Ma’am to Mrs

A career transition journey from Military to Civilian

What are Soft Skills? — 18th Oct 2021

What are Soft Skills?

Soft Skills get little respect, but will make or break your career

Peggy Claus

Soft skills are those that cannot be taught. Hard skills are those that you can learn or are taught, but soft skills are developed over time and highlight your personality and those skills that are important to all situations in life.

The following are six types of soft skill I’ve picked out. Within these headings are a number of methods that can be used to showcase your abilities in these areas. It’s important to understand your soft skills and to know how to highlight them when completing your CV and for interview. Whilst a company may not directly ask you about your soft skills, they will be assessing them through your demeanour and content of your responses in interview.

Of course I haven’t just plucked these out of thin air, and I’d like to state that I have used the following site to aid me in putting this post together: developgoodhabits.com

Communication Skills

There are so many ways that you can prove your communication skills. The following are a selection to give you examples of methods that we all use every day:

  • Verbal Communication
  • Non-Verbal Communication
  • Visual Communication
  • Written Communication
  • Active Listening
  • Negotiation
  • Influencing and persuasion
  • Presentation Skills
  • Networking
  • Storytelling Skills
  • Diplomacy Skills

Problem-Solving Skills

We’re all about solving problems aren’t we? I can’t think of a day that goes by that I haven’t had to come up with a quick change due to unforeseen circumstances (on the bus, off the bus springs to mind).

  • Analysis
  • Experimentation
  • Imagination
  • Innovation
  • Insight
  • Lateral Thinking
  • Logical Reasoning
  • Observation
  • Questioning
  • Troubleshooting

Leadership Skills

You don’t have to be in a leadership position to show that you have these skills – new person posted in? Mentor and coach them in their new role… have a word with your mates when they’re having an argument…

  • People Management
  • Project Management
  • Meeting Management
  • Coaching
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Decision-Making
  • Delegation
  • Mentoring
  • Supervising
  • Team-Building
  • Versatility

Work Ethic Skills

This section speaks for itself I think, you would hope that this is ingrained into the majority of serving personnel.

  • Commitment
  • Dependable
  • Discipline
  • Initiative
  • Motivated
  • Punctual
  • Reliable
  • Responsible
  • Trainable

Teamwork Skills

Do you work well in a team? Can you cooperate with others? If so, you have team work skills!

  • Accept feedback
  • Collaborative
  • Cooperation
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Influential
  • Mediation
  • Self-awareness
  • Social Skills

Time Management Skills

Do you get jobs done on time, set SMART objectives for your SJAR and plan your day according to priorities? Guess what – you have time management skills that you can talk about.

  • Coping
  • Focus
  • Goal-Setting
  • Introspection
  • Organisation
  • Planning
  • Prioritisation
  • Stress Management
  • Work-Life Balance

During our time in the Armed Forces, I believe we have ample opportunities to prove our abilities in all of these areas at varying degrees. I’d wholly recommend taking this list and having a think of where and when you have been able to show your capabilities in these headings. You could note them down and see where you might need to provide more evidence – this will be invaluable when you come to write your CV as well as when preparing for interview, you’ll have such a wealth of examples and evidence to draw on you won’t even need to think about it and you can switch them around in your CV dependent on the Companies requirements.

The Transition Curve of Resettlement — 11th Oct 2021

The Transition Curve of Resettlement

I first came across the transition curve when I was on my Career Transition Workshop and there’s definite merit to it if you’re like me and appreciate knowing what’s going on in your head. I don’t think I’ve really had the ‘anger, denial, shock’ phase, but that’s most likely because I have known this change is coming for years. The next stage I have definitely experienced! My meltdowns about having no transferrable skills, not knowing who I was or what I wanted to do was certainly an expression of fear and confusion. I’d have to admit that I’ve exercised avoidance as well – throwing myself into my current role and telling myself that I’ve got plenty of time is absolutely something I’ve done. I’ve also gone back and forward across the bottom curve, with acceptance and creativity being followed by a period of stress and frustration – then avoiding everything to do with resettlement for a while before moving forward again.

Right now, I believe I’m fluttering between impatience, avoidance and hope. I’ve been suffering in making the break between old me and new/next me – I’m a bit of a workaholic and throw myself completely into what I’m doing, but I’ve never had to split myself in half and have equal focus on the current and the future. I feel like I need a clean break and to not have to keep dragging things out – for me, I currently only have 8 weeks left in work, with will be followed by a long period of leave, but I am incredibly impatient to get out of my Unit and be gone so I can fully focus on my future career, I feel like I’m holding myself back – but I also know I have ample time to get myself sorted and that I’m very lucky to be afforded the time I do have once I finish work.

I think the message I’m trying to purvey is that resettlement is an absolute emotional rollercoaster and we need to know that and accept it as part of the process of resettlement. Acknowledging that you will more than likely go through these emotions in one form or another will really help in getting your head in the right place, accepting the ups and downs as they hit and understanding where you are on the curve could help to relieve some of the stress, anxiety and frustration.

This is why we need to consider our future long before we come to leave. I’ve been focusing on myself and my resettlement since January ’21 and there are things that I wish I had thought about and made steps towards before starting. Things such as figuring out who I am and what I’d like to do next could have been dealt with at a much earlier stage, making networking and CV writing easier by being able to consider the target audience before hitting the ‘resettlement’ stage – but hindsight is a wonderful thing isn’t it?!

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!

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…