Ma’am to Mrs

A career transition journey from Military to Civilian

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…

My first Career Change post! — 18th Mar 2021

My first Career Change post!

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” — George Eliot

post

Hi everyone, my name is Maddy and this is my first exploration into the world of blog writing (please be kind). It’s something I’ve always wanted to do but had no idea what I would write about, so the Career Transition Journey has come along at a great time for me. I have to begin with a MASSIVE thank you to John and the Forces Transition Group, who have encouraged me, given me the confidence to give this a go and agreed to host the blog on their website.

A little bit about me – I joined the Intelligence Corps as an Operator Special Intelligence (Linguist) in1998 on the promise of seeing the world, learning languages and being able to work alone for long periods (an incredibly interesting prospect for an introvert like me)!

I’ve somehow managed to make it through almost 23 years; I’ve learnt, used and promptly forgotten 3 languages; deployed and worked as: a Linguist, Operational Analyst, Reporter, Operational Team Leader, Troop Sergeant, Manager, Squadron Coordinator, Training & Discipline manager and I’m currently employed as a Skills and Training Sergeant Major – drawing up Individual Training Plans, policies, Skills Pathways and holding the responsibility for all role-related training within my Unit.

Over the years I’ve had my ups and downs; I’ve loved it and hated it, wanted to leave and wanted to stay and honestly couldn’t imagine who I would be without the experiences I’ve had. Now that the time to ‘actually’ leave is fast approaching, I wanted to share my story of my Transition process as I go through it – partly to keep myself accountable and ensure I’m moving at the right pace and in a positive forward direction. I also hope that I can help someone else – either now or in the future – to realise that whilst we are all on our own path, our feelings and emotions can be similar and are absolutely valid.

I’ve still got over 12 months before I leave, so there are many steps and challenges ahead. I hope to write about the emotions and phases I’ve gone through so far, decisions I’ve faced and made, lessons I’ve learned and the people and places I’ve found to be useful (another grateful nod to the FTG here) as I go through.

I’d love to get your own suggestions of helpful places to go for advice, things you’ve found useful throughout your own journey or even questions and queries that I can try and help you with so please leave comments and I’ll get back to you.

Look out for my next blog which will be about the processes I went through when I decided for certain that I was ready to leave…