“When I was asked by my Resettlement Officer what I wanted to do on leaving the Army, it was the first time in eleven years that I’d had to make a decision for myself.”
For Dominic Pitts, a 22-year-old college graduate living in rural Wales, a career in the Army offered a chance to do something with his life, at a time when he felt he lacked direction.
Following the successful completion of his basic training, Dominic joined the Royal Signals. His first posting was to Germany, followed by three years in Edinburgh as part of the Explosive Ordinance Disposal Team, three years in Bulford and three years in Telford as a Cpl with 7 Signal Group, 11 Signal & West Midlands Brigade.
Aged 33, Dominic made the final decision to leave the Army at the end of his 12-year contract – a decision made jointly with wife Maxine, who was keen to return to her native Scotland to settle following their wedding in 2015.
Dominic has spent the last two years of his army career undertaking training to develop his skills to pursue a career in the IT sector, with the aim of securing an operations analyst role. Recently finishing his last course, he is now studying for his exams in preparation for leaving the Army in April 2020.
Speaking about his transition, while in the midst of it, Dominic said:
“I joined the Army because I was sick of sitting doing nothing in Wales. I’d ended up going from school, to college, being pushed in directions and going along with it but not really sure of the reasons why. When I finished college, I had no idea what I wanted to do and life felt a bit hollow and empty.
“The Army offered a solution, I felt like I belonged and I was very lucky to have a good hierarchy, good postings and housing. My journey was very linear, and I suppose what I learned about myself during that time was that I was a follower and not a leader.
“When I was asked by my Resettlement Officer what I wanted to do on leaving the Army, it was the first time in eleven years that I’d had to make a decision for myself. Thinking about that next step definitely felt big and daunting.
“I was so ignorant of what was outside of the Army. I knew I had skills but I had no idea of how they would work in industry, what kind of jobs would suit me, or what opportunities there were. Even down to basic things like wages and job titles, I didn’t know where to start looking and what to look for.
“I’m a happy go lucky kind of guy for whom everything has fallen into place, but I realised that they wouldn’t be able to help me plan for my future unless I helped myself.
“I went on a three-day round robin CTP workshop to give me some of the practical skills to help me apply for jobs, and was lucky to access advice and signposting on the type of careers that might work for me.
“As part of the CTP programme, I went along to open days with employers like Barclays and BT, and I’ve recently completed a work placement with the Scottish Government, including spending time with the Defence Policy Unit and the Scottish Veterans Commissioners Office which totally opened my eyes to what its like to be in different work environments.
“There have been challenges. I probably struggled most with taking that first step and I think it would have benefited me to have a one-to-one conversation with someone in a career counselling role at the outset. Getting information tailored to my circumstances and skills would have helped, as the amount of information and the reality of life after the Army felt quite overwhelming initially.
“Maxine has also struggled with feeling homesick since we moved to England, which has been difficult to work through. Everything support wise in the Army is very much centered around families and as we don’t have kids, the help and advice that would have been useful for her as a dependent just hasn’t been there, which has been disappointing but not surprising.
“But overall, I’m thankful for the advice and encouragement I’ve been given, as well as access to industry-accredited courses and training. The support has set me off on the right footing, without a shadow of a doubt.
“I’d heard lots of stories about it being a handshake and goodbye, but my experience has been far from that. My wife was really struggling being away from home and is drumming her fingers about the move back to Scotland so we can get on with the next stage of our lives.”