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Finding work during a pandemic – How does this affect the transition from military to civilian life?

2020 was a strange and difficult year for everyone and living through a pandemic has certainly been challenging.  From being forced to stay at home to the supermarkets shelves being stripped bare of toilet paper, it is safe to say we are living in extraordinary times.  The last year has been tough for everyone and even more so if you are worried about work.  I am one of the many who had to job hunt during the pandemic and I have so say, it was not easy.  The job market has undoubtedly been affected by COVID-19 with fewer vacancies available but there is work out there, you may just need to think outside the box a little and be strategic in the sectors you target.

For service personnel who have been medically discharged from the military, transitioning into civilian life and embarking on a new career can be an extremely difficult process.  Throwing a pandemic into the mix will only add to this challenge.  When looking for work, I found it useful to list my key skills and achievements to help me find a job suited to me.  So, what skills do veterans have?  My colleague, Charlotte Jose, recently blogged about the value that veterans can add to the civilian workforce.  They have a wide range of skills that can easily be transferred into the civilian workplace including:

  • Leadership skills
  • Communication skills
  • Analytical skills
  • Organisational skills
  • Technical skills
  • Sought after personal qualities such as reliability, resourcefulness and resilience
  • Interpersonal skills

Veterans possess highly desirable skills and will be resilient and able to perform well under pressure due to the very nature of their work in the military.  However, those who have been medically discharged will also need to consider that they may be limited on the open labour market due to their injuries.

What help is there for veterans?

The transition from military to civilian life is a daunting process but there are a number of resources out there for veterans to help with the process.  The British Legion and VETS offer employment support services to help with the transition to civilian life.  Veterans Gateway also offers services for veterans seeking employment support.

For those who have been medically discharged and are at a loss of what to do next, I recommend using these resources as a starting point.  They will be able to help you to recognise your skills and achievements and understand how these can be transferred into the civilian workplace.  It is important to remember that transitioning from the military to civilian life is a huge change so don’t be too hard on yourself or be afraid to ask for help!

How does COVID-19 affect the employment market for veterans?

The current pandemic has undoubtedly had a knock on effect on the employment market.  We can see this through the Labour Force Survey which shows the employment rate has been decreasing since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.  Whilst the employment rate is at a low, there may be some hope for veterans in the future.  Forces Net describes how the military has been playing a leading role in response to the pandemic through setting up Nightingale Hospitals, delivering PPE, supporting mass testing and most recently, helping with rolling out the COVID-19 mass vaccination programme.  I believe the work that the military has been doing to help with the ongoing response has shined a positive light on the military and is encouraging as future civilian employers will now have a better understanding of the skills that military personnel possess.

The past year has been a challenge for everyone as we all learn to adjust to ‘the new normal’.  Having experienced unemployment and looking for work during a pandemic, I understand the difficulties it can bring both emotionally and financially.  What I have learnt through this experience is that it is important to be kind to yourself.  It is easy to have self-doubt, but it is important to take confidence in your skills and achievements and have a clear understanding of what you can bring to the table.  Remember there is help out there so don’t be afraid to ask!

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