Ma’am to Mrs

A career transition journey from Military to Civilian

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…

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…