Matt’s Story | Career Change

Matt’s Story | A Career Change
By Matt French

So, the time has come to leave the life I have known for 12 years. Calling what we in the military do just a job or a career is a disservice, as it is all encompassing and touches every part of your life and that of your family.

I have never been much of a person to write about what I do on social media or other blogging platforms, but I have found reading other leavers’ posts and stories helpful on the tough days during transition, so I thought I would share a few bits about my experience so that they might be of help to others.

Let’s be honest from the start, leaving is tough, if not heart breaking at times.

It’s sometimes feels that by choosing the exit option, you’re letting those you served with down by moving on. The Armed Forces have been my life since the tender age of 21 – actually since 19 if you include the time applying and going through the selection process. It has had its ups and downs, the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows. But I have loved it. I have learned from the lows, and they have made me become more resilient. The highs have also taught me some valuable lessons about myself and made me realise what I’m most passionate about. It is good to reflect on your experiences and a healthy to do so.

I would like to take the opportunity to remind all those who are currently serving to make the most of your experience and to those thinking of joining, I would recommend it wholeheartedly but join the Armed Forces knowing:

  • It is hard work but worth it.
  • You will travel the world but as a result, you will miss home (even though you might think you won’t).
  • You need to help your family and friends understand why you do it and be comfortable with the fact they often won’t get it – and it will happen.
  • The people are amazing – they will drive you mad at times and make you laugh until you cry at others, but the people are what make the Armed Forces. They are your family when you are deployed or on operations and when you can’t be with your family at home.

The resettlement journey for me has been challenging and I would like to offer a few words of advice to pass on to anyone else about embarking on this next journey in their career:

  • Networks really do count – Realise the power of your network and 2nd stage contacts. Asking people for help makes a massive difference and its amazing how many people you know that can help. Your network will put you in touch with someone, recommend a course or be the person that is willing to hear your crazy new idea, but who can then help you make sense of it.
  • Know your limits and level of comfort – Life requires you to compromise at times. When I first thought about leaving, I was trying to find a job that offered me all of the good things I enjoyed with the Armed Forces and none of the bad. After a while, I did feel very defeated and as if I’d never find something. When I took a step back and reflected, I realised it was because I had unrealistic expectations. You need to take time to figure out what’s important to you and decide what and how far you are willing to compromise. This will be different for each and every person. Write your thoughts down and come back to your notes frequently. Don’t apply for a job that has too many compromises you’re not willing to make because you’re worried you won’t find anything else. Stay strong and focused – the right job is out there for you somewhere. Time can be your best friend and not your worst enemy.
  • Step back to step up – Be prepared and willing to take a step backwards in your journey. Sometimes we just don’t have the experience or all the skills the civilian world wants. What we do have is the drive and determination to get there. If you feel it is the right step, be prepared take the job that is one step down and set the goal that you will be there in 2 years time. It is a very personal choice and one to reflect on.
  • Translate what is transferable – The lessons you have learned in the military are completely transferable to the external world, but you need to be able to effectively translate that experience and show how it applies to the roles you apply for. We all know the phrase poor preparation leads to (*) poor performance, so let’s not forget it in this context. I thought military experience would get me the job I wanted with no additional preparation. Whilst it often opened the door for me in some organisations, some were just interested to hear about my military life rather than seeing the skills, knowledge and experience I had developed as the thing that set me apart from the rest of the candidates. Better preparation would have helped me better sell my experience and demonstrate what I could offer them. So, prepare like your life depends on it. Make lots of notes, research the company, research interview questions, practice in a mirror or do a run through of some practice questions with a friend or family member – it makes a big difference.
  • Military people are amazing – serving and veterans. One of my biggest fears leaving the Armed Forces was that I would lose the connection with the great people I have worked alongside once I had left. I have come to realise you never lose them. They stick with you forever and are probably the most loyal and reliable relationships you will share. They are and always will be part of your family. Cherish and appreciate that, as it will also help you be more confident in carving your career going forward.

I hope this article has given you some food for thought from someone who has actually been through this experience recently.

As I final point, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone that has supported me on my life journey so far. I look forward to the next chapter and experiencing it with all of you. And if anyone wants any help or advice, please just ask. I would love to chat because we are all part of the modern, extended Armed Forces family.