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.

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.

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…