We caught up with Hadi Shalabi, ex-Navy Officer and now Facilities Manager at Investa Property Group, to chat about his time in the military and recent career transition.

Hadi, congratulations on landing your new role! Before we delve into that; can you tell us about your military career?

My Military career began in 2009, I joined up as a Stores Naval rate which then was renamed to Maritime Logistics Supply Chain. Throughout my career I have been posted to various locations throughout Australia and abroad, serving on HMAS Manoora, HMAS Newcastle, HMAS ANZAC and HMAS Stuart. I was deployed on two occasions to the Middle East Area of Operations. Once aboard HMAS ANZAC and the final time in the capacity of a translator. I worked as part of the Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving Task Group as an operations manager and lead logistics coordinator for various operations and exercises, working well beyond what was expected of my rank. My final posting was to the Base Support Infrastructure Group at HMAS Kuttabul which is responsible for all operational management aboard HMAS Kuttabul and it’s satellite bases.

What made you decide to leave and seek civilian employment?

My decision to leave the Navy was a long time in the making. Being an active serviceman is a demanding role that requires immense personal sacrifice and due to the nature of employment within the ADF. flexibility wherein “requirements of the mission”. I am extremely proud of my service within the ADF and I have the utmost respect for the services and their loved ones, however, sometimes the work culture is
difficult to manage, and this was something which drove my decision to transition.

How did you find the civilian HR process (job applications, interviews etc)?

Being a member of the ADF for eight years when I had started making the transition into civilian life meant I was utterly and hopelessly underprepared for the rigors of seeking employment in the civilian workforce. I found searching for a job and conducting job interviews as very alien and at times overwhelming. The hardest bullet to bite was to realise that my skills and work ethic gained after years of national service are barely recognised in the civilian sector. After spending such a long time in the ADF, communicating my skills and abilities in an interview in language that a potential employer would be able to understand was one of the hardest hurdles to overcome. But thanks to the excellent mentoring program that WYWM provides, I was able to overcome these stumbling blocks.

How did you hear about WithYouWithMe?  

I heard about WYWM from a mutual friend of WYWM’s CEO Tom Moore’s who was my divisional officer at the time. He suggested that I contact Tom and have a discussion about what sort of services WYWM provides and to hear more about their mentoring program.

What stood out in the WithYouWithMe program and really helped you personally?rom first opI had always had an interest in real estate, knowing many personal friends from where I grew up who

I moved into residential real estate sales who were successful and fulfilled in their employment. This, coupled with great potential for further growth into a plethora of fields surrounding the real estate industry, I thought it was a perfect fit. Not only on a monetary level, but as an opportunity to utilise my interpersonal skills in a setting that could benefit me the most.

What sorts of careers were you considering and did you find that your military skills were transferable?

Unfortunately, my military skills were not exactly transferrable into sales. Upon having some very in depth discussions with Tom, he suggested that I look into Retail/Commercial Real Estate, knowing that my skills as being a former Logistics sailor who had had a lot of exposure to planning, management, financial acumen, negotiation and implementing standard operating procedures in time critical environments and ensuring all aspects of statutory compliance are strictly adhered to would be a perfect fit for my skills learnt in the Navy to be easily transferrable tool set civilian employers were seeking in potential candidates. This truly enabled me to set off on a constructive path where my skills would be best focused.

What training did you complete through the WYWM Veteran Training Academy and was it helpful?

Through WYWM I was able to establish a mentor relationship with Warwick Gray, who was one of the heads of retail facilities management at leading real estate company Mirvac. The mentoring relationship helped secure me a 10 month work experience with Mirvac for three days a week in the lead up to my discharge. This work experience proved absolutely invaluable to my ability to secure employment post ADF especially noting the good standing of Warwick Gray within the industry and Mirvac being an industry leader.

Additionally, WYWM enrolled me in a workshop with The Property Council of Australia for facilities management. Over the course of a couple of days, this course set out to provide an industry standard overview of what facilities managers do, what sort of equipment I was to be expected to work with or on and to inform those attending of what sort of changes to the industry would be coming over the next couple of months. The course included many seasoned facilities managers from across NSW which of course meant rubbing shoulders with them and networking, this proved incredibly beneficial in the process of finding new employment post ADF.

Tell us about the new role you secured and the interview process.

My work experience with Mirvac exposed me to multiple assets within Mirvac, working closely with their facilities management team and contractors who maintain the respective sites. This exposure lead to a firm understanding of what the role entailed and enabled me to prove to Mirvac (and myself) that I was capable of carrying out this role and armed me with the technical know-how expected to be embedded into any experienced facilities manager.

While Mirvac were unable to bring me on full-time post my discharge, they provided excellent references and introduced me to a number of leading companies. members. I then entered the murky quagmire that is civilian job seeking. I attended roughly 10 different interviews all of which sited my “lack of experience in the civilian workforce” as an issue. This was purely down to them not understanding what former serving members have to offer.

I was extremely fortunate to have my CV go across the desk of my current employer, Investa. Upon reading about my work experience, my skills that I had been honing for near on a year to become a more attractive potential employee and the excellent references provided my multiple Mirvac employees, I was provided an offer of employment.

What are you most looking forward to in your new career?

Needless to say, without the opportunity provided to me by Tom WYWM to carry out work experience with Mirvac, the mentoring they arranged, and the coaching on interview techniques and CV writing, I would not have been able to land my current role. Fortunately for me, Investa currently has a lot of staff that are former Defence members who understand the difficulties faced by members discharging from the ADF and understanding the enormous untapped skilled workforce that is trickling out of the ADF every day, viewed me as a perfect candidate and all parties involved have nothing but praise for WYWM and the work they are doing.

Any advice for other veterans navigating the civilian job market?

My advice for members leaving the ADF and who are considering facilities management as a potential future career is simple.

Step 1. speak to WYWM and get a mentor in the industry that can provide you with a robust work experience regimen that exposes you to all facets of the industry.

Step 2. Attend workshops and networking events which will have members from within the industry, these networking sessions are one of the best ways to get your name out there for future potential employers.

Step 3. Realise that your core skills learnt in the ADF are some of the most sought-after attributes in the civilian workforce (even if they don’t know it themselves) and you can use these skills to your advantage with the right coaching and implementation, both of which are skills that the WYWM team will be able to help you with.

Step 4. Never give up on yourself regardless of how many times you are knocked back by a potential employer. As anyone who has been through WYWM understands, in addition to anyone who has employed a former ADF member out of the WYWM program; the people who knock you back have no idea who they are missing out on and what you are able to achieve with the skills that you have learnt throughout your career in the ADF.

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