What my version of military to civilian employment support would look like

One tool used in narrative and solution-focused career counselling is the “magic wand” or “miracle question”. We ask clients if a miracle happened over night and they woke up tomorrow feeling like everything was as it should be –  what would that look like? 

If I woke up tomorrow and a miracle had occurred that made military to civilian transition and veteran employment better it would look like this:

  • We’d be focusing on career development and employability of members and veterans (not just on employment immediately leaving the ADF) and emphasise that career development skills are essential life skills that everyone needs across the lifespan. 
  • We would apply contemporary definitions of career such as “career is the journey through work (paid and unpaid), learning and life and includes life roles such as caregiving”
  • We’d stop using “transition” as shorthand for transition to civilian employment so ADF members and veterans understood that their life has (and will) involve many career-related transitions.
  • ADF personnel would receive ongoing career development support from the day they join, would have access to it any time they needed it, but especially at key transition points such as promotions, changes in specialty, changes in family circumstances (marriage, kids, divorce), injury/illness, etc. Skills such as understanding labour market information and job search techniques would be part of annual training. They would view career development as a lifelong process.
  • Career development support (whether delivered by government, non-profits, for-profits and profit for social good organisations) would be delivered by qualified professionals and in accordance with CICA professional standards.
  • We would emphasise the importance of individualised career support.
  • ADF members would develop lifelong career management skills, knowledge and behaviours  that they can apply within the ADF and when they leave the ADF. These skills would include self-awareness and an understanding of their own interests, strengths and values (and how they may change over time); setting career goals and taking actions towards them; understanding how the labour market works and how to find and use labour market information; developing job search and job application skills; understanding and taking into consideration the context in which they are making career decisions.
  • We would pay greater attention to the importance of social-cognitive aspects of career development such as interests and values (not just skills).
  • We would help members and veterans identify and market their transferable skills but also help them better understand the importance of the context these skills are developed and applied in. We’d be more careful about the message of “veterans have valuable transferable skills that can be applied in the civilian workplace”
  • Career development support would include developing the social (e.g networking) and cultural (e.g. knowledge of the skills, behaviours and knowledge used in the civilian world of work) capital of ADF members through encouraging community engagement outside of ADF and engaging with the civilian world of work utilising tools such as flexible work arrangements, Total Workforce Model, internships/work experience, better use of the Reserve workforce, and engagement with employers (informally and formally).
  • We would emphasise the importance of and encourage members’ career life roles outside of the ADF (parenting, sport, interests, volunteerism etc.) and we would help expose ADF members and veterans to wide-ranging work and learning opportunities. 
  • We would curate veteran employment programs to ensure that they are not unduly influencing the awareness of career opportunities by members and veterans by ensuring there is a wide range of employers across many different industries and occupations .
  • Defence leaders would understand the importance and benefits of career development support for their staff and realise it is not only about preparing their personnel for leaving the ADF but helping them thrive within it.
  • We would help members and veterans embrace uncertainty and help them develop the confidence to be able to make career decisions in the face of uncertainty with hope for the future.
  • We would better recognise that veterans will likely undergo many career transitions after they leave the ADF and the goal of programs would be to help them develop the skills and make career decisions that lead to meaningful employment and sustainable employability throughout their lifetime.
  • We would recognise that members and veterans access career information and services from a range of providers and we would encourage collaboration and avoid competition between the different stakeholders in order to create a system of high quality career support for the Australian defence community.

This is not an exhaustive list (just my initial list as I muse on a Sunday morning) and I will update it over time. 

Do you agree or disagree with my points? What would you add?

3 thoughts on “What my version of military to civilian employment support would look like

  1. Wow! Thank you for sharing your thoughts on how military to civilian transition can and should be improved. I fully agree with all of the points you have made. I would also like to see inter-agencies working holistically so that guidance and support for Members is not disjointed or seen as ‘adhoc’, but instead meaningful and like you have said individualised to their specific needs.

    There needs to be a shift in mindset from leaders to embracing the benefits of developing life long career management skills whilst in service, instead of the ‘if we do this, it will only encourage Members to leave’ attitude.

    Now, we just need key stakeholders/decision makers to embrace these changes for providing better support. Hopefully, the newly established JTA will be able to see beyond what is currently in existence.

    Would you mind if I share your post on LinkedIn?

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