Founder of Gen-Kit Exchange and current serving soldier Alex Miller asked me a series of questions last week about the transition from Soldier to Civilian.
Using my own personal experience of the transition from Soldier to Civilian, I aim to answer these questions in order to provide helpful advice for those who are planning to leave the Armed Forces.
1. What is the difference between a standard military routine and a generic civilian routine?
It is more beneficial and productive to have a routine, even if you are unemployed, try to have a routine. I still wake up at half past five every morning, even on a Saturday. Everyone else around me is still asleep at this time but this allows me to be productive.
I guess the differences between a military routine and a civilian routine is having the purpose and reason to get up and go in the morning. It also depends on what you want from ‘Civvy Street’. If you want that Monday to Friday, nine to five routine where you can roll out of bed at eight and stroll into work at nine, then so be it.
Personally, I like to get up at half past five and be productive till eight because five till eight is my time and eight till four is working time. I then return home from work at four which is my time to be productive again.
In the Armed Forces, there is the common phrase ‘You’re in your own time now’ and it’s exactly that in ‘Civvy Street’. You have to work in order to keep money coming in but outside of working hours, you’re very much in your time. So for me, I like to be productive in my own time working on other projects such as Soldier to Civi’.
2. How does the civilian work environment differ to the Armed Forces social environment?
When you leave the Armed Forces, it won’t take you long to realise that you need to adapt the way you conduct yourself and change certain traits which may have developed during your time-serving.
We are forever mocking each other in the military and we tend to swear a lot because it is second nature to us.
In my current role of employment, I work closely with clientele and the use of inappropriate language could jeopardise the business. Your choice of vocabulary also has potential to offend civilian colleagues. They may appear as snowflakes to us but they are just slightly more sensitive because they are not familiar with that harsh, in your face military manner.
So there are huge social differences between the military world and the civilian world and you have to learn that yourself. My advice would be to play the grey man initially, reset the frequency, so to speak and tune into your new environment.
As a Section Commander in the Infantry, we tend to lower the tone of our voice and we come across a little more aggressive because we mean business and we have a persona of ‘we intend to get the job done’. In ‘Civvy Street’, this actually has the potential to intimidate people and it may rub people up the wrong way.
3. How easy was it to get a job and would you do anything differently?
I was quite fortunate when I left the Army because my Dad was working for a Civil Engineering company at the time and I happened to obtain my HGV driving license, so this was a direct link into employment. However, this doesn’t mean I enjoyed driving lorries, in fact, it wasn’t long before I was ready to move on to adventure other avenues of employment.
At one stage of my transition, I found myself to be unemployed and I discovered that being in the Armed Forces does not credit you for getting a job in ‘Civvy Street’. It took me a while to grasp this concept and to be honest, I had a chip on my shoulder. I’ve served on the frontlines of Iraq and Afghanistan and yet no one in the civilian world would employ me. I couldn’t wrap my head around it.
It was frustrating to know that I was capable of fulfilling these jobs but no one would employ me.
Service leavers need to understand that serving in the Armed Forces does not make you employable in ‘Civvy Street’.
I was writing on my CV that I had operated in hostile environments and that’s great but it means nothing to a civilian employer. Although you may have carried out incredible roles and tasks on operations while serving, you still need to make yourself employable to the civilian world and tailor your CV to the job you are applying for.
Networking is also a crucial element to finding work in ‘Civvy Street’, it’s not always what you know but sometimes who you know. Most of the jobs I have had and even the new job I am about to start, I have only been able to get these jobs due to networking through the people I know and the people they know.
4. How were your friendships with fellow veterans affected when you left the Armed Forces?
When I initially left the Army, I cut all ties with colleagues from my former regiment. I left it two years before seeing anyone from my old multiple (team) who I operated with in Afghanistan, it was a bit bizarre.
Over time I have learned that when you meet veterans in ‘Civvy Street’, there is always a familiar connection and there always seems to be common ground with other veterans.
It doesn’t matter what units you served with, what operational tours you deployed on or what generation you are from, there is always a veteran bond.
Nonetheless, it’s easier to stay connected these days more so than fifteen to twenty years ago thanks to technology and social media. There tend to be individual regimental groups on Facebook which are essentially communities consisting of former soldiers.
There have been times when I have been in need of support from former brothers in arms and I made the call to a loyal friend who was willing to help. There will always be an old friend from your previous unit who will be there in support when you need it most.
Remember, you’re never alone.
5. What are your thoughts on joining a reserves unit after leaving the regular Armed Forces?
I’ve personally never joined the Reserves although I have considered it at times. I have many friends who are currently serving in the reserves and they have all reported it to be gleaming. They say it is a completely different world to the Regular Forces.
When you are in the regular Armed Forces, you tend to be channelled towards courses that will be of benefit to the unit rather than you as an individual. Whereas the feedback I am receiving from those who are in the Reserves seems to reveal that the courses that you are sent on are in your interest more so than the units.
Even though I have not served in the Reserves, I would recommend it to people leaving the Regular Armed Forces.
I’m not sure if it is still the case, but I was last aware that if you join the Reserves within five years of leaving the Regulars you are entitled to some sort of incentive bonus pay of up to ten thousand pounds over a period of time.
You may also find that when you leave the Armed Forces, you might miss elements of the life style. So joining the reserves for a minimum of thirty days a year for some extra cash and a war fix, so to speak, doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.
6. How would you spend your last year of resettlement if you had to go through it all again?
Firstly, I would do my research.
What I find with most veterans is when they first make that decision to leave the Armed Forces, including myself, we tend to do it all back to front and upside down.
First, we invest our money and Enhanced Learning Credits into a course, usually, an ‘ally’ Close Protection Course. On completion of the course, we then begin to network with people within that particular industry in the hope to find employment. After investing our time and money into certain courses and following our attempts to network with individuals in order to find employment, we soon discover that we have little chance of actually finding work related to that course. Then we research the industry to investigate why we are struggling for employment in that particular line of work.
Therefore, if I was to have an opportunity to go through my first year of resettlement again, I would turn that process around.
So instead of investing in a course, then networking to find work and finally researching why I can’t get work, I would do this in the opposite order.
Research, Network and Invest.
Research all possible avenues of employment suited to the industry that you are most interested in and make sure you research that industry thoroughly.
This research will hopefully confirm whether or not you should continue down this path.
To support this research, start networking with personnel who are currently working within that industry.
Find people who will give you genuine information about the line work based on their personal experience.
You never know, that person may even be your ‘in‘ to that line of work.
This may also be the turning point where you reconsider your options. At this stage, you can return to the researching phase without having lost any further time or waste of Enhanced Learning Credits.
Once you have conducted your research on your chosen line of work and networked with personnel who are currently working in that line of work, then it would be a safer bet to invest your time and money into relevant courses thus improving your chances of a successful transition from soldier to civilian.
We would like to thank Alex Miller from Gen-Kit Exchange for giving us an opportunity to share this advice. Please feel free to add to our advice in the comments below or on our social media platforms.
Thank you for taking the time to read this week’s blog, I hope you have found the read helpful in one way or another.
Jamie and special guest Alex Miller
Soldier to Civi – Promotions