3 Ways to Get Your Career Going Again

Published: 05-02-2011
The reason you hear about networking so much is because it is really that important.

So is it all about luck? Being in the right place at the right time? Winning the lottery and getting your name pulled out of the magical interview hat? I'd much rather be lucky than good any day of the week, but I also believe you create your own luck. Here are three things you can start doing right now to make your own luck and get a leg up on the competition:


I'm getting a little tiredof hearing about networking to be honest: Social networks, job networks,wireless networks, ad infinitum. The reason you hear about networkingso much, however, is because it is really that important. If you're notout there trying to actively increase your contact list, you're going tofall behind, because there are those who are.What does networking really mean? Do you have to run around fakinginterest in people, deciding if there's any job benefit for you insocializing with them? No. All networking really means is being social,friendly, and trying to meet people. If you meet enough people in theright circles, one of them will eventually help you out. And all ittakes is one.

Here's an example: I washaving breakfast in Taipei, Taiwan one morning. I saw a guy who wasobviously another pilot (I knew immediately from his white tennis shoesand brown leather jacket with epaulette holders). I asked who he flewfor, and he invited me to sit down with him while we ate. We chattedabout this and that for a while and then he got up to leave. As hestood, he flipped me his card and said if I ever wanted help flyingpurple-tailed airplanes to give him a call. Nice gesture. Did I sit downat that table hoping to get a recommendation at FedEx? Absolutely not. Iwas really just looking for some English conversation while I ate myrunny eggs. But, and this is the thing about networking, you never know when it's going to pay a dividend. If you don't actively put yourself out there, it's unlikely somebodywill walk up out of the blue and offer to help you out. If you do putyourself out there, eventually the planets will align; you'll meet theright person that will make the right phone call and suddenly you'llleap-frog a few thousand applicants.

Always look your best

It doesn't matter if you'remingling at a party with a bunch of pilots, or having an informalmeeting with someone to just 'talk about the job.' If you're on the jobhunt you always want to look presentable. It's nice to stop shaving,grow your hair out, and put all the studs back in your piercings whenyou haven't worked for a while. Unfortunately, if you look like you justgot out of jail when you meet someone with the potential to help youout, they're not going to. I know we live in a society where everyone isa unique snowflake, and you're only supposed to judge people based onwhat's inside. If you think you're not being judged based on how youlook in aviation, you're kidding yourself. I can't tell you how manytimes I've seen people blow great opportunities because they'reunder-dressed for a particular situation. Showing up for an interview ina polo shirt and jeans, meeting informally with a chief pilot in at-shirt, or generally looking like you just rolled out of bed are greatways to blow a valuable opportunity. Always try to dress one step abovewhomever it is you're meeting with. If your interviewers are going tohave shirts and ties, you should have a suit.If you're meeting someonesocially, you should at least have a nice shirt and pants on (literally,have pants on). Personal presentation is one of the most importantaspects to creating opportunity and getting jobs. Perception is reality,and if people don't perceive you as being sharp, nothing else reallymatters.

Go where the work is

Based on your currentcircumstances, this is sometimes easier said than done. I've been basedin the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Alaska, and points in-between. Notquite the four corners of the globe, but pretty close. Being flexibleand going where the work is has helped me maintain what I consider to bea mostly upward career trend. That's not to say it's always beensunshine and roses, however. When I first started flying, did I plan onbeing based in China? It never even entered my head as a possibilityuntil circumstances dictated otherwise. If career progression startsdisappearing in your current area of operations, sometimes lookingabroad can offer lucrative opportunities you won't find close to home.It may not be your dream job, but if you keep moving forward it can andwill lead to better things. Taking jobs abroad led me to opportunitiesthat would not have presented themselves otherwise. Because of theunpredictable stability of being a pilot in general, there have to betimes when you abandon preconceptions about what your career is supposedto be like. Go where the best opportunity presents itself. It may (andprobably will) be someplace you didn't expect, but that's part of theadventure.

Those are just three thingsyou can start doing today that will pay off down the road. I know, Iknow, there's a pilot shortage coming and pretty soon the jobs will cometo you. While you're waiting for that to happen, do yourself a favorand start working toward your goal right now.I think there will be a reasonable amount of hiring going on at someindustry levels in the future, but you will always face stiffcompetition for top-of-the-industry jobs. If you're not actively tryingto promote yourself, your application is just one in a stack ofthousands. If you want to push past the stagnation point, sometimes it'sbest to step outside the box. Or you can stay in the box and live in itdown by the river, but that may be less glamorous than you imagine.

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