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What I wish I’d known: Ben Jones

Finding a new career path after years of service isn’t always straightforward. We spoke with veteran Ben Jones to hear what he’s learned from changing careers – and his experience playing in the Defence Rugby World Cup.

Seeking inspiration

I joined the Army in 1999, just after the conflict in East Timor kicked off. After finishing school the year before, I was in a rut trying to figure out what to do, but seeing on television what Australia was doing to help in East Timor inspired me to join the military. I walked into the recruiting office pretty much the day after that.

During the recruitment process, I found out I was colourblind, which limited what I could do. Initially, I wanted to join the infantry, but instead I joined the Royal Australian Army Ordnance Corps in an op admin capacity. After basic training, I was posted to the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Darwin for the next three years.

That’s where I fell in love with playing rugby union.

Seeing the world

Up in Darwin, we used to have a Thursday sports carnival with the other units. The first year I was there, the selectors came to watch us play, and I was fortunate enough to be picked in the Australian Army Rugby Union team, or AARU, which then played in the inter-service sports carnival against the Navy and Air Force.

As part of that team, I went to Argentina, South Africa, Thailand and the United States, and attended the first Defence Rugby World Cup in 2011. After playing the pool games in Sydney, the top four teams went across to New Zealand for the finals. Unfortunately, we lost in the finals to the British Army.

I’ve been fortunate enough in my career to be a captain not only in the Army but also of the Army rugby team. I’ve seen the world on deployments and while playing sport.

Deployments and training

From Darwin, I was posted to Enoggera Barracks and Holsworthy Barracks, and along the way was promoted to the rank of sergeant. Later, I was one of 13 Aussies deployed with a British contingent to Basrah in Iraq, supporting the main force’s efforts there, and after that was deployed to Afghanistan.

By this point, I’d finished playing rugby and was thinking about what’s next. Some of my friends were certain of what they wanted to do when they got out, but I didn’t really have a plan – some veterans experience difficulty finding relevant work after transitioning. I was getting older too.

So I asked myself what I was good at, what transferable skills I had. I knew I was computer-savvy and had good administrative and logistics skills, but decided to upskill through the Defence Assistance Study Scheme (DASS) before discharge – DASS provided financial support to help pay for training. I knew a couple of mates who went into mining after discharging, so after completing an Advanced Diploma in Workplace Health and Safety, I went to the mines.

“Looking back, I’d probably have bolstered my planning. Having a plan and backing yourself – that’s where a lot of people falter.”

Career progression

My civilian career has always been about progression – I would never move to a new role unless I was bettering myself.

After leaving the mines, I joined a transport logistics company, and from there moved into the fast-moving consumer goods industry, working at Red Bull. Then I went into the public service and worked for the New South Wales Government. My current role is Head of Safety at EVT group, which owns companies across Australia and New Zealand such as Rydges Hotels, Event Cinemas and Thredbo.

I’m always thinking ahead. If I start to get bored, that’s when I’ll make a change. I love where I am at EVT, it’s a great company. But I think the goal, one day, is to run my own company in the safety space.

What I wish I’d known

Looking back, I’d probably have bolstered my planning. I never thought the Army would be a long-term commitment. I thought that, like everyone else who joined, I’d do my four years and get out.

A couple of my mates who discharged at the same time went back in because they weren’t prepared for the outside world. Some people discharge and get lost because they don’t have that routine or purpose they had on the inside. So they look for a security blanket – which would be to get back to what they know.

Having a plan and backing yourself – that’s where a lot of people falter. You need the self confidence that it’s going to be okay, and you’ll come out the other side. If you have a solid plan, prepare yourself as best you can for discharge, and know that you will be okay – then there will be jobs out there, because you have transferable skills from the military that a lot of companies are looking for.

 

If you’re looking to make a career change, the RSL Veterans’ Employment Program provides a range of assistance to job-seeking veterans and serving members.

Membership of the state’s leading not-for-profit ex-service organisation is free for all veterans and it’s easy to join online. Be part of your community – join RSL NSW.

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