Mind the Gap – Opening the doors on life after the military

June 29, 2023 Dan McDonough

In this digital age, there is a wealth of advice on how to transition out of the army into a civilian career; the challenge is finding the right path that works for you. Matero’s internship for those leaving the military has provided me with a unique pathway by exposing me to an array of different commercial work experiences, so that I can better identify what the right path looks like for me.

Quite unexpectedly, I developed an autoimmune disease last year that nearly confined me to a wheelchair. I was quickly told that I would be medically discharged from the army. Despite receiving amazing medical and emotional support, it soon became clear that it was solely down to me to find a way through the challenge of losing a military career and finding a new one. I concluded that a mindset of personal accountability and positive attitude was the only way forward.

Leveraging the ex-military network was the first step and has been invaluable. An initial call with Stuart Tootal at Matero taught me the practical lessons of job hunting; how to craft a standout CV, the rules of networking and the importance of establishing a hierarchy of needs. Armed with this new knowledge, I began my transition journey and quickly found you only truly begin to appreciate the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead of you through experience.

One of Stuart’s key recommendations was to have a reset period, time away to analyse my situation without day-to-day distractions getting in the way. Thanks to modern medicine, my mobility has recovered to a level that I was able to use my medical discharge leave to cycle to Rome. This was a brilliant opportunity in itself to appreciate the agricultural, engineering and town planning wonders of Western Europe. The trip also allowed me to reflect on what I wanted from life outside of the military.

Finding the passion in rural Switzerland


The temptation to follow established routes into security, consultancy or financial services was strong, but whilst pedalling past silvoarable systems in France, robotic milking parlours in Switzerland and camping at Agriturismo sites in Italy, I found that my passion lies elsewhere – the rural sector. I also concluded that I wanted a purpose and people focussed role; the chance to influence and help others through the fourth Agricultural Revolution being the driving purpose.

A follow up meeting with Stuart and Dan resulted in a unique offer; the chance to bridge the gap between military and civilian life with a transition internship at Matero. The role promised to build my commercial experience, expand my network and include me as part of a dynamic team that was having real impact with clients. Immediately launched onto several projects, I have found that my soft skills. embedded through military service, are highly transferable and valued in business. Matero’s MECCAR framework seeks to develop leadership autonomy and create a culture of accountability, which aligned directly to roles I had in the military.

Stuart and Dan’s network is vast. They have opened doors to a broad range of experiences that have led to quite unexpected opportunities, while diversifying perspectives and broadening my horizons. Stuart and Dan have also sought to create a symbiotic relationship between their business development projects and my job search. Four weeks into the internship and I have already had significant exposure and input into Matero’s business development, operations, and strategy planning. This has significantly enhanced my commercial skills and awareness, while providing a level of opportunity to learn, which I doubt I would have gained in other internship programmes. Consequently, I thoroughly recommend Matero’s internship, which blends work experience, networking and guidance.

Leaving the military is daunting. The loss of responsibility for others leaves a gap. However, there are newfound freedoms and having a structured routine helps alleviate the loss of purpose, regain focus and importantly, optimise limited available time. Perhaps the most valuable piece of advice I’ve received is to “always have the next call lined up”; it maintains the all-important job hunting momentum.

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