Learning after the Army…

So in my 14 years in the Army I don’t think I ever did any kind of learning that wasn’t either a). Enforced or b). Mandatory. I didn’t do anything to better myself; I was sat stale and stagnant all that time. The reason? Well because I didn’t have to and nobody told to if I’m being honest! So, when it came to leaving the Forces (virtually qualification-less) and I had enrolled onto the CIPD Human Resources Practices course with Development Processes Group I was really quite worried. I’d paid a lot of money to do a course that spanned a significant period of time and I wasn’t even sure if I was capable of completing it…..Suddenly doubt crept in – Would I be able to do it? Was I intelligent enough? Did I still have the capacity to learn and retain information after all those years of being in the learning wilderness?

There was only one way to find out!

The first workshop I remember being especially nervous as I arrived at the Oulton Hall equipped with brand new pencil case, laptop and other sparkly new learning paraphernalia. I wasn’t nervous about meeting new people as I’d done that my whole career but worried that I wouldn’t have the foggiest idea about what was being taught, scared that it would all go over my head…So, as it turned out the first session was a bit heavy as we were introduced to the HR Profession Map and such and I honestly walked out of that room at the end of the day with my brain feeling like it had done 10 rounds with Mike Tyson!! I was just so relieved to be going home…

However, as the months went on and the workshops started flying by and more to the point the assignments were ‘meeting all criteria’ I started to look forward to them more and more. Id got it, it all clicked, my brain was back in absorbing mode and we were loving it. The thirst for information became more and more and the more I applied what I’d learnt at work the more I wanted to know…the learning became like a drug to me and I briefly wondered why I had not done some kind of development sooner? I was in this wonderful bubble. I had an amazing facilitator that was experienced, kind and supportive and I was surrounded by likeminded professionals all on the same journey.

Before I knew it we were at workshop 9 (the last workshop) and it was time to celebrate our success. We had made it and although there was still some work to be done it was a day of mixed emotions. I was so happy to be finally finishing the course as I’d dreamt of Sunday morning lay ins and lazy days instead of 4-5hrs slogging it out in front of the computer whilst the rest of the world perused the morning papers and drank slow coffees BUT I was also so sad that I wasn’t going to be meeting up with these great people who had now become firm friends and I wasn’t going to be doing any more learning.

Anyway, I submitted my final assignment and received the email I had long been waiting for – I had passed!! I was so pleased and have probably never been more proud of myself.

But with the course passed and having some time to reflect, looking back now with my attitude to learning the way it is I literally feel as though I have wasted the last 14 years of my life. I wish that I had done something different to vegging out in the block on a night watching rubbish TV or going out drinking when I was bored and enrolled in something at the Army Education Centre or at a nearby college. I wish I had used my time more productively, given myself better opportunities than I did. I mean the Forces predominantly supports its soldiers’ learning and it is all there for you – they even pay for it for goodness sakes! But as they say, you live and learn and I have certainly learnt my lesson – Never again will I allow myself to get into that rut, of that I am sure.

So what now for me and my continuous professional development?

Well, I’m already investigating and pricing up courses to work towards a Degree in Human Resources and I literally can’t wait but first….there’s the small matter of having a baby!! Yes, our baby is due on 3rd Jan and we are just thrilled about it but back to the matter at hand….Other than sharing an experience I just hope that this blog post might inspire one person who may be feeling some self-doubt or worry about learning that you can do it and all the hard work is worthwhile. Just go for it, stick your head above the educational parapet – you just might like it!

http://www.cipd.co.uk
http://www.dpgplc.co.uk

The Telephone Interview

The phone interview…It’s no big deal, right? Easiest thing ever as I talk to people all the time on the phone, right? It will be a piece of cake, wont it? How wrong was I?! 

One morning I received a phone call from an unknown number, I always assume it’s a potential employer calling so I answered as clearly and politely as possible.  It turns out its a Recruitment Representative from Jet2 with regards to a vacancy I have applied for.  I couldn’t for the life of me remember the details of the post so I explained it wasn’t the most convenient time and asked them if it was possible to phone back in 10 minutes.  They were more than happy to oblige.  This gave me enough time to whizz upstairs, open up my job application spreadsheet, click onto the link to the role and have a quick read over the job specification.  By the time the Rep called back 10 minutes later I was completely clued up and feeling confident with my notebook and pen at the ready. 

After the initial pleasantries the Rep then got straight to it and started asking me a lot of competence based interview questions…What could I bring to the Role?  How would I rate myself on Excel?  What project work have I done in the past? I was completely unprepared.  I’d not done any prep on the Company or the role and it showed.  I was trying to base my answers on the job spec I had in front of me on the computer screen, trying to tell her what I thought she wanted to hear, it was all a complete bluff.  I could feel myself getting more and more flustered and found myself giving long winded answers that weren’t even relevant to the question – I was quickly talking myself out of the job by waffling!  

Once the realisation hit me that I was letting this amazing opportunity slip away, I somehow found it inside me, mid-telephone call to compose myself and just speak, normally.  I started to give clear, concise and short answers to the questions and even better, I provided examples of times when I’d performed certain tasks.  I was back on track! 

The call ended about 20 minutes later and in the end it had gone well but it was a big wakeup call that perhaps this job searching wasn’t going to be as easy as I had originally thought.  I had very nearly wasted a good chance of getting a job that I was more than qualified and wholly suitable for because I couldn’t get my act together over the phone.  After this event I did a lot of research on commonly used interview questions and pre-planned my answers carefully using examples of each competence to prove I was capable/experienced. 

I was called back a few days later and was informed I had made it through to the next round of screening.  On this occasion I was lucky, very, very lucky but I vowed never to be that unprepared for anything ever again.  The Military talks a lot about the 7 P’s – stick with em!

Applying for Jobs…? Get Organised!!

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The following post is about my experiences of applying for positions and a few things that I have found handy.

In the early days of my Resettlement leave I wasn’t applying for too many jobs, just the ones that I really fancied or a random one that sounded interesting or a role that was a bit of a stab in the dark.  So, as you can imagine it wasn’t too hard to keep a track of what I had on going.  However, as the weeks progressed and I came closer to my discharge date I was applying for more and more jobs and was worried about losing track of my applications.  Could you imagine being contacted for a position by an employer and not having a clue which role they were talking about?!  Not the most  impressive or professional way to start with a potential employer!

So, I decided I needed to be organised and made myself and excel spreadsheet with the details of all the jobs I was applying for.  This information was collated from the initial job advertisement and the receipt of application email normally sent.  My column headings were as follows:

  • Job Title
  • Recruiting Agency/Website
  • Recruiter Contact Details
  • Web Link to the Job (if applicable)
  • Job Reference Number
  • Salary or Hourly Rate
  • Date of Application
  • Current Status of Application

I filled this spreadsheet in religiously as I went along and even went as far as using colour for the status of the application. For example.  Red Cells if it was longer than 6 weeks since application or I had a rejection letter/email, amber cells if I had just applied for the position and green cells if there was some interest from the employer.  This made it then very easy to see where I was at with each individual application and also if the phone rang I could just hop on the computer and be completely happy with which position I was discussing and who I was discussing it with.

I also made a ‘Job Applications’ folder in my Professional email Inbox (you have made a separate professional email account right??) so that I could keep all my applications together.  That way as I needed certain emails they were easily and quickly located and I wasn’t trawling through hundreds of emails to find them with an employer/recruiter hanging on the phone.  And once that application was ‘redded out’ for whatever reason I could delete them.

I found that this system is simple and effective and it proved that it worked when I was called by a Recruitment Representative from Jet2 with regards to a position that I applied for BUT that is a different post all together!

Work Placement – Part 1

I knew right from the start of my Resettlement phase that I was going to back up my HR/Administration experiences with HR qualifications, there was never any thought of having a complete career change for me BUT I also knew that it would be essential to get on some kind of work placement attachment. 

I thought about Companies/Organisations where I would do my placement and initially came up with Leeds United Football Club, Leeds Rhinos Rugby Club and lastly with the Hunslet Hawks Rugby Club.  They were all sports orientated which is a major passion of mine but they were also local to where I live.  After a little bit of thought I thought I should do my placement with an Organisation that held some weight in society and would add some real substance to my CV and my Linked In profile.  I then thought about the NHS and wondered if they would have me??

 So……I popped on an NHS Networking site on Linked In and started a new conversation explaining  my situation and asking if anyone could shed any light on Work Placements within the NHS.  I didn’t really expect many replies, if any, but people were SO helpful!  I was getting replies from Medical Students in Newcastle right up to Consultant Cardiologist in Birmingham, I was absolutely amazed by peoples kindness.  One person actually was so helpful that they took my phone number and rang me from her holiday home in France!  She gave me a little interview asking why I wanted a placement with the National Health Service and after that went well she passed on the name and address of the Director of NHS HR in Leeds.  I sent off my CV and a covering letter the next day. 

A few weeks later I received an email from the head of the Medical Staffing Team at St James’ Teaching Hospital inviting me for an interview to discuss my potential placement.  So, dressed in my best bib and tucker I bowled up to my interview with a very brief knowledge of the Dept but also with a  ridiculous amount of enthusiasm and positivity.  After a brief interview I was accepted for the full 6 weeks that I’d requested.  I was ecstatic!! 

I’d secured my Placement 8 months before I was due to leave the Army and it felt great.  There was now no stress, no mad rush and I’d got the Placement I’d wanted and wasn’t going to be forced to do something I didn’t want to do through lack of planning. 

I guess what Im trying to get across in this blog is that there are people out there who are willing to help you for nothing in return and also that planning your Resettlement to the n’th degree is vital to a successful transition.