Michael Anderson spoke to RIBA North East about life after the armed forces as part of their #FacesofArchitecture campaign.
My decision to leave the army was in truth an easy one. The time was right to move on and I wanted to spend more time at home. I reckoned I had a reasonable idea of what I wanted to do, but often struggled to define it beyond something in design and construction management. With no fixed offer of employment at the outset of an unnerving 12 month notice period, I hoped that a positive outlook would create opportunity.
I leaned on the likes of the Career Transition Partnership and the Officers’ Association to access professional training, career advice and employment events, and made a conscious decision early on to balance my time in favour of finding future employment.
Instinctively I knew I had transferable skills, the challenge was to convince others of their relevance. Networking was everything. Around 70% of employment is gained this way, I was told. All I had to do was work out who to talk to and what to say. Consequently, I removed tales of parachuting with the French Foreign Legion in Corsica, being stalked by lions in Kenya and telemark skiing across Norway from my final CV. Instead I focused on experiences of leadership, management and teamwork as well as my degree in architecture and distant memories of working as a Part 1 student in practice … and off I went to network.
There were highs and lows along the way. With a tendency for many service leavers, friends included, to gain employment in London via an extensive ex military network I was initially worried that my choice to resettle in the north east might limit opportunity.
Looking back, it is all too easy to tread common ground and follow in the footsteps of others for the sake of it. I also tried to avoid becoming fixated with a specific job or role and attempted to understand the bigger picture of industry sectors and the culture of organisations. Of course, luck plays its part as does the extent in which employers engage and recognise the skills of the military. Thankfully this has improved markedly over recent years and must continue to do so.
From my earliest engagement with Ryder, there was a clear emphasis on making a difference, individually and collectively. In an industry often seen to be conservative and risk averse, Ryder seeks to be innovative, opportunistic and different. Like the army, it has a strong sense of values, common purpose and team. To me, the signing of the corporate covenant formally recognises these aspects in addition to the benefits the Armed Forces community can bring to the business. This relationship is mutually supporting and lies at the heart of the pledges Ryder has made as part of the covenant.