Before my time at Edelman, I didn’t take the same path as many of my peers, most of whom went to university and then on to exploring working life in an office. Instead, at 17, I found myself in the army careers office applying to join the British Army. After a challenging application process, a bit of fitness, and trying to teach myself how to iron, I ended up on a train platform with my entire life packed into one bag, saying goodbye to my family on the way to start basic training.
I went from living at home, getting my washing done and being waited on hand and foot (shout out to Mum), to having my head shaved and living in a room with 11 strangers and an angry corporal screaming at me to do push ups. The shock of capture quickly set in. Over the next 14 weeks they broke me down and rebuilt me as a soldier skilled in marksmanship, drill, first aid and so much more. These are all skills that most people would expect a soldier to gain, but what I didn’t expect is how much it would fundamentally change my personality in the process. I think I grew up more in those three and a half months than I did in the prior 18 years of my life.
After a very proud passing out parade (cue lots of tears from the grandparents) , I was onto the next phase of training - specialising in skills more specific to the Royal Artillery. One thing that shocked me was that in the Army you never stop learning, whether it is hard skills like how to use a new defence system or soft skills like leadership training. This requirement to pick up new competencies quickly would go on to serve me well.
I then served my time in 21 Air Assault Battery, specialising in drones. 21 Battery is an airborne unit attached to the parachute regiment. To join an airborne unit, you must complete ‘P-company’ - a gruelling, arduous course ending with the infamous ‘test week’. Comprised of eight tests of your physical and mental robustness, they are a mix of weighted marches - some as long as twenty miles, log and stretcher races, milling (a form of boxing) and assault courses. After passing P-company, I was awarded the maroon beret and earnt the right to learn to throw myself out of a plane.
The parachutists training was probably the best thing I ever did in the army– I would be lying if I didn’t say I was terrified on that first jump, but the adrenaline rush was amazing. After four day jumps and two night jumps, I was awarded my wings and sent back to my unit slotting back into the not so 9-to-5 life of training exercises, sport and development courses.
After four years of training, travelling, making some great friends, and a few too many injuries, I decided my time in the army was up and I was ready for a new challenge.
Usually when transitioning from military to civilian life you are pushed towards doing jobs traditionally associated with your skill set - like driving or private security etc. I knew I was after something a little different to better utilise everything I’d learnt, and after speaking with close friends and family I decided I wanted to pursue a career in recruitment. Not the most obvious choice? Perhaps. But I found that in the army I was driven by tangible results and was able to build longstanding relationships quickly whether it be a fellow private soldier or a high-ranking officer.
My challenge came in finding an organisation willing to recognise the transferable nature of those skills. Luckily, I did and was soon bought on as a junior consultant in a recruitment firm. I took to it like a duck to water. All the soft skills I’d garnered in the army such as self-discipline, determination, organisation and confidence helped me excel. A lot of people write off or underestimate how important these traits can be in ex-military service men and women – I even doubted myself at one time.
Eventually, I was approached to join Edelman – and I jumped at the chance to work for the world’s largest PR agency, having seen some of the amazing work it produced.
Now you will find me in the HR team at Edelman UK recruiting the best and brightest – from any and all backgrounds. I’m proud that I get to help broaden access to the communications industry for others like me, who may not have a “traditional” education or work history, but nonetheless have valuable skills and experience to lend to our organisation and clients.
A couple of weeks ago it all came full circle for me. Edelman hosted the Forces Media Academy at Edelman for an insight afternoon to introduce them to our agency and showcase some of our work. I was proud to be able to chat to them about my journey and hopefully we will soon have a few members of the academy complete work placement with us.
I may not have a University degree, or the usual background for someone in my position but in true Liam Neeson style, “I have a very particular set of skills built up over a successful career that make me perfect for Edelman HR. I will find you, I will speak to you and I will hire you!”