Are you thinking about changing your career? Perhaps your circumstances have altered, your job no longer fits with your Army family life or you’ve been out of work due to bringing up children or multiple postings. If so, you’re not alone. Meet the women who have embarked on alternative employment…


Name:
Emma Robertson

Previous career:
Dental nurse, NVQ assessor, sports massage therapist, teaching assistant

New career:
Policewoman

 

Why did you decide to switch careers?
I’ve worked in a variety of jobs and have developed a pretty mishmash CV. In 2007, I jumped at the chance to train as a dental nurse as it was something I felt I could work hard towards. I qualified and it felt amazing. When we were posted back to Pembrokeshire I wrote to every dental practice within a 20-mile radius but no vacancies came up. I was gutted – it all felt like such a waste. I became an NVQ assessor instead, then qualified as a sports massage therapist and did that along with agency dental nurse work when posted to Dorset. But my heart had always wanted to be a policewoman, so I applied to be a special constable and I loved it.

How did you achieve it whilst living Army life?
By 2016 we were considering where we might settle with my husband’s 22-year point in sight. Pembrokeshire was where my heart wanted to live, near family, and Dyfed Powys police opened for recruitment on the same date as our move-in. We spoke about the challenges and impact of me working full-time, but for nearly 15 years I’d let the Army rule my career, so we made the decision to bite the bullet and I applied. Training was hard, but the sense of achievement and the feeling of love I now have towards the job is amazing.

What are the benefits compared to your old job?
We’ve now bought our home and hopefully we won’t have to live apart for many of the four years left in the Army. I have achieved my dream and although I know it won’t be plain sailing, I will give it my best shot.

Tip for others thinking of a career change
I truly believe if you want something hard enough you can have it. You just need to find a way.


Name:
Victoria Whittley

Previous career:
Broadcast journalist and presenter

New career:
Cognitive behavioural psychotherapist

 

Why did you decide to switch careers?
I began looking at mental health as a career after a run-in with postnatal depression.

How did you achieve it whilst living Army life?
I initially completed a foundation in psychodynamic counselling skills. Nine houses and 14 years later, I’ve gained a postgraduate diploma in cognitive behavioural therapy. My course was at Staffordshire University, which was great while we lived in Stafford, but we were sent to Andover halfway through – well I was, and my husband deployed to Kuwait for seven months. I commuted to Stafford and stayed with relatives for three days a week and found a new placement in Basingstoke to complete my hours. Thanks to the Army community, I had friends who collected the children from boarding school on a Friday while I battled down the motorways after university. It’s been extremely challenging.

What are the benefits compared to your old job?
I’ve now set up in private practice from my quarter, treating Army families and civilians with common mental health issues. Working from home means I’m the only piece of kit needed. I can see patients at any time of the day. In my old job, weekends, holidays and overnight shifts were normal. I had to go where the story was, which meant travel and irregular hours. Now I get to spend quality time with my patients and work through all their issues.

Tip for others thinking of a career change
Volunteer. We can’t always find appropriate or paid work that will contribute to career change plans. It demonstrates commitment to your chosen path and often comes with recognised training. Try to shadow someone who does what you’d like to do.


Name:
Tracey-Ann Knight

Previous career:
Education clerk, home carer, administrator

New career:
Author

 

Why did you decide to switch careers?
I have had the typical transient career path of an Army spouse with various jobs. When it was time to return to full-time work after my daughter began school, I wanted something that was both flexible and challenging. I have always wanted to write, but like most of us I had allowed things to get in my way, such as a lack of confidence and a need to watch TV! I published my first book, Women Warriors – Ten Courageous Lives of Women Who Went to War last year.

How did you achieve it whilst living Army life?
I did as much research as I could via websites, libraries and museums, but the majority of the work was done from home.

What are the benefits compared to your old job?
Being able to set your own hours and work from home has great advantages. I no longer have to worry about childcare and have been able to attend every assembly and participate in school activities. This was an enormous help during my husband’s recent deployment, although I do have to make a conscious effort to get out and socialise. Luckily, I have fantastic neighbours who are great at getting me out of the house.

Tip for others thinking of a career change
I have enjoyed my military experience, but it can be very easy to lose yourself when so much of your life is determined by your soldier’s career. Take a course or perhaps turn a hobby into a business, but make sure to do something for yourself.

Career counselling: how can you make a successful jump to a new job?

“Find something that you enjoy and care about,” advised AFF Employment & Training Specialist Laura Lewin. “What are your main hobbies? What motivates you? Look for employment opportunities within this field.

“Make a list of your current skills and qualifications and include as much detail as possible to help you to determine what you might need to brush up on or learn to get the job you really want.”

Recruit for Spouses’ coaching programme is an excellent way to explore your options.

Founder and CEO Heledd Kendrick explained: “Sometimes writing down your perfect job and then working back is a good start. Here is where we often find a lot of answers.

“If you know what you want to do and it feels too scary, then break it down into sections and focus on one piece at a time. There may be many factors inhibiting your route to your ideal career, but as a military spouse you have garnered lots of soft skills along the way which will help you to find a way around it. It’s one of our greatest strengths!”

Further research

Find out as much as you can about any roles you’re considering. There are several ways you can do this:

The National Careers Service has a tool that provides information about a specific role and what skills and qualifications you’ll need.

Consider voluntary work or a short placement to gain an insight into the actual job.

Look at signing up with an agency for temporary work which would introduce you to different organisations for short periods.

Laura added: “Employment for spouses and partners will continue to be high on AFF’s agenda and we’re interested to hear your reasons for changing your career and how you’ve done it.”

Contact Laura at etam@aff.org.uk

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