Leaving the Army doesn’t need to feel like the end of the world. John Zampa-Howe worked for the Army for 25 years before deciding to take the leap into a new industry.
John, who is now a Carbon60 defence and technology specialist consultant, shared his initial thoughts on leaving the Army after 25 years; “I just thought - What have I done?!” Like most career soldiers, he was institutionalised and thoughts of discharging made him think of prison movies where a convict was being released after 25 years back into civilian life.
But John realised it wasn’t nearly as daunting as he’d initially feared.
“It is important to research a new industry, to minimise the risk of starting a new job you do not understand, with no training. Seizing an opportunity to start again can be a great experience,” explains John.
John offers some top pieces of advice for army personnel venturing into new careers, aimed to support those considering a transition to civilian life:
Maintain and Expand your Professional Network
“Despite wanting to leave the Army, defence can still offer you security and stability while you seek out your next role. If you’re unsure about making the final jump, Reserve Service can provide great networking opportunities.”
“Start talking to people in the sectors and fields that interest you. Create a LinkedIn profile and start making connections with recruitment consultants and leaders in the industries you’re considering. Carry out research on the type of career you want to pursue, and look into possible routes to your new dream role.”
Prepare for Interviews
“Practice makes perfect! Write down and rehearse your elevator pitch. Think about your successes, transferable skills, and personal attributes. Seek advice and feedback wherever possible. Rehearse with someone you’re comfortable with and get them to ask you some difficult questions in anticipation of the big interviews you’ve got lined up.”
“Research what good resumes look like and start building your CV in-line with the roles you’re applying for. Ask contacts in your network to review your CV, and ask them to share theirs with you for inspiration and guidance. I asked my partner to read over my resume, and she tweaked the language away from ‘Army speak’ so it was better suited to the roles I was applying for. Find a format that is clear and concise and tells the story of who you are through your career to date.”
Employers Want Technical, Specific Experience
“Many jobs require technical skills or expertise in addition to managerial experience. Getting to an interview on general managerial experience can be hard. Think about how you can utilise previous technical experience and skillsets, and where you can gain more experience that may be needed for your next career move.”
Find Somewhere to Live
“I found that after moving around every three years, an advantage that came with leaving the Army is you can choose where you live. Pick somewhere within your means that has a good employment rate, and convenient commuting options. Doing your homework and talking to people in the geographical areas you’re interested in moving to is key.”
Accept it’s Going to be Vastly Different
“If you’ve done well in the high-pressure military environment, then you should be confident in your transferable abilities. You can use your high-level military leadership skills to excel at whatever you decide to pursue. I was a Sergeant Major in the Army and had spent a lot of time in Special Operations Command (SOCOMD) so I had a very strong leadership style and was used to working under pressure. Those conditioned skills helped me massively when I transitioned into a civilian role.”
John’s main tip for all defence personnel is to embrace change and new opportunities, and enjoy the ride - “Leaving the military and finding a great new career is no more daunting than joining the military in the first place!”