Ma’am to Mrs

A career transition journey from Military to Civilian

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.

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.

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…

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

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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…