Five things to consider when transitioning from the military to civilian life

4 min read

It’s not easy for ex-military personnel to be thrust back into civilian life after serving in the armed forces.

Mace prides itself in being a ‘military friendly’ organisation, is a member of the Armed Forces Covenant and has a growing ex-military community working across some of the world’s most complex and challenging projects.  

Mace’s William Jarrett-Kerr joined Mace after spending seven years as a Royal Engineer Officer, serving in Germany, Canada, Norway, Kenya, Jordan and Afghanistan. In this article, he explores some of the key issues to consider as you transition from the forces to civilian life: 


You may feel great pressure to find your next role quickly. The dilemma tends to come from not wanting to have a gap of income between your transition period but not wanting to settle on any old job for the paycheck either. The job market will always be competitive - so do your research and remember to match your qualities with the right opportunity. Are you a leader? Good at managing people? Can you keep a program on time and on budget, or are you better at numbers and data? 

Remember, if you’re leaving the Army in your 30’s you’ll have up to 40 years of work ahead. Put the effort in early and start a career that can meet your development needs and more importantly, one you’re going to enjoy. Mace celebrates its ex-military community and is part of the Armed Forces Covenant so it really considers candidates with an ex-military background. Read more here


At a time of upheaval it can be very stressful to find new accommodation for you and your family. Advanced planning is crucial but many organisations help younger and older veterans in this space including The Royal British Legion and Citizens Advice.

You can also apply to go on the housing register of any council if you left the armed forces within the last five years. You can apply to as many councils as you want!

Health and wellbeing

Many people who have served on operational tours may experience physical, mental and emotional scars. You may feel cut off from people or feel unable to connect with anyone. Talking about your experiences is key and there is now a lot of support for leavers of the forces. Although it may be the last thing you want to do, asking for help is vital. 

Charities such as SSAFA and Help for Heroes can provide you with support or if you think you, or your partner or spouse, may be experiencing mental health difficulties, you can get expert help from the NHS Veterans' Mental Health Transition, Intervention and Liaison Service (TILS) or the NHS Veterans' Mental Health Complex Treatment Service (CTS).

Mace’s Martin Coyd, Head of Health and Safety for Construction and ex-military himself, is extremely passionate about Health, Safety and Wellbeing. To find out more click here.

Education and children

If you have children, finding a new school for them as well as a new home and job for you can be overwhelming. What if the job isn’t near the school and you end up commuting a lot? Also, learning how to be around your children and be a parent again can feel strange to many ex-military personnel. 

Lean on other family members if you can and remember it’s going to feel a bit strange first for both you and your children. You can also get advice and support from the Veterans’ Gateway – it can act as your first point of call for support and many of its team are veterans themselves. 


Most veterans underestimate the cost of leaving the military. It may be a shock to discover the price of rent, taxable income, the cost of living and transport for example. Financial planning, forecasting and calculating the lowest salary you can accept is vital; be honest with yourself. 

I strongly believe there is a correlation between the initial experience required for a job, initial wage and job satisfaction. If the specific industry experience required is low but the initial wage is high, job satisfaction and enjoyment will be low. 

Companies always need good people to do jobs that aren't glamorous - that’s why they have good starting salaries. Be wary of accepting a role like this for the wrong reasons. If you can afford a lower starting salary, your window of opportunities will be far greater and you’re more likely to get something you’ll enjoy. 

More importantly, when you overlay your new industry experience on the skills you gained in the military, you’ll soon fit into the high skill, high job satisfaction and high wage bracket. It’s short term pain for long term gain but if you have solid transferable skills you should be able to play catch up quickly. 

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