Whether leaving the military or simply changing career as a veteran, the process is complex and often overwhelming leaving us unsure about making the move in the first place. I have chosen Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to provide a guide to a successful career transition as the model, based on that created by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 academic paper, “A Theory of Motivation”. Whilst the work parallelled many other theories of developmental psychology, including human curiosity - it also focuses on human growth.
I have chosen this model because the journey into a new career is certainly one of growth but also has to begin with the baseline needs of the individual. Moreover, the Hierarchy of Needs comprises multiple tiers in which the lowest must be satisfied before progression to the next.
I will cover this in a series of blogs, called 'Maslowe & Me: How to Triangulate Your Resettlement Journey'. We'll begin with the PLANNING phase, which is all about conducting your initial personal needs analysis.
Do I need a Career Change?
It is very important to make sure that you actually want a career change. My recommendation for those serving is to put extra consideration into this as I have known many who have handed in their notice as a result of an emotional reaction to an unfavourable decision against them. Perhaps a posting you don’t want, an exercise coming up you have been sent on needlessly, a duty over the weekend that prevents you from attending a family event - these alone should not be reasons to change career. However, if this type of incident is the straw to break the camel's back, then it is critical that you do not act too hastily!
For some assistance in being objective when overwhelmed with emotion, read 'How to be objective when emotionally invested'.
This first tier in TechVets' Hierarchy of Needs version is the DECISION Phase and is all about your basic needs and whilst I don’t wish to include a rundown of having access to food, water and shelter - these are certainly things to keep in your mind when considering a hasty decision to hand in your notice. You do not want to be in a position where you are unable to have the standard of living afforded to you in your current employment.
What I do wish to discuss with you is your individual needs regarding your career. Given that the average UK citizen will work an estimated 84,000 hours in their lifetime and that the life expectancy in the UK is 80 years old - we spend 64% of our lives working. Therefore, it is vitally important for your mental well being and what you get out of life, to ensure that your career works for you.
This first stage within my guide is all about making that decision. When I left the military it was because injury resulted in me having reached my ceiling - I could not promote and was unable to for the latter half of my service, and this had a direct impact on my basic needs. My salary was not improving in the way that it should and as with most families - our family was growing but so too was inflation and the cost of living.
To make this decision easier for me, the job had become suffocating and I was unable to get the satisfaction out of military service that I once did. For many, the restrictive lifestyle and lack of choice over where you go and what you do, can be a primary factor for this decision…and a very realistic one.
An important part of this decision if you are still serving, is to deeply consider your future in the military in an objective way. If you are at all interested in technology or cyber security, consider the growth and changes within Defence where increasing capabilities are being introduced, the force is shifting to a more modernised structure and with a far greater resource allocation to these fields.
Is there an opportunity for you to switch roles, train into these units or positions or even transfer services or corps to satisfy your needs? What is important to you specifically - is it promotion and responsibility? How does that career path look now and how positive could it be in the future? Do you even need a career change immediately or can you steadily boost your future opportunities for when you do leave by staying put but conducting your own personal development in preparation for a move into technology or cyber security?
With the volume of fantastic free open source material in concert with the support and offering you can access through TechVets, there may be no need for you to move career and if still serving - there may be strength in holding off for the full pension. However, if the time is right for you, then the next steps will be critical to ensuring that you make the change successfully.
To wrap up this first phase, it is worth noting that at this time there should be no final actions being made, no grand gesture that you are throwing the towel in, and certainly not handing in of your notice - once you do that, your time is very limited and you are setting yourself up for failure and unnecessarily so.
About the Author
James served for 19 years with the British Military, deploying to Northern Ireland, East Africa and Afghanistan with the Infantry, receiving lifelong injuries as a result of enemy action. James served the remainder of his service in intelligence developing the Army’s exploitation capability, providing support to UK Defence Engagement in East Asia, before delivering integral support to global Joint Military operations.
Upon leaving the Military, James was responsible for the management of Cyber Threat Intelligence at Government Digital Service, volunteering his spare time with TechVets.
James joined TechVets in January 2020 as CEO