Civvy Street: Survive, then Thrive

Published on: October 5,2020 Published in: Insights Perspectives

I decided to write this article primarily to help service leavers, especially those who may be anxious and apprehensive about their transition to civvy street. Just a few years on from leaving the military, I find myself in a position where I’m one of the directors of i3Secure Ltd, a cyber security consultancy and sister company to i3Works Ltd, a well-established and highly regarded P3M consultancy. As a business, we (i3Secure) provide best in class services across the information security and data protection spectrum. We help businesses navigate around the minefield that is consultancy, and we provide value for money when doing so. We have witnessed at first-hand, cyber consultants failing to deliver while charging eye-watering fees. All the i3Secure directors are ex-military. Our motivation for doing things right, doing things properly, stems from our time in the armed forces.

I left the Royal Air Force Police in 2017, RAF Cosford being my last policing role. This now seems like a lifetime ago. I left the armed forces for an information security manager job at Capita, a large enterprise organisation well known for its ties with the government and the public sector. I remember my first day, everything was different. I was wearing a suit for starters and I didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing. Everything from the commute to the aesthetics of a corporate office was alien to me.

I remember a moment on my first day when I felt overwhelmed by the changes in environment, filling me with self-doubt. I was lucky. I was able to pick up the phone. I spoke to a close friend who was also working in the company. His words of encouragement got me through my first day, then my first week and so on.

During this time, I read information security books, took specialist courses, and purposely volunteered for work which sat outside of my comfort zone – to grow my knowledge and skill set. I learnt an enormous amount from the highly skilled team of information security and data protection specialists within the Software Development division, many of whom I’m still in contact with today. Eventually, I reached a point, approximately nine months later, where I started to feel like I belonged in this environment. I could see light at the end of the tunnel.

Now, the armed forces can be a frustrating place to be sometimes, but without a doubt it sets you up with invaluable skills and puts you in a strong position upon leaving. I remember during Career Transition Partnership (CTP) briefs held at RAF Cottesmore for service leavers, being spoken to about “soft skills.” We were encouraged to highlight these in our CVs and in our future interviews. I was always sceptical about the actual value of these skills in the real world, until I got my first job in Capita. I would say the single most important thing to take from the Armed Forces are those soft skills which you probably take for granted – communication skills, problem solving skills and even things like work ethic, work rate, time keeping – the basics. I realised that these skills, which are developed and embedded in the armed forces, are rarer in civvy street. Continuing to show these skills and attributes when you leave will help you stand out from the crowd.  

It is a truly daunting experience waiting to leave, trying to time the exit just right with the extensive notice period you are required to provide (12 months for me). This is my only real criticism of the forces – the duration of notice required for people wanting to leave is inconsistent, not flexible enough and seriously restricts service leavers at a time when they need the support. I found the many workshops offered by the CTP useful and well worth taking advantage of. I would also encourage anyone to maximise the financial benefits of work experience at a business to bolster your CV. We have already discussed in the business (i3Secure) how we will look to support anyone who wishes to undertake work experience with us, so feel free to reach out to us via info@i3secure.co.uk

Whilst I never considered myself someone that truly bought in to service life, I realised just how much I had adapted to life in service -once I had left. One of the most difficult things about leaving, is the stress of finding a new job. I was fortunate. I managed to secure work in my chosen field – information security via a colleague who I met during basic RAF training back in 2008 and had already successfully left the trade some several years before me. Some of you, no doubt, will be thinking you don’t know someone who can help you find a role like this, or maybe you don’t even know what you want to do yet, maybe i3Secure can help?

We actively seek service leavers from any service. We recognise the value service leavers can bring and we want to support our extended family. We have applied for the Armed Forces Covenant, demonstrating our commitment to helping service leavers find employment.

Whether you take up our offer, or even if you do not, here are a few words of advice to any future service leavers:

  • Whilst still in the forces, form as many meaningful connections with colleagues as you can, you never know when this may benefit you in the future. Networking starts whilst still in service
  • Attend CTP workshops and network with fellow service leavers
  • Maximise the funding available to you as a service leaver
  • Gain work experience where you can to bolster your CV
  • Highlight your soft skills in any CV or interview
  • Complete any courses that could help you get a role in your chosen field – research peers’ skill sets on LinkedIn to give you an idea of what you need
  • Play the numbers game, don’t expect to send off one CV and get a job. Send plenty, all individually tailored to each job, to maximise your chances
  • Be presentable in interviews. Try to gauge how formal you should be prior to any interviews
  • In my experience, it is imperative when you start a new job to absorb as much information from peers as you can, read around the subject, and commit to subject matter courses
  • When you get a job, don’t panic, do your best, put the hours and effort in as this will make you feel comfortable quicker
  • Reach out to companies like ours that actively seek to employ and support service leavers – info@i3secure.co.uk

Most importantly…. never, ever give up.


Jason McAdam

DIRECTOR

Jason is a highly capable Information Security & Data Privacy professional, experienced at delivering services to Defence, Private and Public Sector organisations. He is a highly motivated, natural problem solver who thrives on developing innovative, customer focused solutions.