Move to HRM career advice


Anonymous | 416 Posts

11 May, 2017 16:25

Hello fellow CIPD community members, 

I am due to leave the Royal Navy with level 5 qualifications in Leadership, Management, Coaching and Mentoring and CIPD HRM. 

My aspiration is to move into a HR management or assistant manager role in the Hampshire area. 

I have not worked in a HR job as such, but since 2005 I have worked in a comparable role with numerous transferable skills.  Including several large project management roles. 

I have a profile on Linked In, and i am building a network of HR professionals and recruitment professionals, but I am seeking any advice that would assist in my transition into a HR Management role? 

I would certainly consider commuting for the right salary as I have commuted an hour to work each day for 17 years, but preferably I would like to seek employment around Andover, Basingstoke, Winchester, Southampton or Salisbury. 

Thanks in advance,


  • Emma

    | 311 Posts


    11 May, 2017 17:23

    Paging who seems to be our resident ex forces expert!
  • Steve Bridger

    | 8209 Posts

    Community Manager

    12 May, 2017 07:07

    In reply to Emma:

    Thanks, . You might also be the first person other than me to do the @mention thing :)
  • In reply to Emma:

    Thank you Emma, fingers crossed.
  • Might I just say it may be slightly improbable to start out in HR at the HR Manager level. The way the market is right now, it is extremely difficult to get in even at the entry level HR admin type roles. I personally know someone who was a mid level manager in a top bank for 20+ years and then decided to move into HR. He had to start from the HR Administrator level (he also did Level 5).
  • Robey

    | 1748 Posts

    Chartered Member

    16 May, 2017 09:44

    This year was the tenth anniversary of my graceful exit from Her Majesty' service (Capt, RAMC). I left with the equivalent of a Level 7 qualification but couldn't find work at anything like the level I left (leading teams of 30+, with multiple direct reports and responsibility for critical operational and strategic projects). Since then, the Forces have done great work in managing the exit process for service-leavers but with some notable exceptions the civil sector remains woefully ignorant of the value offered by recruiting ex-Forces members. I tried to get a project off the ground with my local authority to address this, but got made redundant before I could get traction.

    Anyway, enough whinging.

    The crucial thing to note is that, due to having been in the Forces, you are unlikely to have direct experience of some essential, practical skills that you would be expected to have, entering a civil role as an HRM or equivalent.

    Recruitment, employment law, organizational development, culture change, L&D strategy, employee relations, trade unions, TUPE & redundancy...

    Now, *I* know that dealing with administrative action, courts martial, the Armed Forces Act, welfare, new recruits, training and all the various permutations of J1 operations will have given you the temperament and skills that mean that all of the above will come to you very quickly. But you are not likely to be able to talk confidently of your experience of handling a tricky off-boarding situation (except in the most literal sense, of course!) or of how you would go about designing a recruitment process for an in-demand skill-set and that's going to slam a lot of doors in your face.

    As a result, you are most likely to have to enter HR at a lower level than your skill and qualifications justify. I started (three years ago, as I took a career break after I left the Army for personal reasons) as a temp HR advisor for my local council on slightly less than half what I was paid in the Army (and a *lot* less in real terms). But the good news is that your other skills will help you excel, learn rapidly and quickly acquire the experience and knowledge you need to find your way higher up the HR career ladder - and excel at it.

    Having said that, you may be in a better position given your geographical location. Hampshire and Wiltshire, of course, have a very high density of ex-Army and ex-Navy people, which might mean that there's a former matelot CEO out there who would love to have a fellow salt in the HR chair and who's prepared to give you the time to get up to speed, given the other qualities you bring to the job. However, you might need to manage your expectations and be prepared to drop a few ranks before you can show your true mettle.
  • Good luck with the career change Gareth and maybe join your local CIPD branch there are lots of good sessions and networking opportunities to be found there. As others have said, make the most of your transferable skills, your background will add to the diversity of the profession :)

    | 2 Posts

    Chartered Fellow

    17 May, 2017 16:13

    Hi You are lucky enough to live in an area with loads of good quality employers and HR roles. My advice at this stage is to create a CV that focuses on your transferable skills. Second employers are interested in achivements and not responsibilities so make sure your CV focuses on the former. Finally draw up a list of at least 12 target employers in your area that you wiould like to work for and set up job alerts with them. Happy to discuss further if you xcontact me at stephen@iiyc.co.uk or 01908 -613669. Good luck
  • Hi Gareth,

    I think you have received some great advice here. I am a Learning and Development Adviser based at HMS Nelson, I also provide 1:1 coaching, and resettlement support, and having retired from a thirty year career in the Police Service in 2012, I can understand your predicament.
    I find that military personnel don't always plan their tx in sufficient advance and haven't effectively aligned their military experience to civilian work roles, including the language used so as to make the transition from where they are to where they want to be.

    Good luck for the future.
  • Philip Ratcliff

    | 2 Posts

    Chartered Fellow

    6 Jun, 2017 10:55

    There's some excellent advice that's been provided and I'd highly recommend that from Robey. If I may add my thoughts as one who has also just passed the 10th anniversary of quietly leaving the Royal Air Force. I was in the Administrative/Secretarial Branch and had focused primarily on HR, and in addition had joined the CIPD prior to leaving, so I had perhaps more than one foot in the door in terms of 'recognised' HR experience. That said, like Robey, I had to accept that the level I was at in the RAF was not that I could achieve outside. I was fortunate in that I obtained an interim role, a route I would thoroughly recommend, as it led to permanence.

    The biggest issue is, I think, the cultural understanding of the Armed Forces. Unfortunately despite respect of what we've done, there are still perceptions that the Armed Forces approach is not necessarily in line with the organisations approach and so you need to be able to show the organisation that their perceptions of the Armed Forces are essentially wrong and you would be a valuable asset. Therefore getting an opportunity for the organisation to know you, and you to know them, on an interim basis may be very worthwhile.

    On the plus side you have said you have project management experience and I'd suggest looking at developing the transferable aspects of this; there are a number of HR roles in terms of continuous/business improvement and transformation and organisational development/design that ask for such skills and they are not easy to come by, so perhaps explore these areas. Additionally a number of HR Generalist roles also have 'hidden' project management requirements; be it implementing workforce planning (something I'd recommend you highlight if you've been involved in this area), developing a rewards/benefits package, implementing a staff survey and so on.

    As Robey has said, and in line with my experience, for generalist HR roles you might have to consider a 'lower' level role to start. Perhaps considering HR Officer or HR Adviser roles may be worthwhile as, to echo Robey, once you get a role you can show your real worth. Incidentally, the 'can do' and 'get on with it' attitude is one of those soft skills often inherent with those from an Armed Forces background that is really valued, but can't actually be seen until you are doing the job. You may be more likely to achieve progression accordingly (if you want to do so and the organisation is large enough for such opportunities). If you want to progress I'd suggest looking for larger organisations in which there are teams or departments of HR. I was fortunate to obtain work in an organisation that meant I was able to move from HR Manager, to HR Business Partner and to Operations Manager whilst I was there.

    I'd also consider casting your net quite wide and into environments you might not have considered. I went into Higher Education, which may seem opposite to the Armed Forces, but there are a lot of similarities; after all HR is primarily about enabling people to be managed better and HE is facing a number of challenges and opportunities that means HR is needed. Don't discount anything! It may surprise you that some environments are after exactly the skills you have got despite seeming to be nothing like the Armed Forces.

    If you do see an opportunity directly advertised (not through an agency) then ring up the point of contact and ask if you can visit the organisation and, ideally, meet the people with whom you'd be working. In my view too few people do this and therefore don't know the organisation, don't know if it suits them and don't get a feel whether they would fit with the team and people already there. It also is a huge opportunity to sell yourself. Admittedly it is also risky but if 'you don't try, you don't know' and sometimes these can lead onto other things. My first interim role was purely as a result of a visit and discussion with the HR Director.

    Finally, I'd concur that you need to maintain and develop your CIPD membership as much as possible. It is asked for in many HR jobs now and your CPD record can be invaluable to show the experience you've gained over the years. If you haven't already done so please use your resettlement package to the full; from an HR perspective courses on mediation and coaching would be very worthwhile.

    I hope this helps. If you'd like to discuss further please let me know as I'd be glad to assist, albeit it is a while since a left the RAF.
  • In reply to Philip Ratcliff:

    Ladies and Gents, I left the Army as an RAO in Sep 15 after 30 years Service and I too had 15 years of HR Management experience and 28 years of HR Development experience and sought employment as a HR Manager/HR Business Partner; I also qualified in my Post Graduate Diploma in HR Management and Development. Having applied for 327 jobs, I successfully secured approximately 9 interviews and in each case got down to the last 2 or 3 but failed to nail the job as a result of my '...lack of experience in the civil sector...' I joined the Army Reserve on a Full Time Reserve Service contract but continued looking. Eventually, having failed to secure a role as the HR Business Partner at my local college I was asked back for an interview as a Lecturer. In Sep 17 I commence as Program Lead for each of the CIPD Levels 3, 5 and 7 in addition to the Chartered Management Institute course and am supporting the BA(Hons) Business Administration course as well as a few modules on the Business Studies courses.

    So what I hear you say...perseverance, dogged determination and flexibility are key. I kept getting told by people in the same boat as myself that something would come up and it did...I took the phone call on my very last day of service and started 5 days after leaving my FTRS post
  • In reply to STEPHEN ISHERWOOD:

    Thank you Stephen, really useful tips.
  • In reply to Robey:

    Thank you for the advice. It will be a scary time making the transition with mixed opinions on what level I can enter at.
  • In reply to Johanna:

    Thank you Johanna, I have taken your advice and joined my local group.. not as close as i would have hoped, but you can't have everything...
  • In reply to Marcia Ore:

    Thank you for the advice Marcia, I am hoping that my time spent in welfare has given me the soft skills and experience working with civilians required to transition with minimal fuss.
  • In reply to Philip Ratcliff:

    Thank you very much for this wisdom, lots of useful advice to carry forwards...
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