Thomas Fulton: Military to Recruitment Consultant - The Journey

Leah Cottham
January 8, 2024

After our Searchability Chinese New Year Celebration, we each had to draw a fortune cookie with a task/challenge we have to complete within 12 months. Mine was to write a blog for the Searchability website. I’m sure none of you are interested in reading about me and my fascination of the American/Vietnam War so I thought it might be beneficial to discuss my transition from the military into ‘Civvie Street’ (We use this term to refer to life and work which is not connected with the armed forces - civilisation.) and some of the challenges I have faced. Culminating in what I am currently doing with Hirecracker in helping get veterans into work.

Military Career

In 2005, at the age of 17, I joined the military without a clear purpose. Lacking interest in education and job prospects, I sought guidance and life lessons. Walking into the Army Careers Office, I met a Guards Sergeant who explained the diverse roles in the British Army. Intrigued by the prospect of being a Royal Military Police Officer, I embarked on a nine-year journey.

My military experience included deployments to Germany, Kenya, Canada, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Serving with the Brigade Reconnaissance Force in Afghanistan was a particular highlight. Beyond the diverse locations, the camaraderie with remarkable colleagues was the true reward. Many of whom I remain still in contact with nine years after my last day of service (I am writing this blog while sat in Amman Airport, Jordan after visiting one of my best friends who’s still serving and is currently working in the British Embassy). Despite inevitable challenges and the undoubtable lows I experienced too, the friendships formed is all part all part of being a solider.

But Why Did I Leave The Military?

After returning from Afghanistan in October 2012, I found myself back at work in Donnington, near Birmingham. One day, while sitting at traffic lights, I saw a red Ferrari Spider and wondered what he did for a job and if I would ever have one myself, not if I stay in the Army that’s for sure! Realising the slim chance of achieving my goals in the military, I decided to leave. With no concrete plan but a newfound ambition, I handed in my 12 month notice, sold my belongings, and booked a one way ticket for a year long journey through Asia and South America.

This adventure served as a crucial decompression from military life, revealing the anger and frustration I carried. Interacting with diverse cultures during my travels helped me grow as a person, breaking free from the military echo chamber. However, upon running out of money, I returned unexpectedly to my parents' doorstep, facing the question of what to do next.

Part-time Jobs

Upon returning home, I started asking around for work work and landed a job with a marquee company through a friend's recommendation. Despite the physically demanding nature of the work and the age gap with my colleagues, I enjoyed the camaraderie. I really enjoyed the small team and everyday was fun, however I started developing a nagging feeling, I wanted ‘more’. But more of what?

I had heard a rumour about the military covering university tuition fees for those who served more than eight years. This turned out to be true, allowing service leavers to go back to university with full tuition fee coverage of £27,000. However, confirming such information was challenging. This marked the beginning of a common theme in the military transition process known as "signposting," which I'll delve into later.

Education

In pursuit of achieving "more," I enrolled in College at the age of 27, completing an access to education course. The disciplined approach I gained from the military helped me excel in my studies, receiving straight Distinctions. Eager for further academic challenges, I started a degree at the University of Manchester in September 2016, immersing myself in university life, including living in halls. Despite the age difference, I formed a lasting friendship with Alex. University proved to be an incredible experience, marked by academic success, culminating in a First Class Degree in Criminology and Politics. Now faced with the question of what comes next, I was armed with newfound possibilities.

Fulltime work

My first civilian job was with a sales team at an Engineering company on the Wirral, specialising in valves and instrumentation for Nuclear, Oil, Gas, and Engineering industries. While the people were lovely and it was a real tight team, after leaving the military, strong teams are where I feel most at home, I felt a lack of real impact. . I loved interacting with clients and felt like my past of being the sole military police officer in a platoon of infantrymen where you have to make friends quickly, was put to good use. I feel I am a strong communicator and in any strong client/supplier relationship lies communication., but the desire for something more persisted in the back of my mind.

Recruitment

Recruitment is something I have never considered doing at any point in my life. While job hunting, I unexpectedly found 'Searchability,' an IT Digital Recruitment agency conveniently close to my house. Intrigued by the lucrative recruitment salary, I applied and was impressed by the company's core value: 'Be Sound.' As someone from the North-West, this resonated with me, being sound means an awful lot. After the military’s core values of Courage, Discipline, Respect, Integrity, Loyalty and Selfless Commitment being constantly preached, this seemed slick, efficient and somewhere I wanted to dedicate myself too. My first visit to the office further convinced me; it was a vibrant place that aligned with my vision of 'more' in life. What a place. The buzz of the sales floor, the music, the celebration of people’s achievement; This is a bit of me. This could help me answer the question of what ‘more’ could be in my life.

Joining the Contracts Team, I learned the ropes and found the supportive team I had been seeking since leaving the military. A call from a friend in Jordan, a remarkable soldier and police officer, sparked my interest in helping veterans transition into civilian roles. Inspired by organisations like Amazon, Barclays, and BT actively recruiting service leavers, I explored ways to contribute more. Discovering the Armed Forces Covenant, signed by 9,344 companies, including Searchability, I decided to reach out and contribute to supporting veterans and the broader service community.

Signposting Problems

I addressed the issue of 'signposting' earlier in this blog, which involves two key challenges:

  1. Many exceptional service leavers, unsure of their next steps, face difficulties similar to my own "I want more" conundrum upon leaving the military. The transition can be overwhelming, regardless of years served (4 or 24), with untapped skills and experiences.
  2. Forces-friendly companies in the UK recognise the value veterans bring but lack direct connections to tap into this talent pool.

That's where I come in.

Initially a side project, I approached Armed Forces Covenant companies to inquire about their recruitment plans and willingness to hire service leavers. The responses were overwhelmingly positive, revealing a genuine appetite in the UK job market for this talent. Consequently, I transitioned from the Contracts Team to Searchability's sister company Hirecracker, dedicating my efforts to helping service leavers find opportunities with remarkable forces-friendly organisations for multiple positions (not just Tech). Everyday, I encounter service leavers eager to contribute to the job market, sharing the same aspirations and concerns I had after leaving the Army—they want more. They only seek one thing: an opportunity!

This is the 'more' I've been seeking.

If you are looking for a new opportunity or help transitioning to a job after leaving the military - we can help! Get in touch 07849 833 664 or email [email protected].

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