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A Service Leavers Guide: No.1 thing to know in Pre-transition

I’ve been thinking about all the things I wish I knew, or someone had said to me when beginning on my transition into #veteranlife, resulting in this post.

I hope it helps…

One of the most difficult things to decide is what you want to be when you grow up… (I know I’m still trying to figure this out now!).

In fact, trying to decide what and who we want to be when we grow up is sometimes the reason a lot of us find ourselves in the military.

It’s a pretty pragmatic choice for a start:

  • Stable career

  • Decent pay

  • Good pension

  • Excellent training/education

  • Travel

  • Adventure

Why not?!

The other reasons to join may also include the following too:

  • Parents/family members served

  • Free education

  • Friends joined

  • Escape

  • Stay out of trouble

  • Easiest option

I could go on... but I think you get the jist…

We walk into the career’s office, naive, nervous and a bit excited. Do our respective aptitude tests and generally get streamlined into trades depending on results and operational needs at that time. Then…

Obviously, this is not the case for all of us but it is for some. For some it is their ultimate dream and goal.

Anywho, when embarking upon the resettlement process from the military the focus is solely on landing that job.


Career, Career, Career…

What job though?

What career though?

Generally, they look at your “transferable skills” (you’re thinking at the time, whatever the chuff that actually means! More on that another time…) and then they look at your trade that you have worked in whilst serving.

Ultimately sticking you into a box and narrowing down your options.

It’s all completely and utterly well meaning… they are I believe genuinely trying to help.

It’s a bit formulative but a relatively logical approach, right?

Here comes the…



  • Whatever you did in the military, whatever trade, it is never going to be comparative doing this in the civilian world! NEVER! This may be OK for some veterans; they may prefer it. However, in my own personal experience and through speaking to others this was absolutely NOT ok and can be a real struggle, wounding us mentally.

  • In the military we are continually guided in our careers, thrust into certain directions, and somewhat indoctrinated. We also are lucky enough to have a shed load of extra support such as subsidised housing, help with childcare costs plus free access to medical and dental care to name a few. We want promotions and we want certain postings but most of it isn’t truly our decision anyway, It’s the drafters or the promotion board’s! Therefore we don't have to worry about much and often dont have too many choices to muddy the waters along the way. In civvi street, this all changes, the responsibility of destination, job, and progression becomes ours again. We have to consider the cost of housing, medical care childcare etc… it’s a whole new world! This can be wonderful or a burden.

  • We grow as people and we change, our wants, needs, responsibilities etc. All of this will also change further as a result of leaving. Therefore, what we did when we served may no longer serve us when we leave.

Therefore No.1 thing to know in Pre-Transition from military to civvi life is:


Now when I say self-discovery, I’m not suggesting you take a year out and meditate with monk’s (if that’s what you wanna do though, go for it!).

What I’m referring to is the act of getting off the resettlement track and just taking some time to stop and really think about what it is YOU want from life moving forward.

Not just about your job… but what you do and don’t want from life!

How do you do this??

Well there is no hard and fast answer to that and I’m by no means an expert… but I’ve put a few bits together as a starter for ten (or 7 as I’ve 7 points lol) that I’ve picked up along the way…

Start thinking for yourself!

Separate your thoughts and ideas from that of others. As soon as you hit resettlement there will be advice, guidance and ideas thrown at you from every angle. Which once you have an idea and grounding of what YOU want is great but until then it can be confusing and can result in you going into autopilot and heading down a path designed by someone else, meeting someone else’s agenda rather than your own.

We all have a tendency to internalise standards and views of our performance, wants and needs set by the military. We can often become guilty if we don’t meet these preset standards, that’s why it is important to regroup and start thinking for yourself. Give yourself permission to change your thoughts and opinions if they no no longer suit your current needs.

Trust yourself and don’t be afraid to make your own mistakes!

I used to tell all my students that we learn more from our mistakes than we do our successes… go forth and fail, own your failures, it’s good for you!

"Failure is feedback, feedback is learning, learning is growth, growth is success"

Self confidence is key!

Don't be swayed by the judgement or thoughts of others. They are not living your life, you are. They are entitled to their opinions but as we all know opinions are like ar*eholes, everybody has got one.

Family Dynamics!

Think about where you want to live. Really think about it.

What geographical area would you ideally like to settle? Near Friends, or Family, abroad even?

Does your partner work? Do you have children? Where are they at school? What would you want and need to facilitate a happy and healthy family dynamic?

Be bold!

Put down your dreams and ideals as well as be pragmatic, you never know what might work. I have veteran friends that have settled all over the world, as previously mentioned, in places such as Spain, America and randomly Sweden and all including their families say it’s the best thing they have ever done.

Discuss options with all relevant parties involved.

Start with a clean slate!

Don't think about your current qualifications or skills, don’t think about money.. not yet!

Think about what you enjoy, what you find interesting… look for your passion… think outside the box…

Could this be monetised?

Is there a career within this arena that would fit in with the family dynamics?

Yes great!

No.. well this can be a hobby then.

Make sure you write it down, make sure you factor this into your future plan as it’s a part of you and you will need it.

Doing something you enjoy outside of work can be beneficial for your mental health. Having hobbies can lower anxiety, lower your stress level, and help cope with depression.

If it turns out your passion is your trade, nice one!

But if not that’s ok!

I genuinely, hand on heart, know an ex infantry Sergeant that ended up becoming a highly successful hairdresser/barber and he couldn’t be any bloody happier about it! True Story…

Research, Research, Research!

Do your OWN homework!

Do not rely solely on the information provided to you by others such as mates, resettlement officers, partners or relatives!

You are an individual and this is going to most definitely affect you, your day to day, your mental well-being and your future.

Be proactive within your own future.

It’s important to not just look at jobs, but look at budgetary requirements for the areas within in which your considering to settle, cost of daycare if necessary, mortgage etc. What is the minimum about of money you may need to live (not survive but live!).

Afford yourself a little bit of time and self indulgence!

You deserve it!

Ask ALL the questions, change ideals and try as many new things as possible.

Go on webinars, visits and find courses, free or otherwise.

Don’t just rely on the courses provided by the military!

Utilise your research and earlier soul searching to look into the random things you found that you like. You may be surprised!

For Christ sake in last couple of months on my journey, I’ve gone from wanting to be a therapist, to a florist, to a coffee shop owner, to a property developer, to an entrepreneur, to an artist, to a blogger and a writer!!! (Apologies again to my poor ever suffering husband, yes your wife is bat sh*t crazy!)

I’ve done free starting your own business courses, been to free local workshops, watched copious amounts of YouTube videos, read books, articles, blogs and attended online courses.

Self discovery is definitely a process… (like a bloody rollercoaster for me!)

I didn’t do this at all when I left the military...

I blindly followed the route offered to me, it was a bit of whirlwind to be fair… happened quickly, impulsively and with little to no thought on my part!

Looking back I’m amazed at how slack I was… (insert a good long hard paddington stare at myself here plus a strong eye roll!).

Someone, maybe even a few people suggested I would be great at teaching (worst bit is I’m unsure who this even was now). It came about as I had mentored others and been heavily involved in the development of a new NVQ for techies in the latter years of my service… so off I popped into education.

I used my resettlement impulsively to get a PTTLS and a A1 assessors course thinking I was being prepared and left the safety of the military bubble into civvi street, a bit like a once caged animal being released back into the wild!

I mindlessly wandered out of my cage not even knowing if it was something I actually wanted, what impact it would have on me financially or how it would effect my family dynamics blah blah blah…

I also hit my own unexpected road bumps along the way… that’s life!

However I'm discovering myself now!

I’m currently doing all of the above, 6 years down the line when I have limited time, support options and an awful lot at stake (like a f*ck off mortgage for one and the responsibility of a person that I made, who is currently talking about pizza and slippers in her sleep as I type #loveher).

Im at a point in my life where decisions previously made are not facilitating mine or my families actual wants or needs. If anything they are hindering them! Thus requiring big life changing actions such as packing up and selling our house in a bid to facilitate more financial flexibility.

This is all going to take a fair bit of time, anxiety and effort to achieve.

Maybe it would have been better and probably less traumatic emotionally if I had been given this foresight at the resettlement stage, instead of plunging headlong straight into the unknown and only considering JOB JOB JOB!

However in the interest of practising what I preach let’s drop the regret!

My process has finally begun and by learning and sharing my experiences, hopefully, not only can I grow from them but you too!

We all deserve to do more than just exist. More than just plod along in a narrowed playing field knowing and feeling that something just isn’t right but not having the tools or the insight to identify it.

When embarking upon pre-transition from the military remember this:

Uncertainty albeit scary means possibilities and possibilities mean opportunities!

We’ve got this!

You’ve got this!

Follow the steps to set you off and you will find your own path.

So what do you think?

Helpful? Or am I teaching you to suck eggs?

Please comment below.

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