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Careers Advice for job seekers leaving the Armed Services

I was recently asked for some careers advice by an armed services leaver, who doubted his ability to find work outside of the army.  He had recently left the armed forces and was looking for a job with an engineering company, his problem was that he just couldn’t see the relevance of his uniformed skills and qualifications, he even described his services qualifications as “worthless”.  I have spent a number of years working in Engineering recruitment, and now work for the leading online job board for the oil and gas sector –   I offered this career change advice, and also include it here in the hope that might be useful for any ex-services people looking for their next career move.

If this story sounds familiar to you, I’d like to reassure you that your ex military skills and qualifications are not at all “worthless” in civvy street.   Far from it, in fact in my own experience, the combination of your inherent ability to get the job done within the constraints of time, budget, under pressure and often in adverse conditions, are just the skills that employers are looking for, particularly in these cash strapped times.

Your experience working in a Military engineering function has probably involved working to strict HSE guidelines and you may have knowledge of ISO standards, all highly sought after skills in engineering companies.  In your role in forces equipment support and maintenance you may have knowledge of document control, stores and equipment database systems and computerised maintenance systems, (CMMS), all valuable to engineering employers.  You may have mechanical or electrical maintenance skills and qualifications, again highly relevant to engineering companies, you might have logistics or man management skills.  You will probably have self discipline in spades and a work ethic most employers can only dream of, you might remain loyal under pressure, and understand the true meaning of team work.  For any employer advertising engineering jobs, what’s not to like?!

The good news is that results of a recent survey have just been released by NOF Energy, they are the business development organisation for the oil and gas, nuclear and offshore wind industry in the UK.  NOF surveyed their members on the confidence of the engineering supply chain sector in the UK, and the results bode well for anyone looking for a new job in engineering and support services in the energy sector globally.  90% forecast growth, 30% predict major growth and 70% predict creating new jobs.  These developments related to UK companies, but these companies were supplying a worldwide engineering industry.

The jobs are out there for you, but you need to know how to get your CV on the right desk.  So, start with your CV, check the way that you describe your armed forces skills and align them to those you see in relevant job adverts, make sure the language of those adverts and your CV match.  Use the same keywords where possible in your description of your own skills.  Find a couple of really good engineering recruitment companies, go in and talk to them, ask your ex service colleagues for suggestions here.  Speak to your local Regular Forces Employment Agency or Veterans Association who will support you in your search, and will probably have good connections with local employers who actively favour ex services and military personnel.

Once you are satisfied that your CV is a winner, make sure you understand the importance of optimising your CV for an online job board.  Now, get it out there where recruiters can find you on relevant online job boards, it should be free to register, post your CV online and register for relevant job alerts.

I’m sure your training and years of service and dedication have taught you to persevere in the face of difficulty, and to overcome whatever challenges come your way.  See this job hunt as just one more mission, and I’m sure you will succeed.

Good Luck!

Follow me on Twitter @RowenaSimpson

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  • Jason Lockley

    Having been in the forces and now very much involved with the recruitment of Engineers I’d be more than happy to give any service leaver the “heads up” about what they might need to say or do and indeed how to attack the job market. I have had many dealings with the CTP etc and whilst they have everyone’s best intentions at heart they do transmit to the general audience during that resettlement week. I sometimes feel that the advice given to someone from the Supply and Secretariat branch may not be what is required by those leavers who are from the engineering disciplines. I have mooted this point to the CTP before that they ought to look at the make up of their audience as opposed to “lumping” those people who are leaving at the same time together in one room giving them all the same standard brief.

  • ashtonV

    It is good that you have chosen your wants not because you are being forced by other people. It is more important to have your success because you want it.
    People who think about putting their career search on hold through the holiday seasons ought to think again. As business winds down during the holidays, career seekers should maintain their resolve. Dedicated job hunters will encounter fewer rivals and more personal attention from companies that are hiring.

  • Richard Gray


    Thanks for taking the time to respond to my article, it’s good to get the perspective of someone who has been in the armed services, and understands some of the challenges that anyone leaving military service and looking for a new job will encounter.

    Jason, I know that you have particular expertise in placing ex services job seekers in engineering roles, and I would advise anyone leaving the army, navy, air force, or indeed any of the services, to give you a call and have a chat with you about their career options.


    Follow me on Twitter @rowenasimpson

  • Mike


    Thanks for sharing. As an active duty AF member with 20+ years it is nice to know there is a light at the end of the tunnel. With retirement right around the corner the transition is a little stressful. I am looking forward to starting over. I know in my heart the value system and work ethic I have followed all these years will count for something.


  • Rowena Simpson


    Good luck in your new life in “civvy street” I know that there are definately employers out there who will value your skills and experience gained in the armed forces.

    Speaking to people like Jason Lockley will help to point you in the right direction.

    Make sure you also load your CV up to our site It’s free and will enable hundreds of recruiters and employers to search for you and contact you directly.

    Good Luck.

    Follow me on Twitter @rowenasimpson

  • Lee Blowers

    Rowena, thank you so much for your post, very encouraging, however, after leaving the RAF as an engineer of 22 years I have nothing but brick walls in the oil & gas industry. They all want previous offshore experience which of course ex-forces do not have. How do I get over that seemingly insurmountable hurdle?

  • Rowena Simpson


    Here’s some good news – Take a look at the emerging Renewables market. I’ve been speaking to companies who are starting to look for employees willing to work offshore, but not neccessarily with Oil&Gas experience, some of them will put you through the training too. Ex services would make great employees for these firms.

    If you havent done already take a look at our RenewablesCareers site, register for job alerts and load your CV.

    Here’s the link:

    I’m attending an increasing number of industry events where it’s clear that there is a fast emerging offshore wind industry which will be looking for employees.


  • Lee Blowers

    Thats brilliant, thank you Rowena. Frustrating trying to get in to oil & gas as I have paid over £2200 in offshore courses including CompEx and BOSIET but I keep getting the same, that companies don’t like/or are at least reluctant to take on ‘green hats’

  • Richard Law

    If it’s worth anything to anyone I spent 15 years in the military as an Engineer Officer and then made it straight into the Oil and Gas industry. Persistence and a little luck will get you some of the way but I also found that sending copies of my annual reports worked. I did this twice and was offered both jobs!
    After 12 months I was promoted to be Operations Manager of a well know systems integrator in the Gas industry.
    I’m hearing that offshore work is not as plentiful as in the past but there is still lots of work out there. In the past 18 months I have strengthened our team with ex forces.
    Keep looking and don’t under sell yourself.

  • Damian Wright

    hi,i’ve spent 9 years in the RN and been on civvie street for a while now,kids are now grown up and im wanting to get into this sector,does anybody have any tips on how to go about it and where i should be looking,thanks in advance

  • Damian Wright

    also what training do i need to do too,thanks

  • Gerry McGonigle

    Hi, what branch were you in in the RN?

  • Graeme Mursell

    Hey there im currently serving in the Royal Signals, soon to leave for Afghanistan on a 7 month tour, my intentions are to leave after tour, a career in the Oil Industry is very interesting to me but im not sure were to start or if having little experience hinders me. Any information or guidance would be much appreciated.
    Im a Specialist/Radio Operator, Corporal, 26.

  • Leigh Magill

    Hi, After 12 years in the RN as an Aircraft Engineer I have now been working for a Helicopter Operator in Aberdeen doing the same for the past 3 1/2 years. Whilst this is on the fringe of the Oil & Gas industry I want to move into the offshore sector fully. I have submitted my CV in application for many relevant positions on the website but so far have been unsuccessful. One recruitment company told me they had nothing relevant to my skills, even though I explained that I was a Mechanical Technician and was looking to moveaway from aviation. How do I get the recruitment agencies and employers to understand the relevance of my experience?
    Any help greatfully recieved.

    Gerry, is that the same Gerry ex-Gannet/ex-Masu CPO?

    Thanks, Leigh

  • barry

    I might be getting redundancy in june I am in the army and I have done 16 years I am a pl sgt in the army I have been in since I was16 is this the right job for me

  • Anonymous

    im also ex army 4 years infantry, no skills currently working on the isle of man at my local gas authority looking for a very basic job on land or offshore rig to build up quals/exp! intelligent, fit and able to start anything as and when I find something, in search of a new life direction.. just needing the opp. This seems to be a case of who you know not what you know, very difficult area of employment to find work after applying with many agencies… any help please email Thanks

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