Leaving the Armed Forces

Even if being in the armed forces was all you ever dreamt of doing, there will come a time for you to return to civilian life. It might be the end of your formal engagement, a change in family circumstances or even a health-related issue, but an end to service will eventually come for everyone. There are many options of jobs for ex forces personnel.

According to the Forces in Mind Trust, around 17,000 people leave the UK armed forces each year, with the Royal British Legion estimating the size of the British veteran population to be around 2.8 million.

Many of these people will have spent their formative years and perhaps even much of their adult lives serving the country - but after years of living a structured lifestyle, re-entering the civilian world may seem like a daunting prospect.

The Forces in Mind Trust recently carried out research that found the Armycomplex transition to 'civvy street' must cover six key areas if it is to be successful: housing; health; wellbeing; education and family; finances; and employment.

Employment was considered particularly important because it could help to provide structure and a sense of purpose after a life in the military. For that reason, let's take a closer look at starting a new job for ex military personnel  after service and how you might go about finding it.

The support available to ex-servicemen and women

It's important to point out that there is support available from the armed forces at the end of your career in the army, navy or air force as you make the transition to civilian life - don't fear you might simply be given a change of clothes and released as veterans of the First World War were.

For instance, the army provides a programme called Transition Individual Planning and Personal Development (IPPD) to offer support, advice and education to its servicemen and women.

This is undertaken throughout a person's military career to ensure they have everything they need to eventually return to civilian life.

Meanwhile, the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity (RNRMC) allocates funding to support the Regular Forces Employment Association (RFEA), which has been offering advice on education and career opportunities to working-age veterans since 1985.

It aims to work with employers that value ex-military recruitment and partners with the Career Transition Partnership to ensure the qualities and abilities of all those who have served are recognised.

Finally, the Career Transition Partnership is an agreement between the Ministry of Defence and Right Management to provide resettlement services for those leaving the Royal Navy, Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Marines, including housing, benefits, pensions and careers advice.

It is available two years before discharge until two years after leaving service, ensuring veterans have the vital support they require.

Showcasing your skills

One of the biggest challenges for personnel leaving the armed forces is highlighting to potential employers how the skills they've picked up during their service will be of use.

This is despite the fact that many employers are keen to hire ex-armed forces professionals. According to research by the Forces in Mind Trust published in October 2020, 74 per cent of businesses stated they had an "organisational desire to access and hire from the ex-service

There are good reasons for this, with 70 per cent of employer respondents - and 100 per cent of those that have committed to the Armed Forces Covenant's Employer Recognition Scheme - reporting that ex-service personnel made great employees.

What's more, the top six skills most demanded by employers surveyed align closely with those likely to have been gained by ex-service personnel. These are:

  • Active listening
  • Time management
  • Critical thinking
  • Speaking
  • Judgement and decision-making
  • Complex problem solving

However, the study also found that many ex-forces personnel are failing to effectively communicate their skills to potential employers, which means they often end up being overlooked for roles that are highly suited for.

It found, for instance, that 36 per cent of employers said the CVs and application forms of ex-service personnel were difficult to understand and did not identify the transferable skills gained from the military. 

Therefore, it's clear that one of the most important things you can do to make yourself more attractive to recruiters is to ensure that your CV is well-written and presented to make certain it's doing the best possible job of showcasing your talents.

Moving jobs but transferring skills

You might lack confidence looking for your first ex military job after leaving the armed forces and assume that if, for example, the army is all you have ever known, you won't have the skills necessary to find a new career.

Actually, employers regularly cite ex-service employees as being particularly flexible, accepting of responsibility, mature and positive in their attitude, all of which are hugely desirable skills for prospective employers.

Other transferable skills you might have acquired without even realising include:

  • ITArmy
  • An ability to work under pressure
  • Flexibility
  • Reliability
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Self-motivation
  • Problem-solving
  • Teamwork
  • Health and safety credentials

All of the above could easily translate into a career in transport and logistics, engineering, security, teaching and any number of other sectors.

Security cleared? Then you're a step ahead

If you've been in the armed forces, then the chances are you've received professional security clearances throughout your career.

The good news is that this could give you an advantage over your peers when it comes to jobhunting, as many businesses today list these credentials as an essential requirement for their employees.

It might not be in the sectors you automatically assume either, as employers in finance, petrochemicals, aerospace and construction are increasingly looking to hire employees with security clearance.

Security clearances that could give you a boost in the eyes of employers include:

  • Developed Vetting (DV)
  • Security Check (SC)
  • Counter Terrorism Check (CTC)
  • Recruitment Vetting (RV)
  • Management Vetting (MV)
  • Non-Police Personnel Vetting (NPPV)

If you can demonstrate that you have these clearances before they lapse and need to be renewed, then you may find yourself in demand.

Next steps

As for any jobseeker, the first step on the road to a new career is to update your CV to reflect your experience. Keep it as concise as possible - two pages is ideal - and ensure it refers to the transferable skills mentioned above.

You could then upload it here at SecurityClearedJobs.com, a UK-based job board designed and marketed to attract candidates who are security cleared or who meet the security clearance criteria.

We can help you market your CV and make it available to all major employers recruiting within this specialist sector. You can also sign up for job alerts, email updates, newsletters and weekly 'hot jobs' designed to make your search easier.

To get started, view our latest jobs HERE or find out more information on how we work at www.SecurityClearedJobs.com.

Once that's done, you can work on your interview technique and make the most of the free resources available from the armed forces and elsewhere to help you.

Remember: keep persevering and don't be daunted by 'civvy street'. Your armed forces career has prepared you for everything it entails and your skills are something employers from all sectors desire.

All you have to do is decide what your future holds.