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, initially proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 academic paper, “A Theory of Motivation”. Whilst the work parallelled many other theories of developmental psychology, and includes human curiosity - it also had a focus 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 with this one being the ENGAGE phase, which is all about conducting your initial personal needs analysis.
Boosting your career change through community & networking
Now you have conducted your Personal Needs Analysis you should be in a more confident position having started to shape your future. From schools to housing, financial planning to researching your next career…you may even feel confident enough to hand your notice in at this stage. However, we are not yet in the optimum position to set ourselves up for success.
This next stage is all about testing the preconceptions we made during the DISCOVERY phase - whether disproving our initial thoughts or solidifying our plans, and doing so by building your own community network to ensure that you have the support you need through this often worrying period and that you can expand your knowledge of the pathway ahead of you.
A career change is challenging enough, however, a career in the military can exacerbate this due to the lack of exposure a serving person has to any career outside of Defence. This is not true for all military careers and there are an increasing number of opportunities to gain this exposure as Defence forges a new path towards greater innovation and collaboration with the private sector and academia. But for the most part, this is not the case and if you were like me - even when exposed to non-military careers, it still was not enough to provide me the knowledge I needed to effectively navigate my career change. This is where the power of networking really comes to the fore.
Networking, if conducted properly, is an incredibly powerful weapon that can supercharge a career change. The trick to networking is to treat it like a second job - it needs planning, focus, dedication, and hard work!
"Networking is the exchange of information and ideas among people with a common profession or special interest, usually in an informal social setting. Networking often begins with a single point of common ground."
For those seeking a career in IT then TechVets has you covered, not just at the start of your networking but as a full support network behind you at every step. Due the learned experiences of those involved in TechVets, we built our community to provide the best community support mechanism for those seeking a career change into tech careers. It is hosted in a Discord server and provides a ready made network for you to engage with instantly through text and voice capabilities. We realised that there are too many IT careers to simply pick one so we have brought hundreds of veterans in all manner of tech careers into our community to provide our members the advice and guidance they need to make more informed decisions.
This should be the start of your networking as it provides a safe environment with people who understand the challenges you are going through in your career change. You can leverage the TechVets community to ask questions about their experiences leaving the military to learn from their experience, but also seek out knowledge about the career path ahead of you. Particular important topics to consider may include…
> What is the day-to-day role like as a [insert role]?
> What skills do you need to perform that role?
> What skills and experience helped you land the role?
> How did you articulate those skills on your CV?
> How can I learn these skills - what is the most suitable training and how much should I pay for it?
Once you are more confident with who you are as a brand, what you want in your next career, and broadly how to get it - next stop is Linkedin. If you are more of an introvert and are not comfortable networking, here is a great TedX talk to get you fired up!
Linkedin is an incredible tool to have at your side but there are some top tips that need to be considered before just leaping in. Once you post online, there is no hiding it from the world…it is out there.
TechVets have put together this very comprehensive guide to help you get started with your Linkedin profile. The ability to gain knowledge during this network phase is incredibly important. You will learn more about you as an individual - what you want, how you value your skills, where you need development and more.
First, let's start with some structure. A planned approach to your network is important as it ensures you don't trip up such as sending somebody your CV who you have already sent it to. It will be very confusing learning a new language, as well as hundreds of different people from different industries and companies.
Things you can do to help you network...
Networking on Linkedin is not an art form, however I often see people leaving the Military who post about their day at the Career Transition Workshop with a post along the lines of…
“Looking forward to attending day 1 of my CTW today. Start of my resettlement and apprehensive, but excited at the same time.”
If you are using Linkedin you want to be initially engaging with people who are in the same / or similar profession that you are considering moving into. You want to learn from the plethora of people who have earned all their IT scars by working day in day out in these roles. To do this, you need to be engaging!!! Ask questions, pose interesting content to invite discussion and debate, respond to others posts with your own knowledge.
ie…”Attending a workshop about career change today to prepare me for leaving the military with a strong focus on CV writing. I have a question for all the infosec recruiters on Linkedin - what is the most effective CV format used by infosec candidates to land an interview?”
This is focused and targets a group of professionals drawing them in to engage in your post. This benefits you as it shows you as an individual not scared to seek advice from experienced professionals; you can learn from the responses you get from a diverse group; and it highlights your profile to those in their network when they engage in your post potentially expanding your own network to those that then connect with you.
Reach out to individuals who you think can genuinely add value to your network. You may wish to find out more about what they do in their role, what it is like to work in their company, or ask about another role you are interested in applying for. Either way, this is your chance to start making up for lost time and building your knowledge of the professional world outside of Defence. By doing so, you will also discover what skills you need but don’t already have…you may even get far more clarity on exactly how employable you are at this stage. This will enable you to move through the next stage knowing what skills you need to learn for your next career and most importantly - how long do you need. Therefore, at this time we have still not hit that button to hand in our notice.
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.