With the end of 2019 on the horizon, now is the time to take stock and plan for your next career move…into civilian employment.

“Time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted” is a quote that is variously attributed to Wellington, Rommel, and ‘Tomorrow, When the War Began’ author John Marsden, and is apposite to our topic this month. So, what kind of year has it been? Have you embarked upon any interesting and fulfilling resettlement courses? Have you booked that career consultation? Is your CV up to snuff?

Lisa Jones, a Career Consultant with the Officers’ Association, believes that now is the time to address such matters and ensure that you begin 2020 with a plan in place for what you want to achieve and your objectives clearly defined. December is when you should lay the foundations for an exciting new chapter in the New Year:

“The best Christmas present you could offer yourself is to allow time for self-evaluation in order to prepare for the challenges ahead. Time goes faster than you think, so getting your thoughts in order can mean more time to spend in action. Take time out of wrapping presents or writing Christmas cards to focus on you.

Consider the following:

  • What do you want out of this change?
  • What are you really good at? Will this translate into civilian life?
  • Do you need additional qualifications?
  • Where do you want or need to live?
  • How much do you really need to earn?

“Take time also to evaluate your priorities: what is most important in your next career; salary or work-life balance? Is job security important or can you afford to take a risk? What makes you tick? Consider also the military career that is drawing to a conclusion: what have you loved about this and what would you rather leave behind?”

Posing questions is a good way to take stock and also to help clarify your next move. What have your peers gone on to do after leaving the Forces? Does working with a household name appeal to you or are the values of an organisation more important? Does a portfolio career sound good? Look at geography – where can you reasonably access? What kind of commute can you manage?

When you have answers to your questions, be sure to document them as this will form the basis of your plan, a view that is shared by Giles O’Halloran, a career transition consultant, Pathfinder columnist, and former Reservist. He asserts that having an idea regarding your career is not enough – you need to commit your thinking to paper, or a hard drive:

“If you are going to make a plan – make it visible. Take a pen and write it down, or type it up on a computer or tablet. Having something that you can see and not just floating around your head makes all the difference. Doing so helps you condense, clarify and commit to a plan or framework that you can put into play.”

Whatever you decide to do next will have an impact on your partner as well as your immediate family so engage them in the process, they may have valuable insights and are sure to have opinions. Additionally, being one step removed from the issue your peers or loved ones can bring a degree of clarity, as O’Halloran explains:

“Remember you are never alone – call on family, friends, colleagues and people you know and trust professionally. Seek guidance, advice, thoughts and anything that might help you from your networks – both professional and personal. Sometimes people see opportunities or things in you that you might never consider or contemplate, and it can be truly enlightening and exciting.”

Whether 2020 is the year that you are due to leave the Forces or the time when you make a decision about your future, by acting now you can start next year with a plan of action in place. Fiona Jackson, a Career Consultant with the Officers’ Association, says many people find reasons for procrastination when it comes to taking stock of their career as it seems like too big a job:

“There can be fear of the unknown and a tendency to bury one’s head in the sand hoping it will all go away. I have heard plenty of excuses, some of which I have probably used myself! These include:

  • I have too many Christmas functions to attend and then it will be school holidays
  • My job is too busy – there is no one else to do it
  • I really don’t know where to start
  • I don’t know how to write a CV and set up a LinkedIn profile
  • I am always too tired in the evenings to think about it

“Take small steps and ‘chunk things down’. Think about where you are in terms of your career and salary aspirations, then consider where you want to be in the short, medium and long terms. After that, think about what you’ve already done and what you still need to do: have you prepared a CV that is ‘fit for purpose’ and tailored towards the sort of jobs you want to do? Is your LinkedIn profile up-to-date?”

As you work your way through Fiona Jackson’s list, don’t be afraid to seek advice – you don’t have to do this in isolation. Use your network, ask for input, gather intelligence about the sort of organisations you would like to work for and identify relevant opportunities within them. This is often referred to as the ‘hidden’ job market and is best accessed by networking – employers like recommendations as they reduce the risk of a ‘bad hire’ and the cost this represents.

Finally, when thinking about a new career, be sure to identify the ‘why’. A military background equips you with skills and attributes that employers consider desirable, but you may find the culture in certain civilian organisations very different to that which you are accustomed, so it’s vital that you find a good fit. This is where the ‘why’ comes in. What attracts you to a particular role or employer, what is your motivation? Do the company’s values reflect your own? Are your goals aligned? The last thing you want is to follow a stable career in uniform with an extended period of job-hopping. Sure, it may take a little time to find your feet in civvy street, but if you know what you want and why you want it, you’re off to a good start.

We end as we began, with a quote, this time from Dwight D. Eisenhower: “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” Be sure to go into the New Year with your career goals defined, your route map in place, and remember: change may be daunting but it can also be exciting.

Article courtesy of The Officer’s Association written exclusively for Pathfinder International magazine.