How to choose your new career after the military

Posted on Friday, October 20, 2023 by Jo ReynoldsNo comments

When you leave the Armed Forces, you are not just seeking a new job; you will be transitioning to a different way of life and work environment. It can be a challenge to determine where your skillset and experience will fit in the commercial world. First and foremost, it’s about aligning your knowledge, skills, and experience with the right sector and job role—or a stepping-stone role that ultimately 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. Download our "Choosing Your Post-Military Career" toolkit to learn how to take a planned, targeted approach to your job search and thereby help you find the right job in the right organisation.


There is no 'right' or 'wrong' way to start a job search, but you can make the job easier on yourself if you have a proactive game plan. The military 'estimate' and planning process provides you with a good structure and an excellent way to set yourself a clear aim and targets.

In this article, we'll discuss the steps to choosing a career after the military:

Explore and Understand Your Transferable Skills Do some honest self-analysis and consider what hard and soft skills you have under your belt. This should be your starting point. Try to avoid a standardised list of skills ex-military personnel are known for; identify those skills that will make you stand out from the crowd.

Here are a few pointers:

  • Your skills don’t always come from your jobs – you may have developed skills from additional courses you’ve undertaken or activities that you engage in during your spare time, such as leading or participating in sports teams.
  • Reflect on your work, studies, or leisure activities and think about the skills you used to complete tasks.
  • Take a look at job descriptions on platforms like Indeed to use as a checklist.
  • Seek input from your colleagues and review your appraisals to identify your strongest attributes.

Remember, recognising your skill set will make it much easier to target the right job.

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

For those in resettlement or who are entitled to CTP, you can complete career assessment activities within your CTP web area in myPlan. SaluteMyJob has created a 'Filling The Skills Gap' series aimed at helping to translate the skills, experiences, and training of military personnel into commercial language.

Translate Your Acquired 'Soft' 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 that many veterans believe 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 as a real strength of ex-military personnel and are just as important as technical skills or 'hard' skills.

Identify Your Priorities Before entering the job market, it's worth setting some limits. Ask yourself questions that will help narrow down your job search and formulate your target company list.

  • What industries are you interested in?
  • What do I enjoy doing?
  • What do I dislike doing?
  • What are my geographical preferences?
  • What size company and culture interest me the most?
  • When am I realistically available?
  • What is my salary target?
  • Why are you leaving the military?
  • What do you want to achieve in your new job?

Explore and Research Industries and Roles Now that you have identified your transferable skills and experience and have a better understanding of what you're looking to get out of your second career, you can start the important task of narrowing down your options. We recommend targeting no more than 2 or 3 job roles in 1 or 2 sectors and focusing your energy and effort on them—don’t make the mistake of taking a scattergun approach to your job search, which simply doesn’t work.

Time spent in reconnaissance is never wasted, especially when it comes to your job search. The earlier you can set a target sector and types of roles to aim for, the less time you will waste applying for random jobs you're very unlikely to secure.

Below are some sectors that traditionally recruit strongly from the military community:

  • Security: Physical, maritime, and, more recently, cyber security. (Cyber is not just for the techies, by the way—there are great jobs in threat intel, risk, and cyber operations).
  • Construction and House Building: Brexit will impact construction companies with less foreign labour available. Target jobs that address known skills gaps in the sector and suit ex-military personnel, such as site management, operations, project management, logistics, etc.
  • Oil and Gas: Although traditionally a strong recruiter of ex-military talent, the oil and gas sector has recovered to a degree from the 2015 recession, and it might not be the first choice for many as it used to be.
  • IT and Comms: Companies like BT Openreach have recruited thousands of former Service men and women, not just those with military IT & Comms experience. The sector is facing significant skills gaps, so it’s well worth considering improving your digital skills and targeting some of the sector’s critical skills gaps, especially in programming or ‘devops’ (a combination of software development and IT operations), data analytics/forensics, cryptography, etc.
  • Financial Services: Not for everyone, perhaps, but banks and insurers are enthusiastic recruiters of ex-military talent, for both front-of-house and back-office roles.

Network and Explore If you don't know enough about a sector or role, take the time to research it in depth—it will not be wasted. Supplement your online research by finding someone in your network who can offer a personal perspective or knows someone who can. You'll be surprised by how willing people are to provide advice and assistance. Attend military insight days hosted by employers such as Virgin Money, JLR, Barclays. These events are often advertised on the Career Transition Partnership’s (CTP) website. Attend job fairs and online job fairs—CTP and BFRS advertise a range of employment fairs, online chat events, and company presentations across the UK.

Discover Commercial Companies Hiring Military Veterans From here, you can begin to research companies in these sectors and those that offer jobs that match your skills and interests. Take a look at the employers who have pledged to support the Armed Forces through the Armed Forces Covenant. Find out what employers and job opportunities there are in your area by using websites such as My World of Work or the National Careers Service.

Are you ready to find your next career path? A proactive game plan will help you focus your time, effort, and resources on securing the right job in the right organisation. Download our toolkit for a step-by-step guide and workbook to choosing your next career.

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