Pilot Networking 101
What is networking? It's making and maintaining meaningful contact with your friends, acquaintances, and new people you meet. These relationships over time begin to slowly feed off one another. Ask most pilots, and they will have a story or two of someone they knew who tipped them off of a job opening or submitted a recommendation letter that helped them secure a job. Aviation is a small world and the pilot group even smaller. It's crucial to cultivate friendships with the pilots and other industry people you come across during your training and career.
Today, it also means being active on discussion boards (forums) online and staying informed of what's going on in the industry around you. Airline pilot message boards have many active members whose combined knowledge is greater than any group of friends you might have. Ask questions, seek advice, and you'll be farther ahead than most in your networking efforts.
For student pilots and CFIs, now's the time to start! Have a business card made for yourself, and pass it around to people in the industry you run into. Have a short elevator speech that sums up the direction you're headed. Something such as, I'm building time right now flight instructing; looking forward to getting on with a regional. Eventually I want to fly for a major airline. When others see your determination and goal setting, many will offer advice and even future job leads! Your enthusiasm will be contagious.
For those pilots happily employed, a great job today doesn't mean you won't need any contacts or help down the road tomorrow. Many pilots have been furloughed only to belatedly discover that they should have kept up with their old buddies at the other airlines.
A majority of pilot jobs across the country are filled every year by word of mouth. To stay ahead and improve your odds of finding good pilot employers, make every effort to get to know the pilots and industry contacts around you, and network like your career depends on it!