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.

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.

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!!  🙂

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!