Why Employers Want To Hire Ex-Defence Staff (And How To Make It Work)

By Sophie Richards on 24 August 2017

Why Employers Want To Hire Ex-Defence Staff

Individuals leaving the forces often think they need to start at the bottom because their experience doesn’t fit what employers require within commercial industry.

The job descriptions are too different and the selection criteria is foreign and confusing. Sound familiar? If you have experienced this, you are not alone.

But here’s the good news – veterans can find successful and meaningful long term careers in defence industry with employers who really get it.

One of the biggest challenges faced by those applying for a role in industry after transitioning from the forces is translating previous experience.

Commercial job applications often require you to define how you have demonstrated skills that weren’t emphasised in Defence. Although this might make you think you don’t have what’s needed, coming from a life in the forces provides individuals with a unique set of attributes to bring to any role. The only hurdle is finding the words to communicate this to civilians.

To help get you started, here are five key reasons employers want to hire ex-Defence workers and questions to ask yourself when looking for supporting examples from your own experience.


Five reasons employers want to hire ex-Defence workers

In general, ex-Defence personnel are:

1. Adaptable and quick to learn

Can you think of a time when you needed to quickly adapt to a new situation? How did you go about it?

Things change rapidly within the Defence space and in line with their role an individual can be asked to move locations, change projects or learn a new software with little notice. Out of necessity, this fosters skills such as flexibility, adapting to new situations and learning on the go. Employers can rely on ex-Defence personnel to pick up any new change and run with it.

2. Outcome management

Have you ever coordinated the administration or logistics of a project, team or yourself? How did you go about it and what did you achieve?

Inherent in Defence is the need to follow processes and procedures while also abiding by set personal and organisational standards. The training individuals receive during service ensures that every individual knows how to coordinate themselves within any process and how to take a task from one stage to another in an effective and time efficient way.

3. Leadership material

Can you think of a time when you taught someone something new or supervised their work? Did you ever guide someone towards a set outcome?

Even individuals that haven’t chosen to move into management or leadership roles will have managed or taught someone something at some point in their Defence career. The hierarchical nature of Defence allows everyone the chance to hone their skills of instruction and supervision.

4. Experts at working in a team

When have you worked in a team towards a desired outcome? What did you do to ensure you worked effectively within the team?

Defence is all about working with those around you and contributing your strengths to the larger picture. Regardless of position, ex-Defence staff have learnt how to work with a wide variety of people from every level and know how best to contribute to the team at hand.

5. Resilient

Can you think of time you achieved an outcome despite a difficult or stressful environment? What motivated you to do this?

There is no doubt that Defence personnel are often required to work in stressful and arduous conditions every now and then. The drive and motivation that it takes to perform well under these conditions shows strength of character and a resiliency that is unparalleled.


How to make sure your new career is a success

So, you’ve figured out how to your experience translates. Now you need to find an employer who will really appreciate you.

In defence industry, you’ll find lots of very supportive employers. There are so many reasons to support veteran employment, but what makes defence industry unique is the sheer number of workers that are ex-Defence.

Aside from working alongside fellow veterans, look for an organisation that will offer some or all of the following:

  1. Invest time in understanding and capitalising on the benefits of employing ex-Defence workers

  2. Established veteran support networks, either official or unofficial

  3. Give back to the veteran community and show that it is valued at an organisational level

  4. Provide their HR and Talent Acquisition teams with adequate training to recognise the value veterans bring, as well as the right mental health support for all workers

Although transitioning from the forces can be a challenging experience, a lot of it comes down to differences in language and finding a way to communicate your experience. Many seemingly Defence focused responsibilities can be easily applied to skills required in commercial industry, so take the time to think about how you can transfer them.

Remember that we all bring unique value to the workplace, and civilian organisations are lucky to have you.


Photo by Amy Hirschi on Unsplash

** This blog has been updated in 2022 to reflect more recent defence industry trends.

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