My transition was not shaping the way I thought it would be. I was dreading it.
The Flocking Crowd
Although many of you reading this are focussing your attentions away from the military, you would have had to have had your head in a water bowser to not have noticed that last month was Her Majesty the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. Whichever way you marked the occasion, you may have felt slightly different, perhaps detached from the national excitement and military pomp. It may be the first time, or perhaps the last time of taking part in an official parade and knowingly watching the hype, that you certainly won't be part of it in the future. Well, there may be some of you that will jump straight into the reserves but let's face it, the only ‘perky perk’ with that is ushering at Wimbledon. And let’s be honest, strutting around SW19 mid-July in ‘twos’ is about as comfortable as wearing full Gortex on a steady state run. In Akrotiri.
The fact is, momentous occasions such as these will feel different, because doing your part will no longer be on parade amongst your muckers or marching through the town centre with cheers from the crowds. Instead, you will be one of the crowd, no longer standing out as a member of the Armed Forces. That is a hard pill to swallow but a necessary one. However difficult that may be, it’s totally normal to feel that way and understanding this will aid your transition into ‘the crowd’.
For me, this recent stage of resettlement was the lull in the battle, so-to-speak. I was receiving job offers in abundance which was great. Actually, it wasn’t. The offers were for jobs that I didn't want, though I was qualified for, and the money was exactly what I was after. I threw my teddy out the pram and decided I was taking a break for anything remotely close to a job search.
I chose to leave the British Army early as I was unhappy, it made no sense to jump from the frying pan to the fire, so why was I? You may have experienced the same; whether you’ve opted to leave, you’re being medically discharged, or you’ve served your full contract, undoubtedly others will take interest at your soon-to-be alien life and pose the dreaded question...”so what are you going to do?”. It’s the default setting and in my head, the most common answer was “none of your f**king business” but I duly answered, regardless of how tedious it became. These exchanges are easy if the response is “project management”, “construction”, “personal training” or “close protection” etc. So, imagine the response when I answered with “Copywriting”. I feel I can now hand-on-heart say that the murmur “huh”, officially has a facial expression. It’s true. I’ve seen it more than I care to, and it inevitably leads to more questions. The best retort to my mic-drop career choice was, “can you write?”. Now, whilst this may be subjective, I am sure that no one else is asked if they can manage a project, construct, protect or train, because let's face it, that’s covered in every career stream of the Armed Forces. Yes. I think so. Maybe. Doubt was starting to creep in.
Eventually, I caved and prepared a much easier response of “project management”, which was a bulletproof conversation stopper because you have given the answer they want, the answer they expect when you’re doing something they’re not ready to do or won’t– which is leaving the Armed Forces.
The “huh” faces got to me in the end, so much so, that when I began to slope off after de-kit, I applied for project management roles. My transition was not shaping the way I thought it would be. I was dreading it. Dreading the jobs I was lining myself up for, thinking back at what I had left knowing I was equally as unhappy and stuck firmly between a rock, a hard place and seriously considering a job as a Hermes (now Evri) delivery driver.
This is where JobOppO stepped in. I had, up until this point, been reluctant to accept advice or assistance because if I was honest with myself, I didn’t know what I wanted to do now. That ‘what do you want to be, when you grow up’ line bounced around my grey matter like a pinball. I had lost sight of why I tapped the 7 clicks.
“What do you want to do?”, oh for f**k sake, not this question again, I thought. It was a question I needed to dignify with an answer though. I was asked not to provide the ‘DS answer’ and just explain what I like doing.After my verbal essay, I downloaded the JobOppO House app and was referred by Garrath, their Dir of Veteran Engagement, to various employers and suffice to say, I had no idea half these jobs even existed, let alone that they were potentially within my reach. The JobOppO team know you’re transferable when you do not believe you are, they’ve lived it and they’ve smashed through the glass ceiling to provide understanding to potential employers that they need to look beyond the uniform and what we’ve achieved whilst wearing it. It’s not about what’s on paper, it’s about what we’ve learned – and it’s about potential.
I was annoyed that I had allowed myself to become blindsided by others' opinions or suggestions at what I should do with my qualifications and experience, I allowed myself to be guided and be part of the flock still, when in reality, I didn’t #belong with that flock anymore. Equally, I am not a Union Flag waving cheerleader, I would most definitely feel like the black sheep in that flock. Truth is, you belong to a different crowd now, or at least you will do soon – the veteran crowd. A healthy mix of the two realms. Able to break away and ‘do you’ but still enjoy Trooping the Colour with pride and appreciation of the effort involved, but equally grateful that you’re not stood in that get-up in the blistering heat, sweating like you just lost crypto on Salisbury plain. Thank f**k for that.