Moving on after a career in the Military by Simon Heywood

By J&C Team

Having spent 17 years in the Army, the decision to leave a career that I relished was one I did not
take lightly in 2007.  I was confident that my skills and experience would transfer to a civilian role but, unlike the Armed Forces where to a greater extent your career path is mapped out for you, deciding on which industry sector or indeed the type of role I should apply for was a whole new responsibility.  Exciting, yes; challenging, certainly and if I am honest, also a little bit daunting.

My first position was with a management consultancy where I specialised in local authority projects. I enjoyed the combination of working in the public services industry for a private sector provider, something that attracted me to my current role as Chief Operating Officer for Commercial Services.  We are a large organisation and my principal role is to lead our Direct Services Division, which includes landscaping and grounds maintenance, waste management, vehicle services, facilities management, community equipment and fire equipment maintenance services. Our public and private sector customers range from individuals requiring specialist health care equipment to organisations reliant on us to keep their emergency response vehicles on the road.  Consequently the skills and experience our staff possess are as diverse as the needs of the customers we serve.

We employ over 700 people in a variety of roles and while we do not recruit specifically from the Armed Forces, we have a significant number of staff or their partners who come from that background.  Like the Army there is a great camaraderie within Commercial Services.  I think that comes about by people being valued for the job they are doing and that we make a difference to people’s lives, be they school children playing on a playing field we have just cut and marked out or elderly people able to stay in their own home because of the equipment we have provided and installed for them.  A very similar public service work ethic as the Armed Forces.

I asked some of our team if having been a member of the Armed Forces was a positive factor in their subsequent career path and their comments included:

“For me personally, being ex-Forces was a very positive influence in gaining employment and has been in my working life since”

“Military wives can be undervalued as members of the workforce because of the finite time period we are able to be employed due to our constant moving and changing of jobs. I have a lot to offer an employer and I am also proud to say my husband is a soldier.”

I also asked them what they would advise Armed Forces personnel who are leaving and going through the transition process.  They all agreed that the transition and resettlement courses were very useful and that you should make the most of them.  Plan early was the overriding comment.

I also asked our in-house Recruitment Division, Connect2Staff, what they would advise ex-service men and women looking for new careers. Their advice included:

1. List the skills you have learned and identify the ones that are transferable.

2. Understand and research the company you are applying for, tailor your CV accordingly with relevant points on the job advertisement.

3. Remember many employers see a military background as an asset, expecting a good work ethic and organisational skills.

4. Just because you do not have knowledge of a certain sector, do not be put off. Industry knowledge is not always necessary and some employers prefer to train people from scratch.

5. Keep at it and do not be disheartened, it’s a tough job market for all.  Persistence pays off.

6. Offer to spend sometime in a business in your own time, this could be as part of your resettlement period, to demonstrate your skills.

For more advice or details of nationwide vacancies, call Connect2Staff on 0845 5196913 or visit We have also produced a factsheet and if you would like a copy, email

Good luck!

By Simon Heywood – Chief Operating Officer, Commercial Services