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In the following article we reveal the 5 biggest mistakes made when transitioning out of Defence, and what you can do to avoid them. If you follow our advice you’ll be ahead of the pack when it comes to establishing yourself in a civilian career, and making the process as stress free as possible for you and your family.

Mistake 1: Lock Out

We have heard it time and time again: “I left my documents in the Defence. I can’t gain access to them now. Is that a problem?”

Yes. This presents a big problem. Leaving it too long to gather those documents leaves you at risk of getting yourself locked out from accessing the documents that showed your full defence career.

In a world where you must prove your worth, having evidence of your skills and experience is essential. Too many defence personnel have found out the hard way. They miss their opportunity to gather evidence and then end up with lower level qualifications than they’re actually eligible for. Or else they end up having to spend time and money studying what they already know, because they don’t have the evidence to show it.

What’s the alternative? Get Collecting!

Make sure you collect ALL the documents and examples that paint the highest level of your skills and experience in the military BEFORE you leave.

Here’s the immediate steps to take:

  1. PMKeys or Record of Service Long
  2. A minimum of 2 recent PARs (performance management reports)
  3. Obtain Special PARs or supplemental PARs
  4. Record of Attainment / Course Reports (ROAs)
  5. Pay slips
  6. Commendations

Mistake 2: Leaving Money on the Table

Veterans who haven’t looked at the available defence transition funding before leaving all tell us they made these three mistakes:

  1. They had to 100% fund transition out of the family budget.
  2. The pool of funds available to defence personnel shrinks dramatically after you exit.
  3. Down the track, you realise you missed out on your entitlements that others used to their advantage and this puts you behind in the long run.
How will this effect your transition?
  • You walk away with fewer qualifications.
  • It takes longer to get the qualifications you do need to get ahead.
  • You’re not as well prepared in applying for jobs and completing interviews.
  • You miss the opportunities that arise for a better paying / higher classified job.
  • Ultimately this all impacts what you can bring home for your family.
Instead, get the cash!
  1. While you are still in the Defence, check out the Defence assisted study schemes that can be available to you and your partner.
  2. For funding that you can access immediately prior and after your discharge date, check out the Career Transition Assistance Scheme (CTAS).
  3. You can also look for funding and support offered by services such as the RSL.
  4. These will ease your pocket, so you can look at payment plans and Study Loans to distribute some of the investments you are making over a period of time.

Mistake 3: Lost in the Labyrinth

When you head out the door of defence, you realise it is a labyrinth of options and decisions.

When you take the approach of hurling yourself straight into the labyrinth without a clear plan of attack, you’re going to strike these problems …

  1. There will be higher levels of stress and anxiety for you and for your family.
  2. Without a clear direction to work towards, where you end up is anyone’s guess. You appear less together to employers and end up presenting as uncertain and scattered, and opportunities will pass you by.
  3. You’ll exhaust your time and money on the wrong qualifications for what you really need, and miss out on the best advice to get you ahead in transition.
Take the time to get some Clarity!

Start by getting some clarity, building a basic plan for where you want to head after leaving the military.

When you get clarity, you’ll find that:

  1. You have a clear direction to work towards.
  2. You’ll be able to concentrate your energy, your time and your funds on the tools that will boost your career in the direction you want to travel.
  3. You’ll appear professional and composed, and people will respond to that confidence.
So, what should you get clear on?

This is where talking to a Military RPL Mentor can really help. The team at Churchill are always here to help with these conversations and point you in the direction of the 5 Questions you should answer in every transition.

Mistake 4: Labelling your Career

People getting out of Defence can make the mistake of labelling their career in military terms: military ranks, military skills and military qualifications. They expect civilians to understand their defence career, and the reality is they don’t.

Labelling puts you behind in the race for positions because you are categorised too easily by your past employer rather than your skills and knowledge.

Computerised recruitment and resume readers will disregard your applications, because they won’t be able to find the keywords and terms they’re programmed to look for.

The right position titles, skills descriptions and qualifications for the civilian job market MATTER.

Get Converting!

Instead, you want to put your defence service through a translation machine – take the defence labels and turn it into labels that make sense on Civvy Street – on your resume, in your cover letters and through converting your defence experience into civilian qualifications through recognition of prior learning.

…And see how it opens up the job market to you.

When it comes to converting your defence experience, there are three paths to take:
  1. The Long Way – you do it yourself. Lots of research, lots of time. This can be a pretty arduous process and you will need a thorough understanding of RPL assessment and qualifications.
  2. The Defence Accreditation process – The Defence has certain qualifications on scope that they may be able to offer you. They have the qualifications that suit defence work (which makes sense) but if you are looking to part ways you need to find the qualifications that the civilian world is looking for. Feedback on the defence accreditation process is that it is long and slow, and often gives you accreditation at a level below what you really deserve.
  3. The Short Way – tap into experts who will do the work for you, and understand the value of your defence career in the civilian world. From the work we do at Churchill in getting ADF personnel qualified, to resume and recruitment experts, we know the right questions to ask and give you the best path through to successfully convert your career. Even better, when you work with us, you know you are getting a prompt service that puts you in the hot seat, ready to launch into any job opportunity you have your eyes on.

Mistake 5: Limping out of the Gate

When you haven’t taken the time to look at your resume, get that interviewing advice, talk to qualification specialists who understand what qualifications are opening doors or setting standards in which industries, well, you are going to be limping out of the gate while other people run for the prize.

Preparing to enter a new career requires new skills – resume, applications, interviews, LinkedIn profiles and building connections in a totally different world – a civilian world.

It means building a good team around you who are all focused on helping you transition.

Get Career Expertise!

There are some great career experts available to help veterans transitioning to Civvy Street.

The smart money is on the veterans who get help with:

  • Your resume specifically targeted to the role you are going for.
  • Putting your application, cover letters and resume into a language that can be understood by the civilian world – no acronyms!
  • Setting up a strong LinkedIn profile (we can give you advice on this one).
  • Converting your defence career into the best qualifications for a civilian career – this is what Churchill has specialised in doing since 2006.
  • Interview skills – remembering that first impressions count, and helping you learn how to address the question in a non-military way.
  • Tapping into job opportunities through specialist recruitment services, including tapping into the networks of Mates4Mates, Soldier On and RSL.

Avoiding these Mistakes is Simple …

You are not the first person to transition from Defence and you won’t be the last.

So, avoid these mistakes by tapping into the best support you can get.

At Churchill, we are all about giving you the best support, solutions and service available. We have a number of staff members who have made the transition themselves, so we understand where you’re at, where you’ve come from, and how to get where you want to go.

If you’d like to speak to us about smoothly transitioning to Civvy Street, give us a call on 1300 793 002 to get the best advice for your situation.


If you’re not ready to speak to someone just yet, and prefer to do a bit more research on your own – we think you’ll find this article useful: The Top 4 Defence RPL Qualifications.

We’ve been helping military personnel to transition for the past 12 years. Based on this, we have put together what we have found to be the most useful qualifications, and the types of careers these can open the door to.




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