As it’s Armed Forces Day tomorrow (27th June), I thought it was a good opportunity to reflect on my personal experiences of the military and how they prepared me for my demanding, but rewarding role at Forfusion – a company in which two thirds of the directors are have been in the Armed Forces, and a third of its overall staff have military experience.
Realising that I was going nowhere fast in the retail industry, where I had been working since I left school, I decided to join the military in 1998.
I had friends who had recently joined and I knew they were loving it. So after a bit of soul searching, I decided the time was right to pay the military careers office in Newcastle a visit.
The only problem was deciding whether to join the Royal Navy, which was significant to me, as my Grandad had served in the Navy during the Second World War, or the Army, where most of my friends had already joined.
After a long chat with the Sergeant, I joined the Royal Signals as a Communications System Technician – a decision which would prove to be one of the best I had ever made, as IT grew in importance in not just the military, but day-to-day life in general, as the years progressed.
Most of my military life was spent in Germany, with the only exception being my last five years when I was offered a unique role within the Joint Services Signal Unit (JSSU) back in the UK.
I was placed into a civilian team as an embedded support engineer and shortly afterwards I began working directly for that team.
This concept was completely alien to me, as I had spent the previous 11 years in mainstream Regiments, working to strict routines. Although, as the weeks passed, I started to enjoy what I was doing more and more.
After deciding that I liked my new lifestyle, I submitted my notice to terminate and started to look towards the next step in my career.
I suppose many of us feel anxious upon the conclusion of their military careers, a fear of the unknown maybe. Personally, I was lucky to find myself in the enviable position of having 5 years of civilian “work experience” before my exit.
Nonetheless, there was always that thought of “what if it all goes wrong?” – a niggling feeling at night, having put my wife, kids and house at risk from the day I submitted my notice and I needed to ensure I gave myself the best chance I could.
During the final year prior to leaving, every service member is offered a 3 day workshop to give you an insight into what to expect when you do start looking for work. It covers CV writing, interview technique, placing you on the spot in front of your peers to see how you cope under scrutiny. One of the key objectives of this workshop is to identify transferable skills. It was at this point that I really realised how much a career in the forces had given me.
Traits such as management, leadership, teamwork, personal discipline, confidence – to name but a few – all come to the forefront when I started breaking down what I had accomplished during my time.
Add to this the sheer amount of experience and qualifications I had gathered over the years and I soon started to realise how desirable I had become.
All of the qualities that were nurtured in me during my military life are used on a daily basis: organisation, time management, the ability to adapt to ever changing workloads and requirements, negotiation and communication skills are all used daily and effectively. Even the ability to tolerate differing personalities so not to disrupt the working environment comes into play every now and again!
Thinking back to the time before the Army, I can honestly say I am a completely different person to who I was back then, and even though I was at a management level, I would have struggled with many of the situations I find myself in today.
I have now been out of the Army and have been working at Forfusion for almost nine months. This is a company which I have found to be very supportive of the Armed Forces and who actively recruit former members due to their backgrounds.
Forfusion has given me a chance to prove myself even though I had been out of its main line of work for a few years. A chance I was grateful for and I thoroughly enjoy the challenges it has presented to me.
Each day presents new challenges, and I feel we’re able to deal with them more effectively due to the skills and professionalism developed during our time spent in the forces.