Making the move to civvy street as seamless as possible

Published on: 7 Feb 2022

Leaving the armed forces can come as a huge culture shock. Whichever branch of the forces you served in, or in what role, moving away from the structure of military life and returning to civvy street marks a major transition, and if you don’t plan carefully what you do next, the sudden lack of direction can feel overwhelming.

One of the biggest questions will be how to get started on a new career. However, there are a range of resources you can turn to in order to get help with this, from resettlement schemes that can offer advice and guidance to career fairs dedicated to ex-military jobs. The key is ensuring you're looking in the right places for help.

The challenges of resettling when leaving the armed forces

Even if you've only been in the services for a few years, the change of pace getting back to life out of uniform can be a lot to take in. But if you're coming to the end of a 20-year or more career, it can be an even steeper learning curve.

A big challenge when it comes to getting back to civvy street will simply be knowing where to start, especially when looking for a new career. For instance, the chances are you won't have updated your CV in many years or may even have to start writing one from scratch. 

A major question many people will have at this stage will be how to make themselves stand out and describe their achievements in a way recruiters will understand. If military service is all you've ever known, it can sometimes be difficult to see how what you can do transfers into civilian life. 

Other issues may be finding new opportunities and putting your name out there. Networking in civilian life is very different to how things work in the forces, where you'll have been mostly interacting with your peers. Knowing who to talk to and where to find the right people can go a long way to making the transition as seamless as possible.

Finding the right career path

Ex-military personnel will often find they have transferable skills that are in high demand among civilian employers. According to the most recent figures from the Ministry of Defence (MoD), 84 per cent of service leavers who engaged with its Career Transition Partnership (CTP) service in 2019/20 were employed, with the majority finding a job in one of a few key sectors.

Among these are associate professional and technical occupations, which can include jobs that provide technical support to professionals and other senior personnel, and typically require a high-level vocational qualification.

Meanwhile, other common career paths include skilled trades, which need a level of practical training including work-based training and apprenticeships. Professional occupations in fields such as engineering, biological and natural sciences, which usually require either a degree or an equivalent qualification and experience, are another common destination for ex-forces personnel. 

All of the skills and experience needed for such roles can be developed over your time in the military. When combined with the personal qualities such as integrity, discipline and leadership skills that come from time in the armed forces, this makes ex-forces personnel highly desirable.

This may be especially the case for jobs that require a high level of security clearance. This can cover a wide range of occupations, from public sector IT contractors to electrical or mechanical engineers working in the defence or energy sectors. 

Being able to demonstrate a distinguished history of service and good conduct can go a long way to ensuring you're approved for any ex-military jobs that require these background checks and security clearances.

The options available to help with the transition

But while there are lots of career opportunities out there for ex-service personnel, finding the right one for your skills - and then effectively selling yourself to potential employers - can still be a challenge for personnel who may be entering the jobs market for the first time in many years.

Fortunately, there are a range of services dedicated to helping these individuals find their feet. As mentioned above, the MoD runs its CTP resettlement scheme to aid those leaving the armed forces. As this is the military's official service, it may be a good place to start, especially if you're aiming to retrain in order to add additional strings to your bow.

Another option is to look for employers that have committed to the UK's Armed Forces Covenant. The Covenant is a wide-ranging set of promises to support ex-military personnel in everything from finding a new career to ensuring they can access housing and public services fairly. 

However, if you're looking for work in the civilian sector, its Defence Employer Recognition Scheme may be especially useful. This highlights employers that have committed to supporting the armed forces community. To be recognised, companies must have signed the Armed Forces Covenant and "proactively demonstrate their forces-friendly credentials as part of their recruiting and selection processes".

Finally, it's always a good idea to attend dedicated careers fairs and other recruitment events that are tailored specifically to those who are leaving the armed forces. Exhibitions such as the Security Cleared Expo offer a great opportunity for candidates to meet up with prospective employers, learn what they're looking for and start networking.