With my military background in mind, I was under the impression that I would always be employable. However, approximately six months into my transition from soldier to civilian, I was faced with the harsh realities of finding a job in ‘civvy street’.
“Employers love people with a military background, if you were to join the army, you’ll never have a problem finding employment again“.
– This is what I was once told when I was contemplating joining the Armed Forces at the young and naive age of fifteen. Be that as it may, ten years later, I soon found that hard to believe. During my initial transition from soldier to civi, I was soon made redundant and forced to sign up for some government financial benefits, ‘The Dole’.
I couldn’t believe that it had come to this when only months ago I was fighting against the Taliban on the frontline of Afghanistan. Yet, here I was in ‘civvy street’ with no employment, no money and no hope. I couldn’t understand why I was so unemployable considering I was a section commander and leading attacks onto the enemy. Where did it all go so wrong and how did I screw this up?
Last week, I had the most pleasant conversation with a fellow veteran who also struggled with employment when transitioning from soldier to civi. Not only was she so kind to share her story with us but she also delivered some great advice for soldiers leaving the Armed Forces.
I would like to introduce you all to Lisa Brydon, a female veteran who served twelve years with the Adjutant General’s Corps. During that time, she was attached to many units such as 1RRF, MOD London, 2 Royal Welsh, 1 Yorks and the SAS in Hereford. To list just a few.
What was your role within the Adjutant General’s Corps?
“It was staff and personnel support, dealing with soldiers pay, next of kin details, making sure that the documents were all correct prior to deployments. It was day-to-day admin in the company office”.
Behind the scenes of the frontline fighting, there is obviously responsibilities for these soldiers to be paid and to have their personal welfare admin taken care of. A front line soldier does not need the stress of pay and admin issues when operating in a hostile environment. So to have soldiers like Lisa who took on these responsibilities was actually quite essential in order to support the effective fighting soldier.
“I have been out of the army for three years now and I found it extremely difficult when I was looking for work. I suppose that when I came out of the army, I was actually quite naive. When you are in the army, you are always informed that ‘civvy street’ will snap you up and anyone will employ you but this is the biggest lie that I have ever come across”.
“I really struggled with trying to get my CV into ‘civilian talk’ and I had to sit down and really work on it. I had the qualifications like CIPD in human resources, which was a course that I completed on my resettlement. However, nobody wanted to touch me because I had no civilian experience. I had twelve years experience in the army and even in combat war zones, nonetheless, they still didn’t want to touch me and that was really frustrating”.
“If I could put one thing out there, I would say don’t listen to what the army tells you. They may say you are employable, but you are not”.
“Although I had the qualifications, I had no experience in ‘civvy street’ and I wondered how was I ever going to get that. So in the end, I remember walking around Cardiff on a boiling hot day dressed in my smart clothing and handing out my CV to all the companies and recruiting agencies. One agency kept throwing me into all of these interviews and I attended every single one, even if it was for a job that I didn’t really want because I believed it would still be an experience”.
After nearly losing all hope, Lisa finally succeeded in getting a job as a teacher and I personally put that down to perseverance and persistence.
Lisa continued to give some valuable advice.
“Make sure your CV is spot on, know what you want to do and get yourself to a recruiting agency because they will get you a job quicker than you will be able to find yourself a job”.
When did you leave the army and what do you do now?
“I left the army in October 2013 and I am now a Human Resources Coordinator for Stannah. It’s a family run business but it is internationally massive. It’s not a bad job and it certainly pays the bills but it doesn’t float my boat and it’s not really what I want to do”.
Job satisfaction is something I believe veterans struggle to find and I’m talking from my own personal experience. I also have yet to find a job with that level of satisfaction and sense of achievement.
“I’ve not had that job satisfaction since leaving the army, though I actually lost the satisfaction roughly three years before leaving the army. I’ve not had it for a while and I’m still searching”.
Lisa also has a blog and of course being a blogger myself, I couldn’t help but be intrigued.
“I started writing my blog in January. I was searching on Google, ‘Ways to Make Money Online’ because I would like to be self-employed. Then something about blogging caught my attention and I lost all thought for money as I quite liked the idea”.
“Once I made a start with my blog, I published it on Facebook and I was so surprised with the level of kind feedback that I was receiving, I just didn’t expect it. I’m currently blogging about my past so people can get to know who it is that I am and who I have become. I actually really enjoy doing it, I get lost in the moment when I am blogging and I find it very therapeutic”.
“I have been in touch with someone of high calibre within the writing and blogging industry and they have informed me that my blog content has great potential for a book. So now, I am contemplating with the idea of writing a book. From a females point of view, being in the military and having served with one of the most elite regiments in the British Army, I’ve been to Iraq three times and I’ve also been to Afghanistan, I’ve got a lot to talk about”.
I only had a twenty-minute conversation with Lisa, but I can tell that her blog and book are going to be worth reading. I sense that she is a switched on character with so much sound advice to share. If you would like to have a read of Lisa’s blog, then please feel free to visit her website.
As a veteran who has experienced the transition from soldier to civilian at first hand, do you have any advice for other veterans who are also transitioning from soldier to civi?
“Make every use of your resettlement and attend the resettlement briefings even if you think that it will be of no interest to you. Don’t waste a single thing, don’t waste your money, Enhanced Learning Credits and be sure to use it all wisely. Being in the army does not make you employable” – Lisa Brydon
Ladies and gentlemen, both Lisa and I can not stress the importance of planning, preparation and research required prior to leaving the Armed Forces. Prior Planning and Preparation Prevents a Piss Poor Performance! Be sure to have a solid plan before walking out of them military gates for the final time, ‘civvy Street’ is a jungle but there are certain methods of survival.
Is your CV up to scratch and is it in a language and format that a civilian employer will understand?
As a veteran, you do have so much such skill and a great deal of experience, it’s just a case of putting it onto your CV in civilian terms.
Thank you for joining Lisa and I this week, I appreciate your taking the time to read this blog.
I hope you have found this blog helpful. Take care, be prepared and good luck!
Jamie and featured veteran, Lisa Brydon.