Leaving the forces and finding work in civvie street is never a straightforward prospect, and experiences vary widely. I was infantry (NCM) for 4.5 years, and here are some observations, my opinion only of course.
- A number of friends are in the "CP" world - although the "glory days" of that work seem to be over. Around 2003-2007, anyone and their dog could get hired, but as the demand has decreased (with the occupations of Iraq and Afghan winding down), the "caliber" of guys they want has increased. It is very competitive, and not as glamorous as lots of people think it is (this cannot be overstated). Also, think if you really want to carry a gun for a private company, like really think about it...
- Your rank, unfortunately for some, counts for little in finidng civilian jobs outside para-military type roles where they understand rank structure. For example, some of my friends who left the forces at Sjt and above are finding employment difficult, while some Riflemen are doing just fine. This can be a bitter pill to swallow. Going from being a “somebody” to a “nobody” – when civilians don’t know or care what the difference is between a platoon serjeant and a private soldier – can be very hard to take.
- Officers are a different story. They are more educated, usually much more polished, and have networks from before they were even in the forces. I may be generalizing a bit here (maybe from the Brit side of life), but I believe officers face a fraction of the hurdles NCMs do in finding civvie employment. They can just phone up the "old boys network" and they're away
. Seriously though, I don't think NCM to Officer civvie transitions are comparable...
My brother and I both spent roughly 4 years in the infantry (him CF, me British Army), and have managed to sort ourselves out.
I had no idea what I wanted to do, so went back to Uni, did a degree (Poli Sci), and found a good job with a major Canadian bank, working in Canada and the UK. I supplemented my schooling with a wide array of part-time jobs (marketing type roles – grunt work, low pay). I'm trying to get into the CF as an Infantry officer now – but my career prospects with the bank are excellent (if I had any desire to stick with it). I can’t stress enough that I think Uni is an excellent “incubator” for ex-forces. It will give you time to adjust, meet some hippie chicks, and try to figure out what it is you want to do while getting educated (work part time – not at a bar – but in a proper civvie job). If you can save money (I spent every penny) while you’re in, this will be easier, part-time work and loans will suffice otherwise.
My brother (ex-PPCLI) has gone into a specialized trade that is very hard to break into. He started out as a laborer before beginning his apprenticeship – it took a lot of perserverance just to get on as a laborer...
Long story short – do what you want to do in the forces – don’t join a trade just because it will be transferable to the outside. Leaving the forces is scary, and it will take a hell of a lot of work. But as an infantry soldier, you’ll be used to doing bitch work and not getting credit for it, you’ll be used to doing what you’re told regardless of how pointless it seems, and you’re used to working damn hard when you need to.
When my brother and I talk about finding work in civvie-street, we both credit the military experience on our CVs as the reason we got our respective jobs. No BS. Think of being the HR lackey going through a million resumes, then they see the forces. If nothing else, you're different off the bat.
Good luck – and remember – its up to you to sell yourself and find work. Nobody is motivating you anymore except yourself - it takes some getting used to!
Canada and the UK don’t have a GI Bill – so its totally on you (I promise no rant on this right now). Improvise, adapt and overcome – those civvie HR people won’t know what hit ‘em.