Why leaving the army was the best career move for this Paulsgrove dad

If you told Rob Lofthouse 20 years ago that leaving the military would be the best thing he ever did, he would not have believed you.

By Annie Lewis
Tuesday, 22nd June 2021, 10:10 am
Rob Lofthouse near his home in Paulsgrove. Picture: Sam Stephenson
Rob Lofthouse near his home in Paulsgrove. Picture: Sam Stephenson

The Paulsgrove dad-of-three joined the army when he was just 17 and the prospect of life on civvy street was daunting and unnerving.

However, thanks to his conviction, courage and can-do attitude, he now works as a freelance digital consultant, author and creative writer for a gaming company.

Rob, 44, says: ‘The best thing I ever did was leave the army.

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Rob Lofthouse during a charity bike ride for SSAFA with his two sons Archie, left, and Jamie.

‘I had a great 20 years – it was exciting, loud and sometimes scary. I don’t regret any of it.

‘I implore anyone looking to leave and I would say don’t be scared of the outside. You do have a lot to offer civilian life.’

Rob grew up in Twickenham, London, and wanted to be a soldier ever since he can remember.

He explains: ‘I never even considered doing anything else. I knew military life was what I wanted.

Rob pictured in 1997.

‘The good times in the army definitely outweighed the bad. It’s hard work and although the physical side is tough, it’s progressive.

‘I left school at 17 and finished my basic training with the army in 1994.

‘I then started as a private soldier with the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment.

‘I did three tours of Northern Ireland and Kosovo, and one in Iraq.’

Alongside his tours to areas of conflict, Rob’s 20-year career in the military saw him serve in Poland, Germany, Kenya, Canada and the Falkland Islands.

During this time, Rob met his wife Vicky, from Portsmouth, and they now have three children.

When they started a family, Rob says his perspective changed.

‘Military life is all consuming, you can’t step in and out of it,’ says Rob.

‘You’re in a relationship with your regiment first. When they need you, you go. It’s quite bizarre but very rewarding.

‘Soldiering was my vocation and I never thought that would change.

‘But when I had kids, soldiering just became my job.’

Rob was offered voluntary redundancy in 2013 and left in the rank of sergeant.

‘My wife kept me quite grounded and she works in recruitment,’ explains Rob.

Leaving the armed forces is scary for anyone. I think we all have this bleak picture of what life is like outside the wire.’

‘I was initially quite apprehensive because I wasn’t quite sure what I could bring to life on the civilian market.

‘My wife introduced me to LinkedIn and that changed everything. I have made so many connections and found opportunities through it.

‘My wife told me to write everything down that I had achieved, however niche it might be.

‘She helped me translate it from military language into something civilians could understand.’

After Rob walked out of the gates in December 2013, his career outside the military did not get off to the best of starts.

After a six-month probation period at a new job, he decided to leave when he was criticised for being ‘too military’ in his ways.

Rob says: ‘After being in the army since school, it was the only job and way of life I have ever known.

‘I have since honed my military skills to find a different career path.’

He decided not to let this negative experience affect him and decided to look for something new.

Rob says: ‘I then started working as a freelance digital consultant in 2016. I essentially set up video games and simulations for soldiers to use for training.

‘I never knew such a job existed. I also found this through LinkedIn.

‘The Ministry of Defence realised that there were not enough training grounds to get each regiment out training.

‘Through this computer simulation, they can still train and use their skills via a computer or Xbox controller.

‘We are slowly starting to move into virtual reality now.

‘I essentially visit different bases and set up the computers and controllers for soldiers to train with.’

Alongside his digital consultancy, Rob is also a published author and is in the middle of writing his 10th novel.

‘I always enjoyed writing and am a big fan of books,’ he says.

‘I actually started my first novel in 2011.

‘As cliché as it sounds, I had a very vivid dream about starting this book and I woke up, jumped out of bed and ran down to my computer.

‘My first book was set during the Falklands Conflict and is called a Cold Night in June.

‘My experience on the battlefield and in the army has helped me write these novels which could be set in real life.’

All of Rob’s novels have a military theme and his titles include the Zero Hour Trilogy (2016); Trouble Ahead (2017); and The Sheer Nerve (2018) which are all sold in Waterstones.

Rob’s most recent gig is working as a creative writer for Slitherine Software, which is a British video game developer and publisher.

With his background in character development, scene writing and innate use of military language, this was a match made in heaven.

He says: ‘I edit some of their stories or scenes in games to give it more realistic military language, scenarios and characters. I really enjoy it.’

One of the most important things Rob has learnt is how you can easily apply skills you gained while in the army to jobs on civvy street.

He says: ‘All three of my jobs now have a military focus.

‘Without my previous career with the army, I wouldn’t be where I am today.’

His advice to anyone looking for work would be to accept every invite for coffee because you don’t know where it would lead.

‘My top tip to someone leaving the military is to not fear it.

‘It’s going to happen at some point and you can’t be in the military forever.

‘I think you also need to appreciate the fact that you’re not going to start at the top. You will have to be the tea boy again.

‘You need to be humble enough to accept that.

‘I remember the advisors saying to me before I left "don’t take a salary less than what you’re on now”.

‘I was on £40k when I left the military, but realistically what other job would have offered me that with no qualifications?

‘The more preparation you do, the easier life will be. Even though you feel like you do not have many skills to offer another career, you definitely do. Embrace the change and you will find something which works for you.’