Moving Forward –>

When I first started out writing this blog it was all about trying to help others that were leaving the Military by documenting my resettlement journey. Being in the AGC(SPS) (Military HR Admin & Finance) there were things that I probably knew that others didn’t…The feedback that I have had from the blog is that people found it very interesting & extremely helpful especially the posts around job searching. The number of visitors and views it’s had would also indicate that it was well received, that and the invitations to write columns and articles for a number of magazines and organisations! Unfortunately I had to turn these amazing offers down as at the time as I just didn’t have the capacity given the enormity of the change I was going through. I am very proud of the blog and would go as far to say it’s one of my greatest achievements.
The thing is, I’ve been out of the military for around 3.5 years now and feel as though I’m relatively well settled in Civvy Street and my ‘new’ life in general. I can’t just keep writing about the Army and all the highs and pitfalls that come with that as that’s all in the past now – no new material will ever come of it. Yes there is a lot to share about my life whilst in the Army and the crazy experiences that it gave me so I’ve decided to try and put that down in an autobiography which I will hopefully publish on Amazon by the end of the year. 
Anyway, enough of that for now. So much has happened to me in the 3.5 years since I left the Army…I have had a promotion and change of role within my Company (Cummins Turbo Technologies), I’m now in a different, much better relationship and I am a mother. I know it’s not Forces related anymore but I don’t want the blog to stop as I just enjoy writing it so bloody much! So I’ve been thinking about the way to progress the blog and rather than keeping looking back I would like to just use it to record the life and times of a thirty something HR professional mother, wife, daughter and friend. I’m not trying to be another ‘Unmumsy Mum’ or anything like that although there will no doubt be shades of that at times but I want it to focus on me as a motivated, ambitious woman who is also a mother and wife in the hope that it can help or inspire other people out there (both male and female) that you can have kids and try and kick on in a career. I hope to cover things from things of interest I do at work, any personal or professional development and my professional journey wherever that may take me…I can’t promise that it will be exciting or as niche as before but it will be written as openly and articulately as I can manage with hopefully some humour thrown in.
Thanks again for reading and for your messages of support, Lucy 🙂

CVs

I see lots of people giving lots of advice on CVs…What to have on there and what not to have, CV cardinal sins etc and whilst they are generally helpful they all pretty much say the same thing. I think my own personal view is slightly different – here goes…

CVs do matter so you should put as much effort into it as you can. If you are not a person who is good with a computer or spelling then get someone who is to help you! 

The order of the information on the CV (to me) doesn’t really matter. Whether qualifications come at the end or the start or whether information is in reverse chronological or in paragraphs about core skills/attributes or greatest achievements. The main point to note is that the information you think is pertinent to that role, the information that you want to communicate is on there and is clear to read and/or extract. Over the last few years I have seen CVs in every shape, size and format – some conformed wonderfully to my OCD tendencies ie Nice font, all the same size, applicant not gone rogue with commas and apostrophes but then again others were very different!! Some candidates used lots of text and we’re VERY wordy, some used bullet points to present information in succinct bite size chunks. I’ve seen tables, I’ve seen CVs covered with numbers and percentages and CVs that came with photographs attached…I’ve seen them in all manner fonts and text sizes and lord knows what else but guess what?? These people all got jobs! I was viewing these CVs as the candidate had been successful in securing a position. Ok, maybe not the one with the photograph on (I believe that was a speculative CV) but yeah, most of them got a job. (Just want to point out here that I’m not saying don’t add a photograph – in some areas of employment I can imagine this is standard).

I mean of course there are things that you must have on your CV – Contact details are a biggie!! (I have seen them with out of date addresses and phone numbers on) And there are things you definitely shouldn’t do with your CV like tell massive porkers but isn’t that common sense?!?! I mean you will get found out & you more than likely will lose your job over said porker so why risk it?
Anyway, I think the point I’m trying to make is that we all know that a CV is a reflection of ourselves (whether it be over 2, 3 or 4 pages!) and we are all different so why should our CVs be the same?? If you have found a way to make your CV stand out from the crowds then I say go for it…!!  😀

Oh yeah and just whilst we’re on the subject of getting your CV to stand out……Heres a little trick I picked up from my step-dad. If you are loading your completed, all singing, all dancing CV onto an online recruitment site ie CV Library, Indeed, Monster etc then in small font at the bottom of the last page, make the text colour white so it can’t be seen and then add as many key words that you didn’t manage to work into your CV as possible – that way when anyone who is trawling that site using key words or phrases will pick your CV up much easier! Your welcome 😉

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

Job Interview – Part 1 (Preparation)

I was called out of the blue by a Recruiter who had seen my CV online at cv-library.co.uk.  He explained that he was recruiting for a vacancy and he would like to put my CV forward to his client.  I asked about the role and he gave me a brief description of what I would be expected to do.  I decided I had good experience of most areas of expertise they were looking for and agreed for him to forward it on. 

A couple of days later I received a call back saying that the Client was interested in me and would like to call me forward for an interview.  I was ecstatic!!  At this point he gave me the details of the Company.  I immediately went online and had a look at both of their Company websites.  An industry leading International engineering firm – I was very impressed. 

I went out and bought a suit from Next, nothing too expensive but it looked good, smart, but the most important thing was I felt comfortable in it.  I bought a nice portfolio from Staples to house all my certificates in so they were presentable should my potential employer ask to see my qualifications.  I also placed an up to date CV in the front of the portfolio and some business cards I’d had made.  Shoes with a sensible heel and a professional looking bag topped off the look. I now had all the material things I needed.  All I had to do now was learn about the Company, learn about the job (especially the things I had no experience in) and practise those interview questions. 

The Company I was interviewing with was huge so I decided to learn a small part about where and when the firm originated and how they started out.  I then looked at what they do now and where they do it but just within the UK.  I also read and learnt their Vision, Mission and Values verbatim.  I would later align these points with my own personal Values & professional Mission when the ‘Why do you want to work for us?’ question if it came up. 

I then googled the Company to find out what else was going on away from the Company specific website.  Here I found out about some Charity/Voluntary work that the Company were doing in the Community and also about some current Redundancies that were taking place on one of their other sites in Daventry.  I would incorporate these finds into my interview to show that I had researched the Company on a wider level.  I printed all the useful information off and made a little interview pack that I could take with me and read over on the day just before going in.  I then re-read and re-read this information until it sunk in. 

Then I practised my interview questions using the STAR method.  This is a good format to use when answering competence based interview questions (ie Please tell me of an occasion where you dealt with conflict in your working environment?) as it helps you avoid rambling and enables you to provide structured, concise, relevant answers. It breaks down as follows: 

  • Situation  (What was the situation?)
  • Task (What needed to be done?)
  • Activity (What did you do?)
  • Result (What was the outcome?) 

I now just needed to put together some relevant questions about the Company that didn’t revolve around money or benefits and I was sorted!  I’d chosen to ask if the Company would support any professional development I wanted to do in the future and also if the Redundancies down South could move to the Huddersfield site.  I’d hope that these questions would show I was ambitious and that I was up to date with current affairs. 

Find out how I got on in my next post…..

HR and the Army

I have worked in the Military as what they call a HR Administrator for approx. 10 years and I have recently taken the plunge and left a very well paid, stable job in the Army. I have gone over to the Dark Side, joined the ranks of Civvy Street! This sounds crazy given our current economic climate but believe me there are very good reasons….

Anyhow, the reason for this blog is to publicise my recent findings. I always kind of thought that my Military HR/Admin experience wouldn’t really stand me in good stead on ‘the outside’, this was then confirmed when I read on lots of Groups on Linked In etc that the kind of work we did in the Army was no use to man nor beast once you left.

So, scared out of my wits with this information I have embarked on my Work Placement with a NHS Medical Staffing Dept with some reticence. However, I am now 3 days into my Placement and I am by far no means saying I know everything about civilian HR because I don’t BUT what I do know is I have oodles of transferable skills, a vast and in depth knowledge about lots of different areas of HR and also that things aren’t that different away from the Army! *Lets out big sigh of relief!*

I have also in this 3 day period re-proved to myself that I am a hard worker, I’m adaptable, I’m robust, I’m intelligent and possibly most importantly to me – I am a nice person who people enjoy being around.

All I can say is…….Roll on the next five and a half weeks!! 🙂