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  • Andrew Burke

Beyond The Uniform: The Day will Come...

Serving your country is perhaps one of the most significant sacrifices anyone can make. When you swear to protect your Nation against all aggressors, domestic and foreign, you sign up for a life of servitude, dedication and adventure. With this comes discipline, structure and a culture grounded in history. You absorb every facet of this exciting atmosphere and become one with the organisation, its beliefs and its brotherhood. United by a common bond.

However, “The day will come” when you decide to, or you must, step away from the daily routines and the camaraderie and move back into the civilian world. For many of us, it's daunting and very different, and the rules you have lived by for years no longer apply. To make matters worse, your prestige and hard-earned respect held within the military organisation now counts for very little out on the street! Unless you tune into this transition quickly and re-brand the new YOU.

Using a term such as re-brand makes this article sound more akin to business selling, but that is precisely the point. Within the military, you had your unique brand. You were part of a Unit, a Corps and a Service. You trained hard and completed a range of specialist courses that gave you rank and credentials that you wore on your uniform with pride. Other service members immediately understood your position and brand as you passed them, even if you had never spoken. The challenge for you now is how you communicate all your skillsets in a language that is clearly understood by your new civilian network and begin to develop your life outside of the military establishment.

There are many ways to discuss how you can go about this re-branding task, but here are a few essential steps you can take now!

Move out of your comfort zone.

A saying goes, “Change does not happen in the comfort zone, and it is not comfortable in the change zone.” This statement is very accurate, and we have all experienced the impact of change on our lives in many different ways. Recognising when you are rooted in your comfort zone and not pushing forward to make your goals a reality is essential. Only when you act will results be attained. Moving out of one's comfort zone is a personal journey. It is essential to challenge your discomfort and explore what it is about this change that makes it challenging for you. Undertake some self-analysis and explore any self-limiting beliefs, your values and your strength, so you can begin to build your confidence picture. Your goals are very achievable with the right plan and action-orientated objectives. Act now.

Network everyday

Network, Network, Network; your success will hinge on your ability to reach out and engage with friends, family and your wider community. You must look to grow your network so that your ‘brand’ will strengthen. The more comprehensive your network, the greater the likelihood opportunities will come your way. Maximise your potential to capitalise on opportunities by being proactive, positive and present with your networks regularly. Spend time reading and commenting on social media, go to locally organised events and engage with community activities. Reach out to like-minded people and ask to be part of their networks. You will be surprised how open and friendly they will be. Just ask.

Engage and utilise your military experience.

You have acquired a vast array of skills, attributes and qualities throughout your military career. You have earned them, don’t forget about them. Spend time to write them down clearly and look to find ways you can translate these to your future career or activities. Reframe and revise how you discuss these capabilities with your network or potential employer. Ensure that they clearly understand the benefits of your skills and qualities, more so than the process of you acquiring them. Few jobs in the world will provide you with the experiences and opportunities to utilise your qualities and skills, making you a desirable prospect to any new employer. Maximise the value of your skills by ensuring you can articulate this clearly. Reframe your story.

Continue to serve

Your time in the military will have developed a sense of servitude. From your very first day, you lived by the ‘Buddy-Buddy’ system and continuously gave to others in the Unit, Corps or Service. Just because you have now folded your uniform and packed away your boots; this loyalty and comradeship does not end. It is crucial to stay connected with your military family; help them, meet with them and maintain the tight bonds that have been forged in some of the most challenging environments. Equally, continue to serve by giving time and your skills toward local community efforts, sports or other activities. Your strength in leadership and your skills in building relationships are vital features from your military persona, and these attributes will be widely welcomed. Give back!

Whether you are about to transition, have recently transitioned or have left the military for some time, if you have not already done so, build your transition plan. What will you do over the next 90 days to improve your brand and ensure that you land that next interview, that dream job or improve the quality of your relationships in this new and exciting chapter of your life?

Be prepared for a different and challenging new world. The military transition will test you mentally, physically and culturally. Be ready. Planning and preparation are tools you have mastered and used every day during your service – don’t neglect them now when you need them most.

Finally – remember you are not alone! Reach out; find a mentor, and become a mentor!

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us” Unknown.

Andy Burke is a veteran Army officer of the Irish Defence Forces with over 16 years of service. He actively supports veterans and serving members to navigate and prepare for their life after the uniform - the life beyond.

If you find yourself struggling or need to understand what leaving the military will mean for you, give Andy a call.

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