Accustomed to doing things a certain way, Victoria accidentally caught her colleagues’ attention during the first week in her new job. She says, “On Friday afternoon, I started clearing the bins. My boss said to me, ‘What are you doing?’ I replied, ‘It’s Friday, we’ve got to do a clean down.’” Her boss explained there are cleaners for that. “It was so ingrained in me that you look after your stuff,” she says.
Besides the bins, Victoria found hierarchy problematic. “If an officer walked into the room when I was in the Navy, you stand to attention. I kind of have that now – when I’m talking to my boss or above, I think, ‘They’re higher than me.’” Her mentor encouraged her to forget about rank and to just think of colleagues as people, but she admits it’s difficult after learning to respect hierarchy in the armed forces.
Settling in to a civilian role was also a test for Paul Bryden, who left the Army on a Friday and took on a new role as an operations manager the following Monday. “I joined a property division with no real property background, so the whole language was foreign to me – as was joining a commercial organization.” One of his first tasks was to review the purchase order system, but before he could start, he had to ask, “What actually is a purchase order?”
Although the unknown can be disconcerting, Paul faced it head on. “There was a difference in the fundamental stuff, but I thought, ‘That’s OK; I don’t understand, but I will soon. I’ll fix it and I’ll do it quickly.’”
It took up to two years for Phil to get used to his new career. “The learning curve was a very, very steep one for me – both in a lifestyle change with regards to attitudes at work, but also as a change of industry with new technical skills,” he says.