What's your problem?

Q: I've spent most of my twenties in the army, working my way up to NCO.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Now I've decided to leave. But I'm daunted about re-entering civvy life, not least because I'm worried about the type of work that's open to me. I'm not interested in going into security, and would prefer to do something with my brain. Being 30, I feel as though my options are now restricted unless I go to university, which I don't really think is for me. Do you have any advice?

A: The first piece of advice is obvious: set aside great chunks of time to scour the internet. (If you're not already computer-comfortable, start putting that right immediately: there aren't many brain-engaging jobs these days that don't demand computer skills.)

Go to a search engine, type in 'job opportunities for ex-servicemen' and take it from there. You'll find a bewildering array of organisations offering to help, from both the private and public sectors. I've no direct experience of any of them so I won't name any: but if you persevere and follow up leads and dig a bit deeper you'll soon begin to get a feel for the market. And that in turn, I believe, will start to make you feel a little less daunted.

Next: I can understand why you don't fancy security, but there's a lesson there. Security companies know that people who've been in the forces are more likely to have the qualities they're looking for than a bunch of pampered civilians. So start listing other sectors for whom that might also be true. Transport seems a likely avenue, and perhaps logistics. In other words, look at yourself through the eyes of potential employers: what is there about you and your experience that might make you rather more interesting than a great many other applicants?

I suspect you've let yourself become over-apprehensive, believing that all your years in the army have enabled your civilian contemporaries to streak ahead in the career stakes. Well, that may be true for many jobs, but it won't be true for all jobs. And it's not all jobs you want - just one. Somewhere out there will be a job for which you're ideally qualified; so start right away on the exhausting process of finding it. That brain of yours will help.

And remember, it doesn't need to be a job for ever: just one that forms a rewarding bridge between your life in the army and the rest of your life still to come.

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