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November 18, 2020

My career post-military | Advice for thriving in a civilian job

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“Don’t underestimate how hard it will be to adjust back into a civilian lifestyle. But you managed to survive recruits, so you can survive this too.: 

Currently thriving in their post military careers, Carly Caseur and the other interviewees of this article know exactly what it takes to successfully transition into a civilian job.

Today, they share their first-hand experience so you can be prepared for your transition too. From the training and transitioning programs they wished they’d had to the ways their employers support post-military personnel in the workplace, their answers are valuable intel for those currently considering a civilian career.

What formal or informal post-military training or transitioning program helped you find and adjust to a civilian job?

Carly Caseur | HR Coordinator, Rheinmetall Defence Australia: I participated in the Defence provided transition seminars and part of this involved the opportunity to complete TAFE training in Business Administration and Frontline Management. I completed both of these certificates and, from this, received coaching from a placement agency on resume writing and preparations for interview. This made me feel more confident in searching for new career opportunities in the civilian world after eight years of military service.

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Eric Atkinson | Station Officer, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services: I didn’t have any transitioning programs, but going from an ASLAV Crew commander to a firefighter there were a lot of similarities in how both careers intertwined. For example, the day to day routine of checking the vehicle and equipment on the Fire Station was similar, and also the emphasis of operating in small teams with different roles to achieve the same outcome was very similar.

Jodi Philips | Program Manager Educate, Amazon Web Services: I didn’t do any formal transition training, as I was moving overseas and did not intend working for a while. My first year of working back in Australia was in a large organisation with a strong and industry unique culture and I found the first few months were difficult as I didn’t understand the culture or acronyms etc. The things that helped me to get on and succeed were actually the skills that are pretty much embedded into you from military training – take responsibility, be accountable, do everything you can to the highest possible standard and if you don’t know, ASK – no one expects you to know everything.

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Paula Bowen | Logistics Coordinator, Naval Ship Management: Upon discharge from the Royal Australian Navy, I found that I had no formal training recognized within the nationally recognized framework for logistics management and leadership proficiencies I had attained. This limited my ability to be competitive within the logistics profession/market.

“Securing a logistics position as a storeman and shortly considered for internal progression within the business, I needed formal certification to support my role.”

Applying through the company’s Learning and development team, I enrolled and completed a Certificate IV in Logistics and a Diploma of Management. Further progression within my field saw me gain proficiencies in Certificate IV Training & Assessment and a Bachelor of Applied Management.

This learning investment by the company enabled me to adjust, understand and contribute more effectively within my role, the business and as a member of the leadership team.

Michael Tan | Business Development Manager, Programmed: I separated out of the military in 2013/2014 and at this time part of the ADF transition process was to participate in a discharge seminar. The seminar went for about six hours and was predominantly focused on the soft skills required to transition back into the civilian workforce, such as composing an effective resume, interview techniques and providing details of counselling that was available to you upon separation.

In my experience the seminar was ‘one size fits all’ and did not necessarily take into account individual needs or experiences. I still felt like a lot was left to the individuals to seek out assistance, courses or programs that would best develop those broader skills ready for future employment.

How do some of the core values of military personnel, such as integrity, courage, determination, and excellence, help you in your civilian job?

Mark Gainsford | Service Delivery Executive, Cisco Systems: All of the values that are ingrained into your core character courtesy of military service have provided me with the foundations and confidence to succeed in the private sector. They are often hard to put a value on, but to my mind they are essential in any career that you take on.

Wayne Vickers | Partner – Technology Consulting, EY: These core values are instilled in members of the military where all are dedicated to the success of the mission, from planning, stakeholder engagement, orders delivery and execution. This aligns closely to the way consultants approach services provided to client organizations.

Members of the military transitioning to consulting or service delivery bring with them a high degree of technical capability, leadership and strategic planning capabilities that allow for an easier transition to other career paths. These values have enabled me to obtain the trust and respect of my newfound work colleagues and clients.

Carly Caseur | HR Coordinator, Rheinmetall Defence Australia: These values never leave you and it makes you a more ethically sound and emotionally intelligent employee. The resilience, teamwork, and self dependence taught in the military allows you to effectively integrate into established teams and drives the continued focus and adaptability shown by ex-defence employees who have transitioned into a new career.

Jodi Philips | Program Manager Educate, Amazon Web Services: When I looked at the Amazon Leaderships Principles I was immediately struck with how similar they were to the military. Ownership, Invent and Simplify, Bias for Action, Insist on the Highest Standards, Earn Trust and Customer Obsession are just another way of saying be accountable, have high personal and professional standards, drive, initiative and integrity – all the things that are core to being an officer of soldier in the military. It’s the same ideals, just different languages.

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Geneen Lord | Locomotive Driver, Aurizon:
These core values have been instilled in me for life and are utilized on a daily basis within my current role as a driver. These values will follow me and be used in any future position within the organization.

Eric Atkinson | Station Officer, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services: As a Station Officer with Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, the core values of transitioning from the military to become a professional firefighter are identical. I felt it has helped me throughout my professional development from starting as a recruit firefighter to a Station Officer.

QFES expects a level of discipline and courage not just on the fireground but also at the fire station, ranging from having the courage to speak up when things are out of alignment with our core values to showing courage in emergency situations to help the community.

Michael Tan | Business Development Manager, Programmed:
The values that I developed in the military have helped me to stay grounded and ensured that I had the persistence and dedication required to pursue and secure a career after my departure.

My integrity and loyalty were beneficial in a new work environment as it helped me to form friendships and positive working relationships with colleagues and clients. There is always an adjustment period when starting a new chapter in your life. Having the core values and strengths that were embedded within me from the military made it easier for me to find my way and align myself to the workplace values of my employer, Programmed.

Determination and dedication have been invaluable too; I have easily applied them at work, and as a business development manager, it has helped me to focus and build strong, trusting business relationships.

How does your post-military workplace support you in bringing your whole self to work?

Wayne Vickers | Partner – Technology Consulting, EY: EY understands the diverse skill sets and experience that those with military backgrounds bring, and looks to distil these learnings across the consulting services. EY has a continual learning culture which supports members both to strengthen their core consultancy skills through in-locality and online training, along with nationally sponsored rank specific training. This is in addition to our technology/business training provided via or industry recognized training platforms or external learning & development providers. The ability to obtain certifications/qualifications through the workplace demonstrates the investment to the individual and allows for greater impact to the client.

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Zoua Davis | Principal Planning & Scheduling, BHP: The thing I love about BHP above all other companies I’ve ever worked for is our culture. BHP promotes and practices inclusion and diversity in not just gender and race but all areas including: respectful behavior, flexible work, the LGBT+, etc.

I know that I can talk to my two or even three up without feeling I would be condemned and turned away. If a personal issue arises, I know my manager will work with me to find the right outcome for me and the team – whether leaving work early or working from home. I love that there is respect, events and support for every group of people.

Carly Caseur | HR Coordinator, Rheinmetall Defence Australia: Flexibility in working hours to accommodate medical appointments or other support needs and understanding my physical limitations without question, judgement or prejudice.

Jodi Philips | Program Manager Educate, Amazon Web Services: When I first started working at Amazon Web Services, I was struck by how friendly and supportive everyone is. People here are so motivated and helpful and that simply makes coming to work enjoyable…that, and this company has really awesome tech and it is never a dull place to work.

Michael Tan | Business Development Manager, Programmed: My first role after departing the military was with Programmed, during my time here I have had the opportunity to move into a different role and build a career in a team that had been very supportive of me.

Programmed as a business has been really supportive and their core values of diversity and inclusion, and care and empathy, have been evident to me in my day to day interactions and especially more so during COVID-19. Engaging people with diverse backgrounds allows us to draw on their various experiences and perspectives, building a strong workplace culture and better teams.

Mark Gainsford | Service Delivery Executive, Cisco Systems: A culture of inclusiveness and focus on your total wellbeing. Also having a flexible workplace helps to navigate different work requirements.

Five top tips and career advice for finding and thriving in your civilian job

1. Find your new tribe and keep moving forward

“I thought that I had a smooth transition but looking back at it I felt a lot of guilt leaving my team and mates in the Army, especially when they redeployed overseas. So it doesn’t matter how good the new job is, you will miss a part of the military and that is normal. Unfortunately, I have seen Veterans that are unable to move forward with their lives and struggle with a new identity. I think it is very important as a Veteran to find your new tribe and keep on moving forward.” Eric Atkinson, Station Officer, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services

2. Don’t be afraid to sell yourself

“Don’t be afraid to sell yourself and all things you have achieved. You don’t realise how much experience in management, leadership, training and risk mitigation etc you have received during your service in comparison to others your age. It may seem foreign, but you have to be able to talk to why hiring you over others is a good value proposition.” Jodi Philips, Program Manager Educate, Amazon Web Services

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3. The right role is out there (it just may take time to find)

“Don’t stress if the first job you take is not the right one — there is plenty of opportunity out there.” Mark Gainsford, Service Delivery Executive, Cisco Systems

4. You can do it

“Don’t underestimate how hard it will be to adjust back into a civilian lifestyle. But you managed to survive recruits so you can survive this too.” Carly Caseur, HR Coordinator, Rheinmetall Defence Australia

5. Everything will fall into place

“Stay focused, resilient and prepared, and everything else will fall into place.” Michael Tan, Business Development Manager, Programmed

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Ready to kick-start your new career and find a civilian job?

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Looking for a new opportunity?

Our transparent job board only has vacancies from employers we endorse and lets you see what benefits, policies and perks come with the job.