.

Elbert Hubbard

I am determined for this year to be my best one yet. For the last few years I’ve been overweight, generally unhappy and with no sense of direction or purpose. During this new resettlement period things had to change. If I was going to be happy, be there for my family and truly enjoy this next chapter in my life, I needed to take a good hard look at myself. This wasn’t going to be easy, change never is.

I have chosen 3 habits that I wish to change from a negative to a positive. The first being exercise, the second being my diet and the third being my brain chatter. Below I’ll go through how that’s been going so far and what I’ve done to change the negativity.

Exercise

During the first COVID-19 lockdown we were lucky enough to borrow a spin bike from the camp gym. I downloaded and registered for the Peloton App (they were doing a 3-month free trail at the time). I used the bike and the app every day and managed to lose some weight. I felt better about myself. Once the lockdown was over, the gym took the bike back and it all stopped, the routine was gone and I couldn’t replicate it in the gym no matter how hard I tried. As we were missing our 10th wedding anniversary, I managed to convince my husband to buy us a Peloton bike for our return to the UK. I could tell he was skeptical – was this going to end up being a clothes-horse?

Thankfully no! I won’t lie, I’ve found it hard and I’ve been unmotivated at times, but now it’s the end of April and I feel quite safe to say that I now get up Mon-Fri at 0550 to ride the bike and listen to the positive motivational chats that the instructors have. I can feel my self belief growing and know that it’s ok to not be hitting the same numbers as the 20-something year old instructor who is way smaller than me – I am there and I’ve showed up and stuck at it. I really can’t ask for more. I’ve signed up for various challenges on the App and have either hit them or I haven’t – the good thing (for me) is that I no longer berate myself for not reaching an unreasonable challenge and end up not getting on the bike for weeks on end. I now simply shrug it off and continue. This is something I would never have been able to do previously to me starting this journey of positivity.

Of course there are other ways to do this that don’t cost as much as a Peloton and the App, but this is something that I’ve found works for me and I can’t praise it enough. Our two boys even have their own accounts on it and will happily cycle for 30-mins on a scenic route, whilst doing some arm work with the weights! We also do workouts as a family in the living room. We do cardio, strength, pilates and yoga together, which we wouldn’t have done previously and more often than not the boys are happy to help me out by doing it with me.

I’ve mentioned previously that we’ve already bought our ‘forever’ home up in the North East. There are some lovely walks in the vicinity of our home and we’ve all started taking walks on the weekend. I’ve found this to be great for blowing out the cobwebs, getting some quiet time or even to catch up on the kids’ news.

Whilst I’m not where I want to be weight or exercise-wise and there is more intensive exercise I could be doing, I’m happy with this slow start and am glad that I’m finding enjoyment in exercise again as it doesn’t hurt and I’m not being sick because I can’t keep up on a run, putting me off for weeks at a time. In the meantime, I’m going to continue to grow and build on the work I’m doing and improve my overall fitness in a happy way.

Diet

I joined Noom in January. I’ve tried all sorts of diets and methods and fads over the years, which have all worked to varying degrees but have never stuck. I really wanted something that would help me to change habits and thoughts, so I thought I’d give this one a go as a last ditch effort. I didn’t care if it took all year to lose the extra weight, I just wanted to feel happy and content that I was doing the best that I could and to stop feeling so bad about myself every time I ate something ‘bad’.

I wasn’t sure what to think when I first started, but I soon realised that Noom was much more than another fad. The daily lessons are fantastic at making you think about and question your thoughts and decisions. It’s not even so much about the food for me – I eat quite healthily on the whole, it’s the way it makes you aware of what you’re doing and why your doing it.

You make a SMART goal each week with your coach, who then checks in on you to see how you’re getting on and there’s a group chat where you can put in details from the lessons you’ve completed – or ask questions and get motivation from your group mates.

Again, it’s helped me to gain confidence and has explained a few things to me in a way I can process it which has definitely made me make different choices. Again, I’m not yet where I want to be, but I can see the differences that are being made and I am sure I’ll get there eventually – no matter how slowly, as long as I’m feeling positive, I’m feeling happy. One of the boys said he could see a difference in my belly the other day, which was such a kind thing for him to say so I’m also happy about that even though I can’t see it myself.

Mind Chatter

The running theme through this has been the negative brain chatter that so many of us are in constant battle with. The one that tells you you can’t do something, you’re useless, there’s no point in trying etc. I could go on, but I don’t want to reintroduce them!

This has got to be my biggest problem. Forget the weight (for now), if I can’t get a handle on this, then It’s always going to be there just waiting for that moment of doubt or weakness so it can pounce and take hold, undoing everything I’ve been working so hard towards. So this was going to be my main demon to get past (and keep out).

I’ve downloaded audiobooks on habits and positivity but by far the most effective thing for me has been the Headspace App. It’s been an absolute revelation to me and I use it religiously every evening before bed. I’ve competed a few courses – in particular the self-esteem and confidence courses, where I actually found I was smiling by the end and have never slept so well afterwards. I also use the Sleepcasts to drift off to sleep. I find that the stories and sounds are a real benefit to stop the chatter that so often shows up when you’re trying to relax in bed. I’ve very rarely reached the end of any of them.

To keep these three areas in the forefront of my mind, I’ve removed all other apps from the first page on my phone and left the Peloton, Headspace and Noom as the first one’s I see whenever I open my phone and it seems to work motivation-wise.

So these are the three areas of my life that I am trying to change to a positive. I’m not there yet and I’m not sure when I will get there, but I am so much happier in the positivity I’ve got now compared to where I was only a few months ago.

5 Steps for Transitioning Military Personnel — 4th May 2021

5 Steps for Transitioning Military Personnel

It is never too late to be what you might have been.

George Eliot

Coming to the end of your military career is daunting, no matter how long you have served. Thankfully the Military have put into place some great steps to help all service personnel through their resettlement period. The terms of this help depends on your length of service and I can only really speak from my own experience of having served (almost) 24-years.

The following are the first few bits of help that I have received and am grateful for so far. Some of these are provided by the military, but others I’ve sought out myself.

  1. Meeting with a Resettlement Officer
  2. Pension Society Membership
  3. Career Transition Partnership Website
  4. Career Transition Workshop & Careers Advisor
  5. LinkedIn Contacts

Meeting the Resettlement Officer

I didn’t have to make a move to start the resettlement process, it kicked in 2 years to the day. JPA asked me for contact details and the Resettlement Officer was in touch very quickly. When my Resettlement period began, we were a couple of weeks into the first COVID-19 lockdown out in Cyprus. I wasn’t put off, I’d been waiting for this time for a while now. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to meet her face to face, but we had a really helpful talk through the process and entitlements that I’d receive over the next 2 years.

This was really good to know – I hadn’t really taken much notice previously so was really grateful to have it all spelled out to me; leave I’d be entitled to above my individual leave allowance for courses and termination time to sort out my final move etc. I also discovered I was entitled for some money towards training and development for my next role.

I was still 2 years out at this point but found it really helpful to have an understanding of these things and appreciated not being left to figure it out for myself. It was explained at the end that I would need to register with the CTP and to expect a call from them in the future regarding attendance of a workshop.

Membership of the Forces Pension Society

The next thing I decided to do was look at the Pension Society. Again, it’s not something I had really concentrated on as I’d floated through my career, but now needed to have an understanding of what to expect. Especially with the McCloud Hearing and the potential disruption that could cause to projected figures etc. I’ve not had a lot to do with them so far, but as I get closer, I envisage I’ll be in touch with them to ensure that everything I receive is correct and ties together.

Career Transition Partnership Website

Upon receipt of the brief by the Resettlement Officer, I was given access to the CTP website and created my login. The site is really helpful I find that I check back regularly. There is access to industry specific information, jobs, training, workshops and events plus much more. There is also career assessment tools, which can help you to bring out your strengths and preferences. You can also utilise the CV builder within the site and much, much more.

Career Transition Workshop

This was a real eye opener for me and I’m so pleased I did it. It was a 3-day course with Amy Campbell from the CTP. We covered all parts of the CV and interview techniques as well as receiving a really helpful handbook and going over LinkedIn profiles. The most impactful part for me was identifying transferrable skills. After my meltdown a few months earlier about having no transferrable skills, I was really pleased to be able to come up with a number of ways my skills can be used in the outside world and boosted my confidence no end. Almost immediately after the course, I received a call from my new Careers Advisor Leigh Stobbs, who advised me about the ways in which he can help. The first thing to do was use the information from the CTW to create my first CV in over 20 years, which we could then bounce between ourselves and tailor it appropriately towards the civilian market – no mean feat!

LinkedIn Contacts

Again, this was not included in the ‘official’ offerings, but it becomes apparent very quickly that LinkedIn is a hugely important factor for any person looking to transition, grow their visibility and learn how to network. We went over the site during the CTW and were given a number of helpful hints to tailor your profile. Whilst I’d had a profile before, I never really used it properly as I didn’t need to, but now it was apparent that it would be an important part of whatever future path I take. Whilst searching around I came across a guy called John Stephenson and his company, the Forces Transition Group. After taking a look at their website and reading some of the articles and information posted I liked what I saw and decided to get in touch. John has since been a massive help by providing CV advice, webinars, links to others as well as general confidence building.

Other things to consider

The CTP website offers Housing briefs and Financial briefs for those who are interested – I’ve not attended any of these yet so I can’t really comment.

I’ll go more in depth into the things I’ve learnt from the CTW and from the FTG in a later post, but I’d definitely say that these are the first steps to take once you reach your resettlement window and that HM Forces have set up a good automatic system to ensure that nobody is left out of the process. At the end of the day, it’s always up to the individual whether they choose to act on the information afforded during these offerings, but I’ve found them invaluable for my confidence and self-belief (so far).

Who am I? — 29th Apr 2021

Who am I?

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”

Steve Jobs
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Changing career is a daunting prospect. I’ve been in my current career stream since I was 19 and it was what I wanted to do at the time. I can no longer continue in that field due to my 24-year contract with the Army coming to an end, so I have to figure out my ‘next chapter’.

Whilst I’ve spent the last few years saying that I’ve had enough of the responsibility of management and I want to work in a job that doesn’t have any, I’ve more recently come to the realisation that I actually do enjoy management and having responsibility for both the work I do and the people that I work with.

So, how do I figure out what I’d like to do next? The following are some of the processes I have been through so far – bearing in mind that I’ve still got 12 months to go and I have no doubt that things will change further as my time draws closer.

The first thing I have done is some self-reflection. I have taken a good hard look at myself as a person, who am I? What am I? What do I enjoy?

Who am I?

Well, this was a tough one to start with. I began this one simply, beyond my name I’m a mother, wife, daughter, sister, niece, auntie etc. In my career I’m a Warrant Officer Class 2, an analyst, a reporter, an equality, diversity and inclusion advisor, an alcohol advisor, a health and safety representative, a Trauma Risk Management Practitioner, a Manager and probably much more (without trying to sound cocky)!

I’ve always been someone who doesn’t do anything unless it’s something I’m interested in or have a level of passion for. Looking at these, there are two streams that I can identify:

1. I love to analyse things and look deeper into situations, beyond the apparent face value.

2. I enjoy being there to help people who are in trouble or to improve or facilitate a better working environment.

Next I delved that bit deeper into my personality. I’m an introvert through and through. For me, it’s taken me a long time to realise that this isn’t a ‘bad’ thing. I don’t enjoy rooms full of people or talking to groups of more than one or two. I’m not comfortable with the unknown or not having a routine (not for everything, but a loose plan for the day at least). I dread confrontation and conflict and having to organise something which involves a multitude of people judging me and my organisational skills is enough to induce a panic attack. However, whilst these are the things I don’t enjoy as a person, it hasn’t stopped me doing them. I wouldn’t have gotten very far in the military if I didn’t. It takes a lot of emotional energy for me to do these things and I am generally mentally drained after doing so (and will take a nap at the earliest opportunity). I’ve learned to not see these as negative points – they are necessary things in the world of work and now that I understand that my uncomfortableness is not unique to me I feel better that it’s not as easy for me as it is for some.

It’s often more difficult to pull out the positive’s of my personality, but these are the things that I genuinely enjoy about me. I am kind and genuine. I will go out of my way to help people and enjoy seeing them succeed. I am fascinated by human behaviour and why we are how we are. I love to analyse details and information. Looking beyond the basics and searching for links and paths, spending hours pouring over facts and linking them together brings a great satisfaction to me. I love puzzles – kind of tied to analysis, but any sort of puzzle fascinated me. I tend to live more in my head than verbally. I can lose hours just thinking or reading and feel so much more relaxed when I have time and space to myself. I like to sleep during the day – I find the mental exhaustion of ‘peopling’ can build up to the point that I have to shut down like C-3PO sometimes. I come across as boring, but to anyone who genuinely knows me I’m not – I just don’t let my guard down easily or risk embarrassment.

Whilst all of these are factors that make up my personality, they are not stuck. There are times I thrive on human interaction and can easily talk to groups of people without sweating and having heart palpitations. I think that this has come with confidence and ‘forcing’ myself to face these difficult situations. Realising that the world won’t end if I say something wrong or forget my wording in a brief and acknowledging that flaws are ok.

What does this mean?

Well, in the forum of career transition, I have to consider these factors of my personality into what I would like to do next. I really enjoy the work I do at the moment, which involves managing the training that our Operational Analysts receive and ensuring that the output meets the requirements of the Teams they are going to. This involves a lot of collaboration and conversations and meetings, but also draws in the puzzle and analysis side of me, trying to figure out what steps to take next, how to improve things and how to keep developing and moving forward, which balances out into me having plenty of time to think and draw up plans and ideas afterwards. My most enjoyable times so far have always involved both of these things – as long as I get time to be able to sit and think things over, I’m all good.

So at a base level, I would love a career that allows me the freedom to both converse with people in small groups and also have plenty of time to mull things over, look at multiple sources and develop something based on putting all of the pieces of a puzzle together.

What that looks like as a career, is a whole other question…

To Sink or To Swim.. — 23rd Mar 2021

To Sink or To Swim..

”It is always our own self that we find at the end of the journey. The sooner we face that self, the better.”

Ella Maillart
Photo by Elianne Dipp on Pexels.com

So, I was leaving the Forces at my 24-year point and we were going to live in the North East. Phew! Tick and tick.

After my coffee shop meltdown, I took myself away to have a word. I had a clear decision to make – do I allow all these emotions to over run me, or do I do something about it?  If I allowed the emotions to continue to grow, it would without a doubt lead to my sinking and further meltdown’s, which would only serve to exacerbate the situation and would not be helpful in any way. My panic attack had subsided by now and I could see more clearly that I could not continue on this path of self-destruction without a plan of attack.

Thankfully, I had decided to lift my head above the water and start to kick back. I sat at home that evening reflecting on all the questions that had been whirling around me without direction.

The main theme of my meltdown was that I didn’t think I was good at anything. How could I critically look at myself to help me answer some of the questions about my skills?

I decided to do a SWOT analysis on myself. I had picked out tonnes of weaknesses – I’m really good at picking out all of the problems I have! But I was struggling on the strengths and needed a hand.  After searching on the internet for ways to find your own strengths and not really getting too far, I decided to ask my husband, who I know will be honest with me as he has a practical approach to things like this. 

We sat and went through my strengths, which I found rather uncomfortable as I think a lot of people would, but I wrote down what he’d said in case I decided to believe it at some point. At the end of this little brainstorming session, I was able to pick out some personality-based opportunities to delve into further and also some threats that I thought might make things more difficult for me – including my lack of confidence, selling myself short and not realising my worth.

Doing this self-analysis was incredibly helpful – more helpful than I realised at the time.  It certainly didn’t answer all of my questions, but it put me in a much better place to reflect on my strengths and weaknesses – what did I want to work on? Was there anything I could improve that could help me in the future? Do I have weaknesses that I need to focus on? Are there strengths that I have that can feed into future opportunities? Could my working on any of these mitigate some of the threats identified etc? Where can I go to find out ways to work on my self-produced threats to gain confidence and a sense of self-worth?

Off I went to everyone’s best friend Google…

Career Change Meltdown No1 — 22nd Mar 2021

Career Change Meltdown No1

Photo by Anna Tarazevich on Pexels.com

I was so relieved to have made the decision to leave the Forces once my 24 years were up. I could now stop worrying about staying and trying to plan 2 postings ahead for the boys. I could stop splitting my ‘worry-time’ and set about looking at my next career. We were still in Cyprus, but we had bought our house so that was also off the tick list.  The next priority question on my mind was ‘What would I do next?’

I was determined that I would not just fall into something I didn’t want to do (unless it was part of a bigger plan). I wanted to find ‘myself’ and do something I genuinely enjoyed – but what? How would I be able to identify that? What else was out there? There must be something I’d enjoy! How do I know what I enjoy if I’ve not tried it before? I’m not qualified for anything, I’ve been doing this since I was 19 – what is out there now that I don’t know about? How do I find out what to do next? How will I know I’m doing the right thing? I’ll never get paid what I get in the Forces – how much will I need? I don’t know how to do anything so I’ll have to start again from scratch on minimum wage – can we afford that…?

Suddenly I was in the middle of a panic attack – I was sat having a brew with my husband in a café and I suddenly burst into tears and announced (probably more loudly than I should have) ‘I have no transferrable skills!’ ‘All I can do is work a spreadsheet!’ ‘There’s nothing I enjoy!’ ‘How am I supposed to work out what I like to do? I’ve been doing the same thing for so long – I don’t know what’s out there – how do I figure this out?!’

My husband rolled his eyes – probably expecting this at some point – he’s getting used to my apparently sudden outbursts (they’re not sudden, it’s just a build-up of emotions that finally tip me over).  He assured me that I was better than I thought and I actually remember him saying ‘Look – get yourself on LinkedIn. You’ll see lots of people on there that you knew when they were serving and they were muppets. Look at what they’re doing now – you’ll be surprised at the skills you do have. I have no doubt that you will end up doing great.’ He was being flippant about the ‘muppets’, but he made his point; I will get through this and I’m probably not giving myself enough credit (I need to get myself a confidence boost from somewhere).

I hadn’t been on LinkedIn before – I hadn’t needed to, so I took a look and started to see the links to skills that I actually did have.  This calmed me a bit; but the self-doubt, questions and fear were all still there. What was I going to do? How was I going to do it? All of this was new to me and quite frankly scaring me – what if I couldn’t find a job, how would we pay the bills? I’ve never not had my own money; I don’t want to rely on my husband’s income – I would feel so bad.

My head was spinning with the unknown outcomes of the scenarios running through my imagination. I had to take myself away to think on my own about how I was going to do this before I drowned in the overwhelming feelings and lack of control.

All of this took place over the space of about half an hour before our brew was finished. I resolved to look more closely at what I was feeling and figure out how to answer at least some of my questions.

Making The Decision To Leave — 19th Mar 2021

Making The Decision To Leave

The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.
– Amelia Earhart

Looking back over the last few years, I think I’ve probably been getting ready to leave for a while now.  The first indication was probably my readiness and eagerness to give up on one last promotion in order to take the family to Cyprus following my husband. It was our final opportunity to take the boys abroad and I didn’t give it a second thought. I’d never considered myself as a ‘wife of’ before and quickly filled in the paperwork for a sabbatical.  As it turned out, a job was arranged for me (which I felt very lucky and grateful for) so we could both work form over there. I accepted this new role and carried on regardless.  It wasn’t until we were about a year in that I realised how much I had actually wanted to be the role of wife and mother – without the added pressure of a full-time job in the Forces.  At the same time, whilst I know I had given up on promotion by moving out there, I was still upset when the promotion board results came out and I wasn’t on the list – so was I really ready?

We made the final decision together whilst on holiday – we came back to the UK from Cyprus over the summer holidays. My husband and I managed to get a week in the lakes together whilst the boys stayed with grandparents in the North East.  Since the board results, I had realised that I had to make a decision on whether I actually wanted to continue with my career in the Forces or to leave and do something else.  We talked things through and effectively did a family SWOT analysis. We had to consider the pro’s and con’s of both; not just for me, but as a family with two young children.

The main ‘issue’ we identified was how much the children suffered with each move we made as they were getting older.  They had been in 4 nurseries and 3 different schools and were absolutely emotionally and mentally affected.  This became the main crux of our decision, we wanted them to have stability, stop moving every two years and to be able to make and keep friends – this would never happen if we were both to remain in the Forces.

So the decision was made – I would leave when my 24 years were up.

The next decision was where we would live. All of my family live in the North East. Having worked in the same field for over 22 years, I would have a good chance of joining a comparable civilian company within the same field, but there were none of these companies in the North East – did I want to live near my family so I had the support when required, or did I want to live elsewhere without family support but in a job that I knew? Again, this ended up being a rather quick decision. I wanted the boys to be stable and have family around them – something they had missed out on so far. Surely I could find a different career safe in the knowledge that the boys are happy and cared for?

Once we had decided that I would leave at the end of my time and that we would move to the North East to settle the boys around family, we set about in true military fashion and started looking at houses (all still whilst sitting outside a pub on Lake Windermere with a beer). By the time we left the Lakes and returned to the North East we knew the area we wanted to move to.  Within another week we had put down a deposit on a house. 

So that was that – my husband would have 8 years continuing his service and myself and the boys would move to the North East where we would get the support of family and the stability of staying in the same school system.

This was possibly one of the first times we had made a wholly selfless decision to put the children first and (hopefully) ensure their happiness over our own careers – had we not had the boys, we would more than likely have continued in our careers and I may well have promoted further or left and joined one of the Civilian companies further South.

Having made these decisions, I am now faced with the emotional rollercoaster that is trying to figure out a new career after being in the military since I was 19 – what did I want to do, how as I going to do it? The meltdown’s over how few skills I had! All of this will be covered in the next few blog posts…