Spotlight on (Male) Spouses | Victory for Veterans – Lea Nicholson’s story

Lea Nicholson works in the IT Sector as a Customer Success Account Manager for Microsoft after having served for over two decades in the Armed Forces. We sat down with Lea and chatted about the transition from military life into the civilian world of work…

“I joined the Army/Royal Signals direct from school. I fulfilled various roles and positions within the Royal Signals during a 23 year career, finishing as an Operations Manager in 2018 and taking up a role within Microsoft shortly after.

Transitioning out of the Army and into the commercial sector is challenging. In my mind there are 3 ways to transition out of the Army. 1. Change industry 2. Change Job title, or 3. Change job title and industry. I decided to stay in the industry that I had become accustomed (IT), I changed Job title, but it played to my strengths and the transitional skills that had been obtained in the Army. Changing job title and industry is the hardest move to make, so I avoided that.

Whilst in the Army I had worked with various Microsoft personnel and was very much energised by the way they addressed issues and conducted business. The company I joined after leaving the Army had to have the same  values and standards and Microsoft is a diverse, inclusive, accessible organisation that is passionate about growth mindset, global issues and accountability. I knew they would be a great fit for me.”

Networking, upskilling, learning and research are key.

Growing and evolving a personal brand is also important, something that is alien to serving personnel, we naturally shy away from “I”, feeling more comfortable around “we” when singing about our successes.

For a large part of my adult working life both my wife and I have been serving members of the British Army.

At times, my wife has deployed on Operations and Exercises. I know first hand how difficult it can be to be the one at home, managing career expectations, managing a home and being a parent. The biggest obstacle for me has been obtaining the work/life balance and trying to succeed at both.

Sometimes you don’t succeed. There are times you may be ahead at work and this can impact home life, likewise you focus on homelife and this can impact your work reputation.  Maintaining balance has been the biggest obstacle.

My proudest moment can’t be pinpointed to a single moment. Upon completing a career in the Army you naturally look back over the achievements. I had a successful career in the Army, I have successfully transitioned into civilian employment and am excited about future opportunities. I am proud of the story so far and the support that family and friends has provided. Without the support from family, my achievements would not have been possible.

Work provides a purpose, I am not taking anything away from being a husband/wife or parent. Work is something for you as an individual, it provides a challenge, social interaction, grows determination and ignites inquisitiveness. The advice I would offer for anyone wanting to get back into work is to start small. Have a chat with a friend, ask them about their job, what excites them about their job, what challenges them, what is next for them. Look at who you are as a person, understand what comes naturally and see if this can align to an ideal job.

Any job that aligns to who you are naturally will take less energy, it will not be a learned response, you are more likely to succeed in these areas. Networking is key, reach out to mentors, apply for jobs, get experience in chatting about yourself and enjoy the process. Generally, people like helping people, don’t be afraid to ask and have confidence in you.

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