Today I have an interview at an airline. I don’t want to jinx myself or pre-count chickens, but if all goes well I will have achieved the holy grail of a major airline job right out of school. If it doesn’t go as well as hoped I’ll be where I was before I applied – still looking, which is fine.
It has been fascinating to me to see the parallels between this life and the one I had before and to marvel how just a few tweaks can send you off in a completely different direction.
Building a career is the same in a lot of ways, no matter what the career. You get to know people in your industry, seek out mentors, and find opportunities to show people that you can do good stuff. I did that in my software career and now I’m doing it in aviation.
It seems to be working out pretty well, but here’s the tweak: if I hadn’t stopped dead in my tracks and made a sharp left-hand turn into training for this new career, all the networking in the world would have been meaningless. I kind of tried to network before I made the shift and while people were polite, doors remained firmly closed.
Having made the switch, I now see why. You can get into technology, and largely self-train to program manage, or account manage, which were my two high-tech jobs. To a lesser extent you could even self-train to do software development – if you create an app that gets attention that’s as valuable as formal software engineering credentials.
This doesn’t translate to aviation. Fortunately (I think we can all agree it’s a good thing) one can’t self-proclaim as an aircraft mechanic (unless you’re working on an Experimental category craft, but I digress). There are strict rules. In the US these rules are: attend a certificated (I hate that word, but it’s the official FAA word) school for a specified number of hours, or work on planes under supervision for 36 months, and you are eligible to try for the licenses. In the EU it takes even longer.
Now that I know this I understand why nothing moved forward for me back when I was feeling around to figure out if there was a way to make this my new career. I hadn’t even begun to pay any dues, or to signal commitment. The people in the industry know what it really takes to get the credentials, so they’re not likely to spend much time advising someone who hasn’t even started.
Now it’s very different. I have a spiffy set of certifications, which reflect 2+ years of solid effort. I can legitimately put an official-looking FAA seal on my LinkedIn profile. When I talk to potential employers, I can assure them that I’m the real deal. I like the feeling – I feel like I’m one of the cool kids and I’ve finally been invited to the party.
Now it’s off to bed so I can be rested up for my interview. I’m not sure how long I’ll have to wait for a decision, but I promise to update my faithful readers as soon as I have some news.