When I personally left the Army in 2012, I felt like I had the right skill set and a sufficient set of qualifications to head in the right direction when entering the civilian world. I was under the illusion that civilian employers would recognise and credit the fact that I was once a section commander who had led men into battle on operations in hostile environments overseas.
The truth is, although we all believe that we are more employable based on our military skills and experiences, in actual fact, this is not always the case. As we have discussed in previous blogs before, just because we were soldiers does not mean we are more employable.
Last week, I was joined in conversation with a loyal fellow veteran who I once served alongside in The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment.
I would now like to introduce you to the head of
‘Soldier to Civi – The Veteran’s Network‘.
When did you leave the Army?
“I left in 2011, just before my battalion deployed on ‘Op Herrick 15’ and
I regretted my decision instantly, so I decided to join the reserves. I was still up to date with everything and the reserves knew that I was keen to deploy, so they said that I could deploy on ‘Op Herrick 17’. Within two months of leaving the Army, I was off again. I attended three drill nights with the reserves and then I was mobilised with the guys who were on pre-deployment training”.
Why did you decide to leave the regular Army?
“It was a number of things really. My soon to be wife at the time was becoming less tolerant of me being away in Germany and during that time there were also a number of incidents which occurred”.
“I had been away on exercise for a number of weeks and on return to camp, my Sergeant Major invited me into the office for a chat. I was originally scheduled to be going on Adventure Training to wind down but then the Sergeant Major wanted to speak to me about going on a driving instructors course instead. He said that I was the only person within the regiment that suited this course due to the qualifications and rank that I already had”.
“So I asked the Sergeant Major when would he intend for me to go on this course and he replied with ‘tomorrow morning‘. Because I had been away on exercise for many weeks, my wife at the time had only just paid five hundred pounds to fly out to Germany to see me. My wife and I had plans with our friends for that following week but the Sergeant Major told me that if I failed to attend the course, I would be charged”.
Although Steve passionately loved the Army, there were many inconsiderate decisions like this that continued to push Steve further and further away from the military and unfortunately, after being messed around on a number of occasions, Steve decided that it was time to sign off and leave.
“There were a number of matters that pushed me over the edge, however, I attended the course and passed it anyway. On return to my battalion, I decided to sign off”.
“Although It was an instant regret, I had a solid plan and a job lined up within a few weeks. A colleague brought the Military Preparation College to my attention. The Military Preparation College liked the look of my CV and invited me to Wales for an interview. They instantly offered me a job but I still had time to serve and I didn’t want to leave the army earlier than my scheduled leaving date. I felt that it was quite important to soldier on and see my army career to the end”.
You obviously prepared well for your transition to the civilian world as you secured a job with the Military Preparation College.
” I knew it was going to be tough, I was under no illusion. I probably received the same advice from the army as most veterans did during that time when the army would attempt to convince me that leaving was the wrong decision. The RCMO (Regimental Careers Management Officer) tried to convince me to stay but I always knew that I wouldn’t be a full twenty-two-year soldier, I was always using the army as a stepping stone”.
“It wasn’t until I left the army that I realised how much of an influence the army had on me and what impact it had on me as a person. I joined at the age of nineteen and I previously had a couple of other jobs but nothing major. I was naive and I didn’t really know what I was joining”.
How was your transition from soldier to civilian?
“It was exciting at first but when the novelty wore off, I discovered that ‘civvy street’ was an unforgiving world. My first job actually felt like a posting, I was working with kids as a PTI (Physical Training Instructor) and it was required of me to carry out other areas of teaching in the classroom, which I hadn’t really anticipated at this point. I didn’t leave the army to become a teacher, I was actually intending to leave the army from a PTI’s point of view because that’s all I knew, I felt that I could develop something from my PTI experience but then I discovered the desire to work with the youth”.
“A few of my students from the Military Preparation College actually went on to serve with my old mates in my old regiment which I found quite strange. I felt like I was posted to a military basic training school because my students would parade in the mornings and then I would take them for PT (Physical Training) and Drill. The students would get inspected and we would go away to where the students would train directly with the Army. So it felt like I was still wearing the uniform and it didn’t actually feel like I left the Army at this point”.
“It was six months later when I left the Military Preparation College that I found myself having a reality check. I was involved in a drunken brawl which led to me losing my job at the Preparation College. Something that you would consider in the Corporal’s mess to be dealt with behind closed doors, I actually found myself standing in front of the manager to initially be suspended and then later sacked for gross misconduct. ‘Civvy Street’ is unforgiving, unlike the military where we would potentially be protected to some extent. We would probably be marched to the Sergeant Major’s office for extra duties and disciplinary action based on the severity of the incident, but it would be unlikely that you would lose your job”.
“I was stuck in a contract for two months and it was quite an expensive rent for where I was living and at this stage, I didn’t have many savings. So on the same day as losing this job with the Military Preparation College, I went to an agency and found work within the care work industry. I was then working with adults with disabilities, making them dinner and washing them in the bath, it was a completely different line of work. I was devastated because I knew that was an opportunity that I had blown and now I was in survival mode”.
“I knew by then that I wanted to get into teaching but I didn’t have any credentials”.
I hope this is an eye-opener for most veterans and I hope that we can all learn from Steve’s mistakes. There may be a certain way that we deal with things in the military, however, those particular ‘soldier ways’ are not always acceptable in ‘civvy street’.
“I then decided to deploy on ‘Op Herrick 17’. I joined the Reserves and I told them that I needed to get away. I spoke to my partner at that time and I told her that I felt like I needed to get away and I felt like I needed to do this tour because there was an element of guilt. I let people down because I didn’t deploy on the last tour with my previous regiment and I felt like I had let myself down. Secondly, I knew this would be a great opportunity to save money for a second chance. I knew that I would return from that tour with a sufficient amount of money to invest in myself”.
“When I returned home from this tour, it didn’t really feel like I had to go through the transition to ‘civvy street’ again, it just felt like I was coming home. Once I had enjoyed all the welcome home drinks it then felt like ‘s**t, here we go again‘. The priority then changed and that was when I looked into my Enhanced Learning Credits”.
“I used my resettlement and booked myself onto a course which was a package deal with HZL Specialist Solutions. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do but I completed my PTLLS as well as an Assessor course. I also completed a conflict management instructors course and a Physical intervention instructors course”.
“This changed everything. I had my CV online which led to me receiving a flood of calls because I went from having no teaching qualifications to having five or six teaching qualifications in such a short space of time. I had no teaching experience but because I had the military experience now in hand with these credentials, it sparked an interest with employers. The course made me look more experienced than I actually was. I was a conflict management instructor, Physical Intervention Instructor, I was a Physical Training Instructor, I had a teaching qualification and an assessor qualification, and this was all from a two-week course”.
“It was then that I applied for a job with a company called Catch Twenty-Two where you work with young people in the area and I got the job”.
“My original CV was focused on being a PTI and a military driving instructor but that was irrelevant, so I turned my CV into something that was more focused towards a career that I was aiming for. My brother gave me some good advice about my CV and he said ‘this is all good stuff talking about being a 2ic (Second in Command), you can say that you were a supervisor, however, you’re not aiming for a supervisor job. Take what you did in the military and convert it so that it is relevant to the job that you are applying for and focus on that‘, so I did”.
Would you recommend a career in teaching to veterans?
“Absolutely, man management and instructing is something that we as soldiers are extremely strong in. We have a reputation for being some of the best instructors in the world. I would recommend not only teaching but to also work with the youth. As a veteran, you are already considered to be a role model and are most likely to have common ground with the kids that you work with due to the fact that we as soldiers come from a variety of disadvantaged backgrounds. The youth really listen to someone of a soldier’s status and that really gives you an opportunity to have a positive influence on someone”.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone leaving the armed forces, what would you say?
“Be patient, a plan never survives contact. It doesn’t matter how prepared you are, stand by for an emotional and physical roller-coaster. However, stick with it and remember what it is that you want to achieve in the long-term and invest in yourself”. – Steve Jackson
Steve has certainly experienced a twisting roller-coaster ride when he transitioned from soldier to civilian, however, due to his determination and having a focused aim to achieve, he finally found his feet in ‘civvy street’.
He now has a level five diploma in teaching and is teaching criminology to young students in college. I believe that it is safe to say that this was a successful transition from soldier to civilian.
Thank you for taking the time to read this week’s blog, I hope that you was able to take something away from the read.
If you would like to find out more about leaving the armed forces to become a teacher, please feel free to join ‘Soldier to Civi – The Veteran’s Network‘ and ask Steve directly for more information.
Take care and don’t lose your determination.
– Jamie and featured veteran Steve Jackson
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