BLOG: Why Military Veterans are so Employable

Written by David Conreen, Veterans Coach and Trainer at Groundwork Greater Manchester

Unidentified Transferable skills for Veterans 

As a veteran myself, having served in both the Army and the Royal Air Force, and now working at Groundwork Greater Manchester as a veterans’ coach and trainer I come into contact with a lot of veterans of all backgrounds and ages who are struggling to find work or haven’t found that job since leaving the forces that really works for them.

One of the most common phrases that comes up in conversation with these guys is,
I don’t really have any qualifications or skills so my CV is quite dull and boring”.
Hang on a minute, what about all the stuff you did when you were in the forces, let alone since you left? This is such a common mis-conception to many service leavers, especially those that have been out over ten years or more, who didn’t have all the resettlement advice and guidance that is available today. I would know as I went through it myself when I first came out.

So, to explain this in simple terms, let me give you an example of what I mean.

Terry Morley wining veterans award

Operation Re:Org receiving the Community Award at the English Veterans Awards.

Engaging veterans struggling for work 

About four months ago I met a guy at an event; mid-forties, served as a cook in the RAF, let’s call him Martin.

He had been out of the RAF for some time having served nine years and reached the rank of Corporal. Since leaving he had had so many different jobs, mainly in catering but he was never happy in his work; when he left the RAF he had no intention of entering the world of catering as he had had enough, he wanted something different – more challenging, a new career. But when he applied for jobs he was either rejected or received no acknowledgement at all, so he’d drift back into catering over and over again. He had left his last job and was now unemployed. I asked him what he thought the reason was for having so many setbacks when applying for jobs, can you guess what his reply was? Yes, you are correct. 

I don’t really have any qualifications or skills so my CV is quite dull and boring”. 

Naturally, I responded; “We can help you with that, do you have a copy of your CV you can send me? – It was a single A4 piece of paper, holding very little information of any value to an employer, let alone engaging or appealing.   

“We can make this much better, for instance I don’t see any evidence here of what you did for nine years in the RAF as a Junior Non-Commissioned Officer (Corporal), let’s just discuss what transferable skills you have that you are not aware of...

And so the conversation began.

Putting skills at the forefront 

Did you work all by yourself? 

No, I was a responsible for a team of up to 20 men and women.

Martin was of course a team leader with great leadership responsibilities. Teamwork is the foundation on which all safe military operations are based and it’s just as important in the civilian world. 

 I suppose you had to be very organised and disciplined, looking after so many people?

Yes, I had to make sure that everyone knew what to do and when, so that the meals were ready on time.” 

Martin was not only organised, but had brilliant disciplinary attributes which he could use in multiple situations within employment.

 What about when things went wrong, like someone didn’t turn up for duty?

Yes, that happened on more than one occasion, I had to prepare all of the cooking equipment on my own so customers got their breakfast on time. 

As you can see, Martin had the ability to think on his feet. He knew that he was going to have an angry mob outside that door very soon who are on early shifts, but he came up with a quick solution. We call that effective problem solving. 

I bet you had a lot of rules to follow in a kitchen with food safety, health and safety? 

“Yes, a huge part of the job is being able to follow rules and schedules.” 

Good time management allows you to accomplish more in a shorter period of time, which leads to more free time, which lets you take advantage of learning opportunities, lowers your stress, and helps you focus, which leads to more career success. 

Did you always turn up for work or were you off sick much? 

I never had a sick day in nine years. always reported for duty at least half an hour before start time to change my clothes and organise myself. 

Possessing a strong work ethic stemmed from his time in the Military. Any mission you were on was the number one priority.

This conversation went on for a good 45 minutes, but we managed to iron out the additional following attributes from someone completely unaware about the transferable skillset he had

  • Self Confidence
  • Possessing a variety of cross-functional skills.
  • Leadership by example
  • Equality and Diversity
  • Health and Safety
  • Effective Communication
  • Integrity
  • Financial Responsibility
  • Adapting to changing situations
Construction employment

Since Operation Re:Org started in 2017 over 100 veterans have been supported into employment.

Martin revised his CV through the support of Operation Re:Org, and he managed to be chosen for three interviews which wouldn’t have received anacknowledgement previously. Last week I received a very nice text message off Martin saying he had just started his new job working for a major manufacturing company in the North West of England as a Deputy Facilities Manager, responsible for the management of external contactors providing Security, Catering Cleaning and Housekeeping services and Building Maintenance. He is a very happy man.  

All veterans have an abundance of hidden skills and qualities that they take for granted. It’s our job to bring them to the forefront and ensure they’re put into real context. Slowly, more and more employers are now beginning to realise the many benefits that come with employing a military veteran.

David Conreen, Veterans Coach and Trainer

If you’re a veteran in GM looking for support or would like to know more about the project, e-mail Terry Morley, Veterans Employment Programme Manager on:

0161 220 1013

Operation Re-org Facebook Page