Simon joined the Australian Army in 1990 to join the peace effort during the Cold War. Starting his military career as a Telecommunications Officer for the Royal Australian Corps of Signals, he worked his way up the military career ladder, before leaving the Army after over 15 years of service. Today he stands proud, having recently achieved his civilian career goal – obtaining his dream job as a dynamic Project Manager.
Simon recently joined Omni Executive to support a new project for them in South Australia. Meeting Simon for the first time I’m struck by his big smile and razor-sharp wit. It’s hard to imagine a time when he wasn’t so happy go lucky and was struggling to find a job at all. 15 years on from leaving the Army, Simon is in a good place and finally achieving a challenging role in Project Management that he’s been striving for since separating out of the military.
“One of the inherent traits that serving in the ADF teaches is an ability to really see a problem from all aspects and approach it holistically, countering all likely challenges with an appropriate solution. Simon brings this pedigree with him into Omni and to the project he is managing. This attribute is well sought after when reviewing personnel for complex and challenging roles.” – Craig Clarke, Manager Physical Security, Omni Executive.
Soldier On Pledge organisation’s like Omni Executive, recognise the high-level skills acquired in the Australian Defence Force and make a true commitment to veteran-supportive recruitment, retention, training and workplace culture.
“Omni Executive is committed to building a lasting connection and support for veterans and their families. Our vision is aligned to Soldier On’s vision to enable veterans and their families to thrive, by recognising veterans’ high-level skills, fundraising and providing a supportive workplace.” – Jon Hawkins, CEO, Omni Executive.
Like many ex-service men and women, after discharging from the Army, Simon’s life goals and future career didn’t initially go to plan. Over 5000 men and women transition out of the Australian Defence Force every year, and like many of them, Simon struggled initially to find meaning and his place in society.
For those that dedicate themselves to serving in the Armed Forces, transitioning out can be a complex and emotional process. Imagine that you have worked for one employer your entire life. Dedicated to serving your country – you live, eat and breathe that work culture and lifestyle – with your social life being based around your workforce. Then you leave.
All that structure and support, meaningful work and social life, is gone. It’s no wonder that many veterans struggle to find their place in society once they have separated from the military. It takes time to create new professional and social connections and re-build the same level of career and support networks in civilian life.
Simon discharged from the Australian Army in 2005. Leaving Defence, he initially struggled to find employment and unbeknownst to him at the time, Simon was also fighting his own battle with undiagnosed PTSD. For some veterans, experiences arising from service can lead to mental health conditions that require treatment. These are not always picked up on straight away and can cause further complications if not diagnosed and treated.
Simon’s relationship broke down and his marriage ended. Finding himself unable to find a job at all, Simon was facing homelessness and reached his lowest point.
Simon explains; “It was a Thursday, a rainy day. I knew I was about a week away from homelessness. I was contemplating suicide that day. I called Soldier On – I came in and talked with Carrie, one of the Soldier On Employment Officers. She really listened and told me about all the kinds of help available from Soldier On – the coffee catch-ups, the employment support, the connections to employers.”
“Thanks to Carrie I joined the Pathways Program and they helped me update my resume and find a short-term job fast. When that contract finished, the Pathways team assisted me with my job search again and introduced me to my current employer, where I secured a new contract. I’ve finally got the Project Management role I really wanted for so long and I’m excited for the future.”
Carrie was the Pathways Officer who took Simon’s call and got him started on his Soldier On journey. Soldier On enables veterans and their families to thrive by providing holistic support services to the whole Defence family including health and wellbeing programs, social activities and the Pathways Program. The Soldier On Pathways team provides free employment and education support to veterans and their family members.
Pathways Officer Carrie is a Defence Spouse herself and so understands the Defence lifestyle and some of the emotional and practical complexities of Defence employment transitions.
Carrie said; “Meeting Simon I understood where he was at and I could see his potential and the high-level skills he could bring to the civilian workforce – it was just a case of connecting him with the right employer at the right time, who was looking for his experience and level of expertise. It was such a good feeling when Simon got the job he was hoping for – I’m honoured to play a small part in that.”
“I am so thankful and proud to work for Soldier On. I work with a lot of veterans and Defence Partners and Spouses, and other members of the Defence family, to help them find long-term meaningful work. My husband is in the Airforce and I wanted to work for Soldier On to help other military families dealing with some of the same issues that I have dealt with in the past. I am excited to go to work every day and interact with the members of my military community. I want to be able make a positive difference in someone else’s life.”
“Simon has proved that he has got what it takes and his career is flying. I’m so glad that Simon has got the Project Management job that he was hoping for, is excelling in his role and is excited for his future.”
The Pathways team at Soldier On provides employment and education support to veterans and their families. As part of this support they host Pathways networking events and can help with connections to Pledge organisations, who are veteran-supportive companies, who all recognise and value the high-level work skills acquired in the ADF.
After leaving Defence, Simon had his heart set on becoming a Project Manager. Like many veterans, re-joining civilian life wasn’t initially easy for Simon. His path to get where he wanted to be after leaving military service, wasn’t straight forward – but Simon maintained the ability to improvise, adapt, overcome.
Simon said; “The thing about military people is we’re used to toughing it out – being the rock. When you’re in the military it’s great because people keep an eye on you. But when you get out sometimes being stoic can be a greater hazard than facing up to the challenges you’re facing.”
“I think all ex-Defence people should contact Soldier On. Being in Defence adds a new complexity to the way you look at the world and Soldier On gets that. They understand veterans, can see the challenges veterans face, can talk to you as ex-Defence and help you.”
“I’m really enjoying working at Omni Executive. There’s lots of people that work here that are ex-service, ex-sig. Some of us served in units together. There’s banter and comradery. I like that we all speak the same language. We get the job done.”
Simon has now been working for the company for 2 months and is about to re-locate to his hometown.
Simon reflects on his career success; “After 15 years of trying, I’ve finally got the job – I’m very happy! I’m looking forward to my future and where it’s taking me. I’m moving home, and I’ve got an exciting new Project Management role. I’m really looking forward to developing my career and also just being home and being able to spend time with my Dad on the weekend.”
Pathways Program support available
If you’re a veteran, Defence Spouse or Partner, or Defence family member looking for work, please contact the Pathways team on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1300 620 380 Mon – Fri during office hours.
The Soldier On Pathways team is here to help enable you to reach your educational goals and career aspirations, including opportunities to upskill or retrain and employment opportunities.
For wider ongoing Soldier On support Mon – Fri office hours contact email@example.com
Lifeline is a national charity providing all Australians experiencing a personal crisis with access to 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention services, 7 days a week. Call 13 11 14. www.lifeline.org.au
Beyond Blue offers support any time of the day or night and provides one-on-one chats with trained mental health professionals, 24 hours, 7 days a week. Call 1300 22 4636. www.beyondblue.org.au
Open Arms is for current and ex-serving Australian Defence personnel and their families when they need someone to talk to 24 hours, 7 days a week. Call 1800 011 046. www.openarms.gov.au
About Omni Executive
Founded by Jon Hawkins, a Veteran, Omni honours the service that former members of the Australian Defence Force, Police Services and Intelligence Community have contributed to the development of our community. Omni is dedicated to supporting the Veteran community by direct employment and through the support or partnerships with other Veteran support agencies and initiatives. In addition to the Gold Pledge with Soldier On, Omni sponsors Legacy, the Bravery Trust, Fearless and provides a percentage of its budget each year to the veteran community and other charities.
Pathways employment success stories
This is just one positive story of many, resulting from veterans joining the Pathways Program. Pathways helps to prevent veteran suicide by enabling veterans to secure their future career. The Pathways Program provides employment and education support as part of Soldier On’s trauma-informed holistic support model. Providing practical job search and job application assistance and connecting veterans with veteran-supportive organisations and education partners.
Over the past year, the Pathways Program has evolved and grown rapidly to support over 3200 veterans and their families. We now have a national employment and education team with staff in each state of Australia and have delivered a series of webinars to help veterans and their families prepare for the civilian workforce and secure their future career.
The need for mental health support, employment and education support and social activities for veterans has never been greater than today. 2020 has been a challenging year for many, with COVID-19 having a negative impact on the mental health of many veterans and creating additional employment challenges for many. The Pathways Program enables veterans to get job ready, upskill or retrain if they wish to and secure long-term meaningful employment.