The Careers Adviser

Will they speak my language? And where can I find the right management course for me?
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The Independent Online

Heading into civvy street

Q. I have served with the armed forces for seven years, specialising in languages. I have experience in middle-management, and am used to working under pressure in a security-conscious environment. I am now looking to leave and I'm interested in using my linguistic skills, but worry that my qualifications won't be recognised by a civilian employer. Can you help?

A. Much of the language teaching in the military is based on Nato standards and doesn't appear on the National Qualifications Framework, which means it isn't automatically calibrated to nationally recognised levels. However, I am sure if you check, perhaps with trainers, they will be aware of the rough equivalence of military and civilian qualifications. For some jobs, pointing to this sort of parity may be enough. There are entry points where the equivalence has already been considered - for example, if you have a military level 4 or diploma qualification you can apply for a place on the MA in international liaison and communication at the University of Westminster. Working for the Ministry of Defence is often a comfortable choice for those leaving the army - it's not a big move but could offer a step towards the commercial world. Companies and agencies offering specialised help are the Regular Forces Employment Association (;Quest (; Defence Jobs ( and Eden Brown (, a recruitment agency with experience of recruiting to private contractors working with the MOD. Huge security services and consulting firm Kroll ( may also be of interest.

I want to go it alone

Q. I have more than seven years experience of working in different sectors in secretarial and admin roles, and I have decided to enrol on a professional or management course which could lead to self employment, but I'm not sure which one to choose.

A. You are rightly trying to build on your management skills before taking the step out on your own. There are generic courses on subjects like introduction to management, or skills related courses (on project or financial management ). You can choose which most interests you. The Chartered Management Institute ( runs courses in conjunction with ProSeminar ( ). The Institute also offers an Introductory Certificate In Business Start-Up, which allows you to study for a qualification, and you can move on to study for a full certificate. Check out the qualifications section of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators ( for details of the work of a chartered secretary. These are people who carry out a professional, administrative role supporting the Board of an organisation (not to be confused with a PA or secretary). They can be, for instance, heads of administration in schools and hospitals, company secretaries in all sizes of company, or local government officers. There are options to complete a diploma, and also to go on to take further modules for a qualifying scheme. Some who have taken these qualifications set up their own specialist businesses, offering company secretarial and business services to clients in a similar way to solicitors or accountants.

Careers advisers: Lola James, managing director, Career Analysts; Jo Causon, director of marketing and corporate affairs, the Chartered Management Institute; Siobhan Hamilton-Phillips, managing director, Career Psychology.

Send your queries to Caroline Haydon at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020-7005 2143; or e-mail to