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 🙂

Interview as an internal candidate…

So the time has come when my 12 month fixed term contract is almost at an end (just over 3 weeks to go to be precise) and I essentially need to be looking for another job.

Now I know that you might be thinking that I have left it too late and potentially I have but I just don’t feel the same level of anxiety about maybe being jobless that I did when I left the Army. Rightly or wrongly I am quietly confident in my own knowledge, experience and ability to believe that I will get a job when I start applying.

 In the mean time the position that I have been employed in for the last 12 months has now been added to the Company headcount but to ensure fair process the job had to be advertised, hence I have essentially had to apply for my own job! So ok, it’s not exactly the same role – there are new responsibilities added into the mix but the bulk of the role is what I’ve been doing for the last 12 months. So, like any other applicant I filled out the application form, revamped my CV and submitted them to my current manager. The deadline passed and thankfully I was invited to an interview.

 Interview day came and strangely I found that I was more nervous than I was for the initial interview. The interview panel consisted of my current team leader, my current supervisor and an employee from Corporate recruiting who I have sat opposite for the last year – all people I know not only professionally but personally and socially. I decided to play it as professionally as I could given that I knew everyone on the panel as friends not only as colleagues. I did the same amount of prep, wrote notes, took all my certificates etc exactly as I did the first time. The interview started a bit tentatively for myself but as I noticed my voice wobble after question number one I kind of just told myself to ‘get a grip’ and that ‘I knew these people and not to panic!’ One of the biggest difficulties I faced came when answering their questions – I knew that my Team Leader and Supervisor know what I’ve been doing for the last 12 months because they have been there doing it with me but you HAVE to act as if they don’t and tell them all the necessary details as if they are total strangers. There was also the reluctance to ‘blow my own trumpet’ about things I’d done to my current Managers for fear of sounding arrogant….but I blew it anyway!! After a few questions I felt myself (and them) relax and the interview began to flow. It lasted an hour and half and I felt relieved when it was over.

 I still haven’t had the outcome of the interview so can’t say it went fantastically, the interview could’ve gone terribly for all I know but I didn’t get that vibe…even if I haven’t got the job I know that I did my best and I just wasn’t the right person for the job.

 Another part of the situation that was bizarre and another first for me was that the only other applicant / interviewee for the position was my best friend in my team and we both knew each other were applying from the off. It wasn’t like in the Army where they keep everything a secret from you and you have to keep it from each other – we had complete transparency. It was initially a bit awkward between us but we’re both grown ups (just about!) and after a little chat one lunch time about it all was normal with us again…The fact that each of us genuinely wanted the other to do well was probably the main reason for that.

 All in all it was quite a unique experience that I’m glad I’ve gone through.

The differences when times get tough!

So my first full year out of the Army started terribly…

 My relationship of 5 years broke down when my Fiancé decided to leave me. I was devastated. If this wasn’t heartbreaking enough that I had lost my partner in life there was now the added pressure that I had also lost my financial partner too and I was one person on a mediocre wage with a lot of financial commitments. Life was suddenly very uncertain…

 There was no option of moving back into the block to cut my outgoings, I had a mortgage which I had to pay or I was going to lose my home. I had a large car that I couldn’t afford to run on my own and had various other outgoings that had to be paid. After the initial shock had passed and I simply had to get a grip of myself and my life! So I sat down and went over my finances with a fine tooth comb – something I thought I had done already to the n’th degree when I had left the Army. However, it’s amazing what you can cut down on when there is no alternative. I found a new mortgage deal, sold my big car and downsized to something more affordable, I changed my energy supplier, cancelled some non-essentials like my gym membership & changed where I shopped. In the space of a few weeks I had gone from not being able to afford my home and everything that came with it to my finances being fully in order with a little to spare for me. Easily the scariest and most sobering few weeks of my life…

 Another thing that I noticed about the breakdown of my relationship was that there was also no endless amount of people around me that were willing to support me and help me drowned my sorrows. Every break up I’ve had in the Military, the people who you live with rally round you for a bit and drag you out partying for a few weeks until you’re back on your feet or deeply immersed in some ridiculous rebound relationship!! I was on my own. Another thing was, with previous break ups whilst in the Army you kind of get a bit of leeway with stuff – people know you inside out, they know you intimately so they know you’re not at your best so cut you a bit of slack if you’re a hungover or a bit grumpy or not at the top of your game professionally. I didn’t want to run this gauntlet on Civvy St though as losing my job would only make things worse so stayed well off the booze and stayed relatively focused and was as professional as I could be given the circumstances. Don’t get me wrong, the people who I work with were fantastically supportive and my boss was amazing but when you leave your place of work to go home on a night, you are on your own – left with only your thoughts and as I stated in another post for someone who has suffered with mental health issues in the past or for anyone who is hurting that is not a good thing.

 So, in lieu of my Military colleagues around me on a night I decided I needed to do something to get me out of the house…something to keep me occupied on an evening. I chose to rejoin my old ladies football team and went training at the local 3G all weather pitch. The first training session was going so well. I was happy, laughing and joking with friends and then I fell over and heard the mother of all cracks from my shoulder. A first responder, an ambulance ride, a long wait in A&E, copious amounts of morphine later I was diagnosed with a Grade 3 fully separated acromioclavicular joint – In short I had smashed my shoulder to smithereens! I was told to expect to be off work for approx 6 weeks and then to possibly expect surgery after that! Another set of worries…Was I entitled to Company sick pay? If so how long was my sick pay entitlement? How do I apply for SSP if it my company sick pay runs out before I can get back to work? In the Forces you are so used to being paid unconditionally for however long you are off that but again this is very different on Civvy Street. I had never felt so much pressure to heal, there was no way I could live on the SSP! In the end it turned out I had a good period of company sick pay so when I returned to work after 5 weeks I hadn’t lost out financially, it was such a relief to get back to work, a real weight lifted from my mind.

 Now you may think that I am complaining about the last 4 months of my life – I’m not. In fact, it’s probably exactly the opposite…The last 4 months have shown me that being as heavily reliant on the Military machine as I was, wasnt a good thing. It has shown me that I am more than capable of sorting out my life even when going through the worst possible time and that with a bit of grit and determination and with the RIGHT support from family and friends you can literally get through anything. It has shown me that I have an inner strength that I never knew I had. It has also taught me that being fit and healthy is paramount and that I need to look after myself a little bit better…so unfortunately for Middleton Park Ladies FC, Im hanging up my boots in search of a less physical non-contact sport!

 So on reflection I initially thought that 2014 wasnt going to be the year for me but now I’m back on my feet financially, officially loved up with an amazing man, almost healed after my accident and now job searching for my perfect role as a stronger, happier & more accomplished person I think its the exact opposite – watch out world cos Lucy is coming to get you!!

Job Interview – Part 2 (The Interview)

The day came of my interview and I had prepped myself to the n’th degree, I was ready!  And to be honest, I was more excited than nervous or worried.  I wanted to show the Company just how good I could be and showcase my skills in the best possible way. 

I set off in good time, I didn’t need to recce my route as I already knew where the interview was being held, (I would’ve done a dry run if I hadn’t been sure of the location).  I arrived at the Company about 20 minutes early and parked up, this gave me chance to read through the interview notes I had made before heading off to the reception to book in. 

I arrived at the Reception and gave the ladies on the desk the biggest smile and warmest hello whilst booking in, these people are often in good positions with Managers and MDs etc so it can’t harm to charm the socks off them.  The intern who came to pick me up to take me to my interviewers got the same treatment. 

After climbing a mammoth amount of stairs (thank god for the sensible shoes!) I arrived at the interview room and with my interview panel…that’s right, an interview panel of 3 people.  They all were Managers of various seniority and after the handshakes and introductions we sat down and got down to business.  I offered them my newest CV, they declined and I took out my notebook and pen to jot things down should I become flustered. 

Each Manager asked me different types of questions.  First set of questions were generic ie Tell me a bit about yourself? Tell me why you left your last job? Then the second set were Competence based questions ie. Tell me about a time you worked in a team? Tell me about a time when you checked your own work? And lastly were the more personal questions ie Why should we employ you? Why do you want to work for us?  Rather than try and baffle them with intricate wording and my wide vocabulary I just spoke to them, in my normal tone using normal English.  One of the questions they did ask was ‘What is my biggest weakness?’  Be as honest as you can without ruling yourself out of the job.  I said that my lack of experience with the Time Management System they use was mine, however, I informed them that I had researched Time Management Systems as part of my Preparation and understood the mechanics of it, therefore turning a negative into a positive.  I managed to get in all the pertinent points that I’d researched into the interview and I knew I would be memorable because of them.  My questions about professional development and the Redundancies went down well too. 

The interview flowed well with no awkward pauses and there were even times when we were laughing together.  When I walked out of the room at the end of the interview I knew it had gone well, I wasn’t arrogant enough to think ‘I’ve got it’ but I knew that I had given myself a really good chance of getting the job.  I was content with the way it had gone and couldn’t think of anything I would change given the chance, if I didn’t get it there was simply a better candidate.  They had informed me they would let me know by the end of the next day if I had been successful. 

As soon as I got home I rang the recruiter to let them know how I thought it had gone and then the wait began, that was probably more of a nervy time than the interview itself to be honest. 

The next day came and I was checking my phone every 5 minutes wondering why the hell they hadn’t phoned me, had I missed their call, had the signal dropped out and it had gone straight to answer phone?  Then the call came about 3pm, I felt sick with anticipation….I made some polite chit chat with the Recruitment Consultant and then he continued to tell me that the Company had been extremely impressed with me at the interview and wanted to offer me the position.

I’d got the job – I was so pleased that all the hard work had paid off, the hours of preparation, slogging away in front of the computer. 

PS  I start on Wednesday!!  🙂

Network, network, network….Professionally!

So I had decided that I was going to leave the Army and many people had said to me ‘Network as much as you can’ when it comes to finding employment.  Well, I kind of knew that but how?!  Did they mean knocking on Companies doors with CV in hand….Well, possibly but this is how I viewed it.  We live in a digital age and employers are so easily accessible these days, how is best to promote yourself to these Companies/Organisations without spending a fortune…? 

So where to start?  The first place I suggest you start is Linked In.  This is a professional networking site where you can connect with people you know professionally.  It is free, it’s very  easy to build a profile if you have a CV concocted already (it will take a little bit of time if not) and all you need to get going is an email address.  Linked In then allows you to give a Employment Title, a personal statement, your employment history and it allows you to showcase any qualification/key skills that you have.  You can also give and receive online recommendations from people you have worked or trained with.   This site also has Groups for like minded people, allows you to follow individual Companies you have an interest in, advertises jobs to suit your profession/location and gives you the opportunity to ‘Update your Status’ to let people know what you have been up to Professionally.  There is also the option to upgrade your account which gives you a lot more access to other peoples profiles, you can see the salary of the jobs advertised and it lets you see (in full) who has looked at your profile.  This website is very, very good and allows you to completely separate your personal and professional life online which is VERY important when job searching these days.  There are tons more benefits to having an account on here and one that I have personally taken advantage of is putting the link to my Linked In account on the top of my CV, therefore allowing future employers see a full, in depth, extended profile of me! 

The next thing is make a professional Twitter profile….Now, I know a lot of people out there have tried Twitter in the past and have said ‘I just don’t get it’ or ‘it’s not for me’ but trust me, there is so much going on, on there at the minute that you simply cannot afford not to have an account.  Like Linked in, its free and all you need is an email to start.  Lots and lots of Companies now advertise jobs via their Twitter accounts as do Recruitment Agencies, you can keep abreast of any recent developments within your chosen profession and you can also follow training providers to see what courses they are running –  I’ve even seen Courses advertised at reduced rates due to lack of attendance.  Take the opportunity on Twitter to advertise yourself by uploading a good head and shoulders profile pic (nobody likes to follow an egg) and write a short, sharp and effective bio.  Also on your bio add a link to your Linked In profile, that way anyone that is interested in what you tweet can then be wowed by your amazing Linked In profile!! 

The next one is Community Sites – These are sites that are run by particular Companies or Organisations for their delegates and clients.  An example of this is as follows:  I am enrolled on a CIPD Human Resources qualification that is being run by a Training Provider called Development Processes Group.  They have a Community site where people that are undertaking their training can come together and chat, blog, share experiences and generally network….I’m sure there will be some discussion about the courses too eventually but it’s a great environment where engaged professionals can come together informally.  A big thing that they hold on these Community sites too are Webinars – Online seminars about a particular subject and you can contribute as much or as little as you like, free, low stress and extremely educational. 

Another thing that I have found useful is to make an about.me profile.  This is just a webpage about you! You can choose your own background, font, colour of text, size of text, upload a picture and write a small bio.  You can imput where you have been educated or trained and also put links on there to websites of your choices.  The main thing I have found this handy for is housing all my professional networking profiles under one roof so to speak as from here people can access my Linked In profile, professional twitter account and my blog.  This one I would say isn’t necessary but is more of a nice to have! Definitely worth a look, especially with the death of the CV looming – be creative and set yourself apart from the crowds! 

Now, just let me stress to you that simply having these profiles is not enough…You have to go on your accounts regularly and be active within groups, conversations and forums.  For example.  One week I didn’t go on my Linked In account at all and I received around 3 views to my profile, the following few weeks I was on there around an hour a day and my profile received over 50 views.  Don’t fear online networking, most platforms have an Android or Apple application which makes it easier to access – make it work for you and as long as you allow time for your Networking you will be successful at it!

www.linkedin.com

www.twitter.com/career_woman

www.about.me/lucysaunders83

 

Recruitment Consultant Interview – Wed 29 May 2013

Approx 6 months before I was due to leave the Forces I started looking at Recruitment Agencies that found work specifically for Human Resources people like me! 

Using the internet I found Agencies local to where I intended to settle that found work for Human Resources professionals.  I sent emails with a detailed covering letter and Generic CV attached to them all and waited for them to get back to me.  After a little while the Companies all got in touch one way or another.  Some gave me brief phone interviews asking my experiences, what I was looking for in a job and just generally getting a feel of who I was and one Agency asked me to go and have an interview. 

I was a little bit nervous before my interview as I didn’t really know what to expect.  I wasn’t sure whether to go suited and booted or just smart/casual but I opted for the smart/casual.  With regards to everything else, I decided to  treat it like a job interview.  I set off in good time to give myself time to get parked and locate the Office.  I arrived about 15mins before my interview which although it was probably a little too early it worked out well as the Receptionist handed me a stack of forms to fill out and he also needed to copy my proof of ID, proof of address and NI Number. 

When the Recruitment Consultant came out I stood, shook her hand and introduced myself.  We then sat down and we started discussing what I was looking for with regards to work.  Full time, Part time, Permanent, Fixed Term etc  This is where you need to be forthright, put all those years of humility and self-deprecation behind you and tell them exactly what you want otherwise they are going to be matching you to jobs that you don’t want to do.  It wastes your time and it wastes their time so it’s best to be as direct as possible right from the off.  The Consultant also asked for a copy of my CV and a list of reference so ensure you have these with you.  I also took my portfolio of Qualification certificates with me should they wish to see them/make copies.  The Consultant was also very interested to hear details of my previous employment i.e. Individual jobs/positions and what the roles and responsibilities entailed which made me thankful I had prepared for this prior to the meeting. 

After being in there for just under an hour the meeting came to an end.  The recruitment consultant seemed extremely happy with me and as I was leaving informed me that she would be marketing me to her clients as a ‘Start Candidate’ due to my Qualifications and Experiences.  I walked out of the Office and I felt fantastic.  After 13 years of only being told you were any good at appraisal time it felt very strange for this stranger to be heaping praise on me, telling me how employable I was and that Companies would be fighting over me it was a very different experience. 

Now that the interview is over I don’t intend for that to be it, to sit back and rest on my laurels.  I plan to phone back weekly so I’m always at the forefront of their thoughts should that perfect position come in!!

Health and General Well Being….

Well, its nearly been 2 whole weeks since I left the Army and with regards to my health and general well being I am much improved. 

During the last 18 months of my career I was desperately unhappy in my life and this was predominantly down to being in the Army, not because of the Organisation itself or the Regiment that I was with but just everything that comes with being in the Army. The not knowing from one day to the next what you’re going to be doing or where you’ll be, the loneliness of the block on a night and the separation from your Family, Friends and home comforts to name just a few…Over those last 18 month I was also medically downgraded so my ability to do fitness dropped, mix that in with low mood/anxiety and no support network and I ended up gaining nearly 2st in weight.  In the 2 weeks since I’ve left I have dropped nearly 10lbs in weight just by having a routine, having proper kitchen facilities and doing fitness that I can do ie Swimming, bike riding, On the contrary to what I’ve been told for the last 13 years – There was no pain but there is some gain!!  

In the block I never used to sleep very well at all, maybe it was to do with the baby elephant living above me who used to randomly Hoover and play soft rock at 3am or the drunken revellers trying your door on their return from a night out on the town or the super uncomfortable paper thin mattress….Who knows? But what I do know is that most nights I would wake up multiple times with the fear of god in me that I was late for something!  Anyhow, I’m now sleeping all night without waking up which obviously leads to a happier, more productive me! 

Another thing that I’ve noticed is that my stress levels have dropped significantly.  Like I mentioned earlier I have suffered throughout my career with anxiety and towards the end it was so bad, panic attacks.  I felt constantly on edge that the Forecast Of Events was going to change and I was going to be sent away for ‘X’ amount of weeks or that someone was going to go sick so I was going to have to pick up a weekend duty at short notice and cancel my plans.  I’m actually frightened to tot up the amount of money I’ve lost on holidays and concerts and sports events because of some last minute dicking! These feelings have now more or less subsided, I feel 100% happier that I am now in control of me and if I don’t want to do something, I don’t have to do it!  

Saying all of this above makes the Army sound terrible, please believe me when I say this….It’s not.  It’s amazing, it’s given me 13 fantastic years for me to learn about me whilst experiencing some of the most scary, wonderful, unique experiences a person could want in life. The time just came for me to move on…. 

The Army literally saved me but now it’s time to save myself, time to take the leap of faith into the unknown and hopefully flourish in my new life as a Civilian surrounded by my beautiful family and fabulous friends.