Military to Civvy Street: The Ultimate Guide To A Successful Career Transition

Posted on Tuesday, May 2, 2023 by Faye CoppNo comments

Your mission to find the right job in the right organisation when you leave the Armed Forces will need to be as targeted and well planned as any military operation. Employers are always searching for quality talent and many are specifically interested in recruiting ex-military people, especially for their ‘soft’ skills. 

However their requirements are increasingly precise, so you and your skills must match their needs; you will also need to provide evidence of your acquired military knowledge, skills and experience that fits the requirements of individual job descriptions.


This guide is designed to use alongside our resources and workbooks to help you prepare for and plan your journey from military to civilian employment. As you will see, there is more to this than preparing a CV and applying for jobs - ‘spray and pray’ job search simply doesn’t work. 

We hope this guide will help you present yourself as a competitive candidate for your next career by taking you through our step-by-step process:

  1. Choosing your career path

  2. Explore and understand your transferable skills

  3. Developing your skills & experience

  4. Your CV and online presence

  5. Networking for a job

  6. Smashing the interview process

  7. Employment: success beyond the military

So where to start? First, let’s think about which career path you’d like to go down, which jobs are best suited to your skills and experience and what sectors are surging in 2021. 


When you leave the Armed Forces, you are not just finding a new job, you will be moving into a different way of life and work environment. It can be a challenge to work out where your skills set and experience will fit in the commercial world. First and foremost, it’s about fitting your knowledge, skills and experience to the right sector and job role  – or a stepping stone role that eventually gets you where you want to be.

It is very common for people leaving the Armed Forces to have no idea where to start or what they want to do. Our workbook to choosing a post-military career is designed to help you take a planned, targeted approach to your job search and thereby help you find the right job in the right organisation for you.

Take a read through our guide to picking a career after the military to start creating a proactive game plan for your job search.




Do some honest self-analysis and write a list of all your hard and soft skills. This should be your start point. Try to come up with around 10 hard skills and 10 soft skills. Remember, your skills don’t always come from your jobs - you may have developed skills from additional courses you’ve done or activities that you do in your spare time, such as leading or participating in sports teams. Look back over your work, studies or leisure activities and think about the tasks you completed in each. This helps you identify the skills you've learned. If you are able to recognise your skill set, you'll find it much easier to work out what you want to do. 

If you’re struggling with this step, use our personality assessment tool to help you work out what your skills are, and where they can take you. It will also help you to understand your individual working-style so you can gain an understanding of the roles you might be naturally well-suited to.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What am I good at? How can I evidence that? 

  • What are my strongest attributes? 

  • How can I demonstrate them? 

  • What do I enjoy doing? 

  • What do I dislike doing? 

  • What geographical constraints apply? 

  • When am I realistically available? 

  • How adaptable to change am I? 

  • What is my minimum salary target? 

  • Are you process or personality driven? 


Translate your military skills

Working out the relevance of your military skills for a civilian job and then translating them into the language of a civilian employer can be one of the most challenging parts of your journey into civilian employment. We have found a number of veterans who believe that they don’t have the right skills and experience for a certain industry - when in fact, they are a perfect fit. The non-technical skills - the ‘soft skills’ - are seen by many employers to be a real strength of ex-military people and are just as important as technical skills or ‘hard’ skills. 

For further guidance on choosing your career after the military, download our toolkit for free



Write down a list of 10 key elements you believe would be the perfect job for you that encompass your own skills, experience, ambition and values. Now you’ll need to try to focus your job search on industries and roles that include at least 7 of these elements.



  1. IT, cyber security and other ‘digital’ jobs

  2. Construction and engineering

  3. Operations and project management (including IT project management)

  4. Transport and logistics

  5. Data analysis and data scientist


IT, Cyber Security and Other ‘Digital’ Jobs

Cyber Security, fraud and financial crime and ‘governance, risk and compliance’ are all fast growing sectors and one to which your military security skills and experience are very well aligned. Most people think cyber security jobs are very technical and require IT skills and qualifications. However, while some roles are very technical, your general military security training and experience are highly transferable to information security - where there is a huge shortage of quality people.  Employers are urgently seeking people for jobs such as Security Operations Centre (SOC) analysts/ managers, incident response managers, security consultants or in policy, risk or compliance roles, all of which are very well suited to military generalists. 

If cyber security is an industry of interest to you, then you should check out our handy ‘get into cyber’ article which details a step-by-step plan to help military veterans get into the cyber security industry. 

Construction & Engineering

During any recession, the government uses infrastructure projects to aid recovery. Brexit will also impact heavily on the construction sector by reducing the number of jobs available to foreign workers, especially in lower skilled roles. 

The construction industry also recognises the value of ex-military employees, so the sector is a good one to target - once you have your basic ‘cards’ and qualifications, you can progress quickly into well paid and relatively secure jobs. Organisations like Buildforce will help you target the right job and advise on qualifications etc. And the HS2 project offers great opportunities, especially for those living within the corridor 50 miles either side of the proposed route.

The UK is prepared to invest £640 billion in roads, railways and housing over the next five years, while the equivalent global forecast is a staggering $50 trillion. Already faced with an immense skills shortage, delivering this ambitious programme will involve an entire rethink of the way the industry has traditionally gone about attracting talent.

Currently, a large percentage of construction labour comes from Europe. Take London as an example, where, according to ONS figures, non-UK nationals accounted for 40% of workers in building construction in the capital. 

Operations and Project Management 

Operations and programme/ project managers are always in demand. The great advantage of roles of this type is that they exist in every sector. No matter what the industry, qualified professionals are always needed to plan and provision the work. 

Project managers are needed in a wide variety of industries. Although quite common in the IT field, project-oriented work is also common in business services, oil and gas, finance and insurance, manufacturing, construction and utility industries—all over the world. There are plenty of opportunities for advancement. Highly experienced, specialised, certified project managers can expect to see double the entry-level salary—or more.

A PMI report claims ‘Demand over the next 10 years for project managers is growing faster than demand for workers in other occupations. Organisations, however, face risks from this talent gap.’

Transport, Rail and Logistics

Companies in the transport, rail and logistics have traditionally recruited strongly from the Armed Forces. Many will help jobseekers gain relevant qualifications or pay for training to complete modules to gain licences. Companies like Kuhne Nagel, DHL and Jewsons have been recognised by the MOD for their work to support the Armed Forces and have specific programmes to help ex-military jobseekers into employment. 

Similarly, most of the rail operating companies recognise the value of ex-military employees and offer both secure jobs and attractive salary and conditions.


Now that you have a better understanding of the sorts of jobs you want to work in and have identified your transferable skills and experience, you can start the important task of narrowing down the options. We recommend targeting no more than 2 or 3 job roles in 1 or 2 sectors and focus your energy and effort on them - don’t make the mistake of taking a ‘spray and pray’ approach to your job search, which simply doesn’t work.

 Next, take a look at job descriptions of your target roles, especially the ‘essential’ or ‘required’ skills and experience sectors, you can start to identify any gaps in your skills and experience - and how to fill them.



Your own military experience and skills are valuable when looking to get into any commercial role. However, the more you can add to these skills, the better - not least because you’re also showing you are keen and willing to learn.  Though technical qualifications and training aren’t necessarily essential, make sure that you have filled any gaps in your CV where possible to make sure that you stand out from the crowd.

There are many organisations that offer training courses and work placement experience to help you to add to your portfolio and gain a better insight into specific sectors.


Qualifications are not essential, so do not panic if you don’t have any relevant ones - but equally, there are a number of qualifications and training you can get - either while still in the military or when you have left - to help make you a more competitive candidate. 

There are several ways to fill any skills gaps you’ve identified as well as that commercial experience barrier that you may be concerned about, find out how in our guide to filling your skills gaps after the military.


When you read job descriptions, you’ll see many of them require commercial experience in order to get into even some entry-level positions. Work experience, internships and apprenticeships can play a vital role in strengthening your CV and can undoubtedly make you become more employable by building your own skills set as well as showcasing your skills and experience to potential employers. You can also gain important insights about a job role, an employer and whether this is really the right path for you. 

Job shadowing, internships or work experience are one of the most valuable steps you can take on your journey into employment. There are many websites that link students to work placements but very few linking ex-military people with job shadowing opportunities; something SaluteMyJob is trying to rectify. In the meantime, try approaching companies directly to ask if they are willing to offer paid work placements as a way to help you acquire the necessary practical experience, especially as a follow on to any training courses or qualifications you’ve gained.

For those in resettlement and entitled, the MOD will pay your salary and expenses for ‘Civilian Work Attachments’. This is a great scheme, albeit you have to jump through a number of bureaucratic hoops as part of the approvals process; see the CTP website for more details.



The reality today is that a ‘spray and pray’ approach, banging out a standard CV to multiple employers simply doesn’t work. Employers are looking for CVs that match their job descriptions and increasingly they are using technology to do an initial comparison. If your skills and experience don’t match, you risk being sifted out before a human has even looked at it. This requires a targeted approach. Focus on the jobs you have the skills and experience to do and take the time to match them to the employers’ requirements. A generic CV is the quick way to the delete button on a recruiter’s keyboard.

Your CV has 30 seconds to impress an employer so to make sure your CV stands out with our CV step-by-step guide and CV template.



As well as creating that stand-out CV, when looking for a new job it is important to have a professional online presence where you can highlight your skills and experience to prospective employers. Not only will you be able to showcase why employers should hire you - but having a professional profile will help you build a network of contacts and connect with others who will be able to assist you in your job search. In particular, it’s important to make sure that your LinkedIn profile is complete, up to date and highlights all your skills, so that recruiters searching for them will find you. Check out LinkedIn’s article on optimising your LinkedIn profile for job searching for a step-by-step guide.


Cover letters are usually the first chance you get to stand out to your potential employer and that is why it is essential to include one with every application. Essentially, your cover letter is an opportunity to draw attention to your CV, containing your relevant information, experience and skills. In just a couple of words, you should be able to show your suitability for the role and your genuine interest in the job. Experts from The Guardian advise to ‘Keep it short, do your research and tailor it to the job’. Take a read through LinkedIn’s article on how to write an amazing cover letter for a detailed guide.



Networking does not come easily to most people, seeming ‘salesy’ and self-promoting – which it is! But it is important to recognise that it is the norm in business – people expect it (indeed enjoy it), and it is in itself excellent sales training. Networking is much more than collecting business cards - it’s about building rapport and relationships that can and do lead to a job. There are 1000s of ex-military people who have successfully transitioned to civilian employment before you who are willing to help, all you need to do is ask. So how do you network successfully? Here are our Top Tips on virtual networking for a job in 2021



In essence, an interview is where employers want to establish that you ‘Can Do’, ‘Will Do’, and ‘Will Fit’. It takes one set of skills to do a job well, and a completely different set to talk about yourself under pressure in a way that convinces other people to select you for it. Confidence is key here and in order to convince an interviewer of your fit for the job, you need to be able to convince yourself. Which is why preparation is key! 


Firstly, it is important to know about an employer’s recruitment process, which does vary widely. Most commonly, once a job has been advertised and the deadline has closed, employers will create a short-list and successful candidates will be invited for interview and/ or assessment.



So you’ve got an interview. Now what? Expect to spend several hours getting ready for each interview if you are to perform effectively. It’s taken you a lot of work to get you to that point, so don’t skimp at the critical stage. If you are genuinely well prepared for an interview you should be able to feel more confident - and potentially even enjoy it.

Ensure you know as much about the interview as possible: what format (panel; one to one, competency-based); who will be conducting it (research them via LinkedIn) and expected duration. 

But how do you prepare?

For a full checklist, be sure to take a read through our top tips on preparing for a job interview here.



So you’re fully prepared - now it is time to showcase why you are the best candidate for the job. There’s a few really simple yet important things to remember when walking into that interview so be sure to read through our 10 Interview Tips to Make Sure You Get Hired.


Up to the point an offer of employment is extended by a company, the balance of power is with them. They can say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to you at any stage of the process – but the more time they spend on you, the more that balance begins to shift in your direction. Once the offer is made, the power shift is complete – now it’s your chance to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. So the first point to appreciate is that you are no longer a candidate – they want you, which gives you a degree of leverage. But don’t abuse that power! Take a read through our article on the 6 things you should always consider before accepting a job offer to ensure you’ve checked everything off before you say yes.

Then there’s the salary. Many people find conversations about salary extremely awkward but it is important to get it right. Remember, it is a routine conversation for HR people and they expect you to negotiate: so don’t be shy! To help you best prepare for the discussion, our careers consultants have produced a top tips guide full of advice on how to successfully negotiate your salary.




Starting a new job can be daunting - even more so if this is your first job since leaving the military. Taking on new responsibilities, meeting new colleagues, learning a new way of working and being immersed in a different culture can be overwhelming. To help you take a read through our guide to achieving success in a new job so that you can hit the ground running and make a real impact from the start.


A report by Deloitte, Veterans Work: Moving on Report, found that 70% of veterans under 30 say 'career progression' is the most important factor when searching for a civilian job. To ensure you’re set up for success, ensure that you have a career development plan. And take ownership of your personal development; be sure you’re keeping up to date with industry news, never stop networking and speak to your manager and always look for feedback.

Interestingly, a previous report by Deloitte, Veterans Work: Recognising the potential of ex-Service personnel, found in addition to offering a broad range of skills, a majority of employers reported that ex-military employees are promoted more quickly (53%). So how can you be part of the 53%? Read our guide on advancing in your career for more tips.  

And finally…


  1. Understand your transferable key skills, knowledge and experience - know what you have to offer and how much you are worth.

  2. Target the industry and company that needs your skills and offers the role you want. Take the time to match your CV to the job description.

  3. Plan, prepare and practice. Time spent in reconnaissance and research is NEVER wasted.

  4. Every ex-military person is in your network - use it.

  5. Register with SaluteMyJob. We are here to help, every step of the way.

Previous PostNext Post

No comments on "Military to Civvy Street: The Ultimate Guide To A Successful Career Transition"