The Challenge of Transitioning from the Defence Force to “Civvy Street”


As a former naval officer, I have experienced firsthand the challenge of deciding when and how to execute the transition from the armed forces to “civvy street”. Whilst there are services offered to defence force personnel when leaving, such as resettlement or transition services, I found them to be inadequate and far from preparing me for what lay ahead.

So, what to do?

Accident, Luck or Design?

When I joined the Navy it was more by accident!   It turned out pretty ok and when I did finally leave the Navy, I was lucky in that I ended up in a great role with a very good company.  But if you asked me was that the role I thought I was going to get the answer is “no!” From there it was all up to me and the rest of my career has been predominantly by design.  I would recommend a career by design, but then don’t let the odd accidental or lucky role get in the way!  I know many ex-service men and women who face a real challenge finding the right role when leaving the defence force that becomes the foundation for their career moving forward.

Adding to the dilemma is that some employers value the transferrable skills that a former member of the military can bring and contribute, whilst others don’t.   The usual negative connotation is that having been in the military you are not considered “commercial” and so won’t fit in.  My response is to prove them wrong!

Transferrable Competencies:

So, what in general are the transferrable competencies that someone coming out of the military can bring to a business?

The range of leadership qualities acquired by members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF), and by any related entity such as police, emergency services, etc., through their service and training are very valuable to civilian employers. Their talents are readily transferable between military and civilian life, and include:

  • learning agility
  • being highly motivated and punctual
  • communicating effectively to keep people informed
  • completing tasks efficiently and on time
  • working independently and as part of a team
  • leadership, but also able to follow instructions
  • being well presented and courteous
  • working with a variety of people from different backgrounds and with varying levels of experience
  • resilience, dealing with pressure and complex situations

Many, if not all, former members continue to live by core ADF values such as honesty, honour, initiative, integrity, respect and teamwork. These key qualities are valued in any workplace.

The other thing to consider is that, as an individual, having been in the ADF you will have encountered situations, challenges and dangers that the “average Joe” in the street would never have come across.  Use this as your competitive advantage!

Take Control:

The Bouncement ecosystem is of significant benefit to anyone who is considering leaving the ADF, or has done so in the past, in helping them navigate the world of work.  By doing so, you will know what your value and worth is to prospective employers.

Join Bouncement for FREE to build your Bouncement Employability Profile, and then access the Bouncement Forum for advice from your peers and employability experts on how to further develop your employability skills.

It’s Your Life.  It’s Your Career. You Own It.


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