Sunday, 23 December 2012

Can you trust a civvie?

Trust is essential in all organisations - but even more so in the Military. Decisions have the potential of lethal consequences - so you need to be able to trust those making decisions. In combat as well as in training, you need to be able to rely upon each other. There's little personal advantage to be gained; you're in it together. Everybody knows his or her place; understands what has to be delivered. The roles are clear - you know what to expect of each other, and what is expected of you. There's a whole system of rules and roles which has been tried and tested for generations. When you join the Forces, you join this history. You become part of it, and you learn to trust it. You know where you stand.

Not so in civvie street.

We are much more geared to being individuals - "fitting in" is not our main concern. Often, hierarchies are not well defined; roles and responsibilities are fluid. Though we adjust to the organisation we work in, we generally also quite enjoy challenging it. Some consultants suggest we need a lot more of not doing things the usual way, of thinking outside the box for organisations to survive.

To somebody who has just left the Forces, it must appear as if we were all fighting each other, each defending their own, individualistic causes. I don't think we are. But for a service leaver, it must be confusing: the lack of structure, protocol, procedures. We do have rules, of course, but not so much for how we interact with each other. "I'll get back to you tomorrow" could mean "if I don't forget" / "if I find the time". We will hardly ever assume that anything we do or promise is critical. Of course, decency would expect of all of us to deliver; to show respect to one another. But don't be too surprised if occasionally it doesn't happen.

If civvies have proven unreliable - does this mean they can't be trusted? In some respects, this would seem to be true. Some of us can't be trusted to deliver. It also means we can't be trusted to understand what it means to you - to be able to rely on what we say.

Whoever is reading this and still willing to give us a chance: We are not all the same. By all means be careful and take your time - but don't assume the worst of every single one of us. Give us a chance - because I'm convinced that we can help each other in making this transition successful for you.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Leaving the Forces - feeling lost

Don't get me wrong - many servicemen and women will leave the Military with plans for their future, will know where to go an so so successfully. People have joined and left the Forces for generations. But have these transitions really always been so smooth? Have the problems not maybe always been there - and it's only now that we start talking about them?

What guidance or advice will you have been given? Hopefully, once you have been through resettlement, you will have some answers to questions like
  • How do I write a competitive CV?
  • How do I prepare for an interview?
  • Which jobs should I go for?
  • What qualifications will I need?
Based on stories I hear, I assume that not alll the answers you can come up with will be satisfactory. So keep asking!!! I am in touch with service leavers, and some of the things we discuss will eventually find  their way onto this blog.

But there is one aspect for which resettlement will not have prepared you. I suspect that, in many ways, advisers shy away from this, maybe think it is counter productive - some of them will paint  a picture that is too rosy and optimistic.

Let me resort to the words of someone who has been there - because, as you know by now, I haven't. I leave it to you to decide whether this is an exception, or whether some of this rings true for you:

I don’t miss the RAF. I felt nothing handing my kit back and a similar feeling of ‘meh-ness’ handing my ID card over. The job I could take or leave. But just the people. People who share an outlook like you. Who share a way of thinking, and who share the same strange, stupid, macabre, self-depreciating, downright sick sense of humour as you do.

How do you prepare for that? Maybe you can't - but, then, maybe you can. If the people who provide advice were a little bit more honest - and were more willing to try and understand what this particular transition is about.

The Military has prepared you for combat before you ever went out. There are people who can help prepare you for this challenge as well - people who understand the impact of change, of redundancy, of uncertainty - particularly when it is involuntary. (Alex, if you read this - unlikely as it is - please do let me know how you get on ...) There is no area in civvie street which will feel like life in the Military. But it's not the end of the world, either! Consequently, there is something you will miss. It might take you a while to come to realise it - maybe a clash at work, an argument in a pub.

If you read this before you leave - whoever offers you advice: ask questions! Don't take anything for granted. Don't believe it when anybody says it's going to be easy. But, likewise, there is no need to panic.

The difficulty will be to navigate through the many, many people and organisations who offer advice. Don't let it scare you off - the one thing you cannot afford is to be complacent. You have very little to lose - and a lot to gain. In civvie street, most of our decisions won't have disastrous consequences when things go wrong. So be patient with yourself when some of it feels like failure - that's how we learn and grow.