From Camouflage to High-vis.
As one door closes another door opens. After a successful career in the Royal Marines over the last decade, I decided it was time to hang up the beret and swap it for a hard hat. I have had an amazing career to date and it has shaped me into the person I am today. I wouldn’t change one second of it. However, going away for six months at a time on deployments isn’t a conducive life for someone who wants to have a family anymore.
So, in March 2018, I began my seven click (resignation) process. In the forces we must serve a year’s notice, which of course is a blessing and a challenge as you can imagine. I had a long time to think about my next moves and where I wanted to go next and although it was difficult, I was committed to moving on. I didn’t know right away that it was construction that would be my next adventure, but I knew my skills were in project management and leadership, so I began to look at my options. I first looked at number of different programmes from various sectors. After months of deliberation I found myself in standing in One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, after considering working in the financial sector. I had an epiphany, why would I want to give up the rolling country side of Devon, for the rat-race that lay before me? While this kind of move might be perfect for some, I knew my heart wasn’t truly in London and home is Devon. I returned to the homeland and began to research which industries were growing and I kept coming back to construction.
My naivety led me to believe that construction was solely based on being ‘out in all weather, getting mucky and working all hours to get the job done’. I soon realised this wasn’t the case. I was a plumber before joining Her Majesty’s Royal Marines, so I have some experience within this field already and what I have learnt over my time in the forces also fits perfectly in this industry. After much deliberation, I decided to go down the route of site management. There are so many different options in construction, so my advice is to ask questions of the people in the know and do some research. Even though I had some experience working in the sector, I still needed help making connections and finding opportunities.
Luckily, I found a company called BuildForce who are an organisation which help current and former serving personnel into construction. I’m struggling to find the words to describe how amazing this company is and how supportive they are. I also must say I had an enormous amount of help from the Royal Marines charity. Both helped me to obtain direct contact with some very desirable employers in the industry.
After an initial email, I received a phone call to arrange a consultation and following a conversation with a member of the BuildForce team and being given some great advice and guidance, I received several emails saying they had a number of work placements for me if I was available. I was taken aback by their speed and professionalism, but with so many opportunities suddenly before me, I made the necessary arrangement and booked my time off work. Within a week I found myself at Exeter University, on placement courtesy of Morgan Sindall to learn, help out where I can and see if it’s really what I wanted to do.
I was greeted by the Site Manager Gav who was also a former Royal Marine. After signing in and receiving my site induction. Gav started to tell me some of his experiences of his five-year career within this industry. His knowledge and expertise was clear from the offset. He was clearly passionate about the job, which showed through his extensive knowledge of everything going on with the site.
The first day, was spent shadowing Gav and I absorbed every single detail. Working ‘hands-on’ for me, is the best way to learn. I feel there are things you just can’t learn from a book compared to experiencing it first-hand. The role is ever changing, fast paced, and exciting. By the end of the day I was hooked. I knew this was the right path!
For me it felt comfortable being on site. Maybe, because I have been on sites in the past or because it felt so comfortable being around like-minded people. The more I saw through the week, the more I knew I had to make this my future career.
For the remainder of the week I continued to shadow Gav, conducting simple tasks from assisting with paperwork to ensuring that the guys were working were they were needed and doing what they should be. Overall I learnt a great deal, but primarily:
• The customer is always right.
• What is seen on site, does not represent what actually happens behind the scenes.
• Even though there must be a separation between the main contractor and the sub-contractors, keeping them on side is KEY, but also knowing when and how to use your authority is even more important.
• You must remain flexible!
On the Thursday I met with the contract manager and the quantity surveyor. Again, I was greeted with smiles and of course I asked a million questions, but why not, I’m here to learn. I did ask the question so what happens next? to which I was told I will be contacted next week. Until my drive home that evening, I didn’t realise I was actually being sized up to work for one of the biggest companies in the industry.
The following Monday, I received a phone call from the contract’s manager asking me to attend an interview to which I of course accepted. I am pleased to say the interview went very well and I have been offered a position within the company. Needless to say, I have a lot of learning to do, but I would advise any service personnel considering this move that you really do have the core skills that are transferable to this industry, but you are going to have to learn and that takes time. If you are keen, hardworking and open minded then you will succeed. My final advice if you are thinking about joining construction no matter what it is, contact BuildForce who have expertise to assist you, you have nothing to lose and maybe a lot to gain.