Sean Jones MC spent over 15 years serving with the British Army. As a Corporal in the 1st Battalion The Princess of Wales's Regiment, he led a bayonet charge through Taliban gunfire in Afganistan, earning him a Military Cross for outstanding gallantry in face of the enemy. He also received the Most Outstanding Soldier of The Year Award 2012, presented by HRH Prince Charles and The Duchess of Cornwall. Sean takes us through the final challenge he faced from his military service: transitioning back to civilian employment with practical advice every service leaver needs to know.
Take it from me: the transition from military to civilian life can be difficult. It can be lonely and full of unknowns, especially after a long career. So how can you arm yourself with the skills you need for the road ahead?
For me, the transition was slightly different. I was medically discharged (which I was not expecting). But the good thing was, I had plenty of time to transition effectively and there was loads of help to assure me that everything would be ok.
So where did I start? Straight off, I was only concerned with wages. I was hell-bent on not accepting anything less than what I was currently on in the army. I went to the career transition meeting early on where they helped me to construct a basic CV and made me aware of the various job search engines.
But what role could I transition to? My idea was to play to my strengths with planning, projects and facilities management as it was all relatable work I had done within the military.
Your CV is so important. Getting on with it as early as possible is a must. One of the things I realised quickly was that your CV creates a vital first impression. And it takes time to get it right.
I would create my CV and email it to someone I knew or had met over the years (whether that be officers or friends that had moved on) to ask them for feedback. I would then repeat the process again and again. Eventually, I got to a point where I sent my working CV off to a professional CV writer to change what I finally had and put it into a better layout and language.
Next, I attended a Jobs Fair. The opportunities were limited due to my qualifications, but I was liked on paper and in person. I had planned to gain qualifications within the project management world, which again I had spoken to various ex-colleagues about and they advised me on the ones to go for.
Aside from my CV, there were 3 skills that were vital to my transition. These helped me to get to where I am today:
I would say around 75% of my interview process would have been conducted without me knowing it through the three points above.
The perfect plan to transition from the military didn’t work for me. The ideal world of look at a few courses, complete them and then apply for a job really was harder than I could have imagined. The truth is that whilst so many businesses out there value your time served in the military, it doesn’t guarantee you a job. You have to work hard and keep applying for positions.
In my transition time, I applied for many jobs and had one interview for a wealth management company. The reason I got to the interview stage was because of my CV, but I never got the job. The interview experience was great, though.
The current job I hold as the Operations Manager at Combat Pest Control came through building a network, developing myself and being given an opportunity because of who I was as a person. Yes, the team had to have a serious chat about me and see my CV, but that was through me asking them to review it for me. They saw my growth as a person over 9 months and offered me a position because of what they saw of me as a person.
I’m not telling you to not apply for jobs. But I am telling you is – more often than not – the three things that will determine your success when you transition from military to civilian life are: building your network, driving your development and being ready for whatever opportunity comes your way.
Sean Jones MC is part of the team at Combat Pest Control, a veteran-owned business focused on military employment. Hear more from him on the Declassified Podcast, or follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.