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 🙂

My Heart On My Sleeve…

 

I’ve recently read back over some of these blog posts and they mostly appear quite negative re the the Army. So tonight whilst laid in bed struggling to sleep as sometimes happens I was thinking about some of my better times in the Army and it made me think…Was it all that bad??
I pondered……
In the early years it was all learning, living! There was no time to even stop to take stock, new people, new places, new experiences, new feelings, breaking all the rules, all the time and not giving a shit about doing it…Then things got a bit weird and a bit tough but after a hard year in Aldershot/Canada/Kosovo it all seemed to fall into place – there was a period of absolute bliss. This was when I was serving with the 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment in Colchester. Here everything just felt right. I was happily married, I was flourishing in my role, I was extremely fit which helped given the Regiment I was with. Even the Op Tour to Iraq (Telic III) was brilliant. I loved it there but all good things come to an end – sadly it all ended under a cloud. I was sexually assaulted by some young, new Private whilst on a night out with friends. He didn’t know that I was part of the Regiment and he also didn’t know that I was married to someone from the Regiment. That ended badly for him and my Husband was subsequently Court Martialled, dismissed from the Army and that was the end of that.

I guess that’s when things began to fall apart – I was posted to Winchester on the Recruiting Team…there was LOTS of separation, lots of nights out in various towns and Cities & lots of Lucy starting to unravel. I made some bad choices. I think I felt that I had missed out on being young & doing all the things that young people do. Ultimately my marriage broke down and it was mostly my fault – I’ve never really ‘said’ that before but yeah, it was mostly my own doing…With that in mind I handed over my married quarter and accepted a posting to the other side of the planet. I literally ran away from everyone and everything…
Brunei – what can I say about this place. This was where I put all my problems to the back of my mind and I partied and I partied and I partied and I partied! This particular 18 months of my life was just a big vodka induced blur. We were a group of about 15 single, young people in the prime of our lives, we were thousands of miles away from anyone that knew us and we had lots of disposable income. We drank in the bar on camp most nights but we REALLY went for it on a weekend…that buzz of finishing work a few hours early on a Friday not knowing what crazy stuff you were going to get up to later on. Getting ready in my room with the music blasting at max volume knowing that everyone was going to be just so up for it was amazing! We would smash shots and drinks and whatever the barman had and when he closed the bar we would crack out our own supplies and there were plenty of them – we would party, hard til the sun came up & then some. People across the Garrison heard about our wild nights and everyone wanted in so we let them. Here I travelled to some amazing places, I fell in love with all the wrong people & saw some bizarre and wonderful things. I shared this experience with a small group of people and looking back only we will ever know how mad and how special it really was. Sadly though over the course of this posting the people changed and so did the dynamics of the group. It was no longer an all inclusive unit who did everything together as a small family but it fragmented into ‘the lads’, some singly couples and a few others – me being one of the others. I asked to leave here and headed back to the UK.
I arrived at Wattisham and was greeted by the same bloke that had greeted me in Brunei – always nice to see a friendly face when you go somewhere new. I calmed down a lot over the course of this posting. I worked as the REME Wksp Clk and it was a happy time…It was a relaxed atmosphere even though I was always ridiculously busy. About a third of the way through this posting was when it dawned on me that my relationship with alcohol was no longer on my terms…I went to the Drs and was immediately sent on 4 weeks sick leave, I was having a break down. All those demons I have tried to party away came back at me with vengeance when the party stopped. My mind was a fragile mess, I couldn’t cope with it all anymore..I was in a toxic relationship with someone that had more issues that me – it all just had to stop. I had lots of counselling, I was dry for 8 months and as a reward (I begged to go so I could save money to buy my own home) I completed a mentally & physically draining tour of Afghanistan. After this Tour I met a man who wanted to be with for the rest of my life – he was everything to me & we moved into a rented house together after 6 weeks. We had only been in the house for a few weeks and I learnt that he was cheating on me with 2 other women. I was devastated but I continued with the relationship as I thought it was early days and people can change – little did I know at the time but I should’ve walked away there and then as 5 years later he would do it again and leave me more broken and destroyed than I knew a person could be…
Anyway, Wattisham was my home for 3 years but I was burnt out from it. I worked so hard there & I was ready for pastures new. I somehow instigated a move to Catterick – I didn’t know the Unit at the time but it turned out to the be the Queens Royal Lancers. Turns out someone had been done for fraud and sent to Military Prison so that was my in! Another great time at the start…I was the Wksp / LAD Clerk for their tiny rear party (The Regiment was in Afghan on Op Herrick), this was the slackest I had ever been. Most days I literally did NO work, I just sat at my desk, talked shit with the lads, went on the Internet, drank brews, ate Frickies & watched Jeremy Kyle! But all things must come to an end and the Regiment retuned and I moved back to a Sqn – B Sqn. Another great bunch of lads but I had so much going on in my personal life that my heart just wasn’t in it anymore. Something terrible had happened to me and I needed the Army’s support – it never came. The people that should’ve wanted to look after me & protect me just didn’t care. I had given the Army everything I had over the years and when I needed it the most it let me down. This is where I became so disillusioned with the Army I knew I could no longer continue in it.
So yeah, it doesn’t seem all that bad…of course there were bad times throughout all of the postings. Things that happened to me, the attitudes of some people, the way you are treated, spoken to, exploited etc. But then there is the other side of it – the other people, the good people, the great managers, the ones that you forget when you want to be mad & when you are angry, the ones that did support you…these people as great as they are and I could name them one by one of you asked me to from Posting to posting, these people somehow sadly fall away.
I still think that the Army is fundamentally flawed as an organisation and hate certain people in it for how I was treated but then these are only my views and my experiences…I hope it wasn’t this way for everyone. And just for clarity – this post isn’t about looking at 14 years of life through rose tinted spectacles…it’s just me trying to be fair and balance things out in my mind.

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

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!!

10 Things I’ve Learnt…

  1. Most civilians are hardworking, professional and conscientious.
  2. Whoever told me they aren’t are both deluded and a liar!
  3. I actually enjoy the commute – it gives me time to switch from work mode to home mode.
  4. Having less money doesn’t mean you have a rubbish life, it just means you appreciate things more.
  5. Driving within the speed limits is more fuel economic and will save you money in the long run.
  6. The gym is enjoyable when someone isn’t screaming in your face telling you how rubbish you are.
  7. It’s ok to be professionally ambitious.
  8. Real Managers don’t encourage you to go out and get drunk on a week night – its not acceptable.
  9. It takes ages to get a Doctor’s appointment.
  10. It’s amazing to go to bed and wake up with your most precious loved one every day.

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!!  🙂