Exceptional ex military professionals

Major General Keith Cima

What’s your Current Position?

In addition of various part-time activities (Caseworker for SSAFA France, Consultant to ES-KO Intl, Chairman of Cosmissus, Director of a shale gas company) my full time salaried job is with the RNLI as a Staff Helmsman at their busiest (and hence manned 24/7) lifeboat station: Tower Lifeboat in Central London.  I work a 12-hour shift 4 days/nights on with 4 days off, and with a 2nd Staff Helmsman either command the Lifeboat and the station, or run systems and rescue effort.  It is in effect an Emergency Services role.

Personal View of the Job Situation…  

During the recession the job situation looked pretty dire; companies weren’t expanding and were focussed on survival.  Thus job opportunities seemed to shrink.  But we have come out of recession, and whilst recruitment is up, I sense the companies will be wary of too much too soon.  And so competition is still intense for jobs.  Expanding sectors seem to be shipping (cruise industry), hotels, extractive industries (oil, gas, minerals), infrastructure and construction.  Willingness to go overseas is valued.  A few people get the perfect job (I have now!) but most of us can get a job.  Which means you may well have to compromise on something: pay, status, location etc.  And it also means that the first job you get after leaving the Service may not be one you hold for long.  Civilian life is very different, and post-Service experience may mean that you and your family reassess expectations and priorities.   Leaving the Service and job-hunting is stressful, time consuming, and a job in its own right.  But keep at it – you will get a job!

Skills in Demand…  

XMR will be better placed to advise which skills are in demand.  But the ‘Qualities’ in demand are undoubtedly those which made you a success in the military realm.  And success is not just measured in rank.  Rather it is getting the job done, and done to the best of your ability with standards and attention to detail.  It is about delivery to time and quality.  It is about those Service qualities of loyalty, pride, teamwork, initiative, respect for others.  You will have heard of the Values and Standards of the Armed Forces – those are the qualities you have which few others in civilian life have.  So you have an advantage already!

 Advice for Resettlement…

  • Get as much resettlement time as you are entitled to, and use it.
  • Plan what you are going to do in concert with your resettlement advisor and your chain of command.
  • Include your partner in this planning.
  • Use training grants and courses to the full.
  • Use resettlement as a networking opportunity – who can you meet who might help you in the future.
  • Following on from the point above – join Linkedin and join its various groups.  Don’t be shy about asking for connections, and then using them.  There is an unwritten rule that if anyone is asked anything on Linkedin then they will help.
  • Listen to what you are told on resettlement briefings, and do it!  Follow the advice and you will get a job – not necessarily the perfect job, but a job.
  • Resettlement isn’t just about getting a job.  It is also about making the transition from the ordered, protective, all-providing military world into civvie street – where you are on your own.  Accommodation, eating, local taxes, sports etc – all very different.  Often you have to go and find stuff, whereas in the Services it is on a plate for you.  So use resettlement to think through the practicalities of life outside the wire.  And it is so crucial to involve your partner in this aspect of transition.
  • And for the point above, and so much else to do with resettlement – there is plenty of advice and support available which is flagged up by Resettlement Centres, on the internet, Regimental and Corps associations etc.  And you can always ask on Linkedin!

Advice for Companies – why employ ex-Military?    

The usual perceptions apply: disciplined, smartly turned out, punctual, trade trained to high standards, hard-working etc.  But this generation of Service Leavers, particularly the Army, is different.  They have participated in brutal and demanding high intensity conflicts in the Middle East and Asia – often repeatedly.  They will have used these skills in demanding situations where failure is not an option.   The normal self-confidence and poise normally associated with ex-military is enhanced then by a degree of self-knowledge that is simply not available to most civilians.  They are thus tenacious, assured, confident and competent to a degree I suspect has not been seen in the job market place for a very long time.

The Stages of Work… 

Work is a journey, and it doesn’t end with getting a job – you have to keep it!  Here are some experience-based thoughts on the journey.

  1. What do you want to do? Resettlement will help you with this.  Overseas v UK.  Your trade (familiar to you) v re-training in something else.  Education – consider back to college or Open University?  Employee v employer.  Perhaps franchise is the way ahead for you.
  2. Life Outside the Wire. It is different outside – you no longer have a machine telling you how to act, think, behave.  Nor are the sports facilities free!  Are you, and your family, sure you know where you want to live, how to plug in to utility companies, local taxes etc.
  3. Where do you find a job?  Clearly there are agencies specialising in ex-Forces, and XMR is one of those.  There are trade journals advertising jobs.  And the national press; some papers such as the Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Sunday Times have days when various sectors are focussed on.  But by far the biggest source of work is the network – people you know, and therefore the people they know.  Get on to Linkedin and join Groups of relevance to you.  Ask people for advice, help, support; its an unwritten rule of Linkedin that if someone asks you something – you respond.   Then an outfit like XMR can help you with the actual application process.
  4. Applying for a job – the CV.  You will be asked for a  CV.  There are some rules.  Firstly a CV is not to get you the job – it is for you to get an interview.  No more than 2 pages long.  No photograph,  No date of birth.  No over-exaggeration of your experience/quals.  Absolutely no claims you cannot substantiate.  Many jobs are over-subscribed, and so the first weeding out is at the CV stage.  Reviewers will probably only scan them, so no spelling mistakes, no lengthy prose and long paragraphs.  Keep it brief, to the point, and well laid out.  Most people scan in a Z, so put your key words (ie significant characteristics/achievement) on that Z.  Bold the odd word if necessary.  Do include a short bit at the end on you – the complete person.  If you are the world champion in tiddly winks – say so.
  5. Applying for a job – the Covering Letter.  If you are not asked for one – always include a short (less than one page) letter.  It should emphasise your interest in the job and why it is for you.  Avoid being arrogant in this – try to strike a keen and confident stance without over-doing it.  If you are asked for a covering letter the prospective employer will say what they want covered – usually why and how you match the requirements of the post.  No more than 2 pages.
  6. The Interview. Congratulations – you have got one; the CV did its work.  Prepare yourself.  Think what questions you will be asked about you, your experience, and what you can bring to the organisation.  Rehearse the interview with friends, partner – or XMR.  Impression matters – wear a suit –even for a warehouse job.  Practise your entry, greeting and handshake; it is said that 93% of the impression an employer has of you is gained (or lost) in the first 15 seconds; make a mess of this and things are irrecoverable.  Posture – don’t slump in a chair; BBC – bum in back of chair – sit straight.  If offered a drink ask for water even if you don’t think you want it.  It can be a useful distraction.
  7. The Job.  Congratulations – you have a job; now you have to keep it.  Civvie street is interesting, and full of opportunity if you want it.  But it is not the military, and there are some traps.   Some things to think about:
    • In the Forces people work and live together.  In civvy street they only work together.  Thus the level of comradeship, mutual support, trust, respect etc that you have enjoyed in uniform may not necessarily exist outside the wire.
    • Work out the work-place politics, and be wary with those you wouldn’t trust with your life.
    • There is no system of promotion exams and boards.  Often the only way up is to knock someone off a higher perch.  So:
      • Be careful with your emails – remember that many organisations have software to detect swearwords etc.
      • Never assume emails won’t be circulated more widely than you intended – so never lose it in an email.
      •  Keep important emails – ie ones which are about you.
      • Guard your tongue – you would be surprised at the number of people who keep contemporaneous notes for later use.
    • Valued colleagues rather than friends – particularly with subordinates.
    • If you sense you are falling into trouble – clash of personality or values, making mistakes, politics – cut your losses and get out.  There are plenty of other jobs.
  8. The next Job. Bear in mind that the first job might be short-lived.  You may find it is not for you, but it is nevertheless a useful journey in terms of understanding what life outside the wire is like.  There is always the next job.

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