It’s now 26 years ago since I walked through the doors at Arlanda Airport to sign in for my first day as an aviation employee. Little did I know where my career would take me that day.
Ten airlines, three continents, and dozens of positions later I’ve learned the importance of building a personal network and how this has supported me to overcome challenges that are headed in my general direction. More often than not, it was personal contacts and recommendations that ultimately landed me the new position.
The Go-To Person
When I worked in Sweden, I always had numerous go-to persons in various positions within each organization. Knowing someone at a different position within the company is of great importance and can be your most valued asset when you expect it the least. Being able to seek advice or clarification “offline” can be a lot easier than having to expose yourself via official communication channels.
I encourage everyone starting a new position to be open to making professional
friendships with those in other departments. You never know who could grow to become a “go-to person”. It is nothing but beneficial to have these persons on speed dial when you need advice and/or guidance. I’ve never actively looked for the go-to person but instead, have been myself, stayed open-minded, and let the relationship happen.
Mentorship is something that is changing right now and is about to be divided into two categories. I choose to call them Official and Unofficial Mentorship.
The Official Mentorship is something new. In the wake of Colgan Air 3407, the FAA convened an Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) tasked to develop guidance for air carriers in the areas of mentoring, professional development, leadership, and command training. It is more likely to be a more process-oriented concept that needs some kind of documentation/track record for compliance purposes. Let’s hope the effective mentorship isn’t getting weakened by mandatory documentation for compliance purposes.
(More on this in my previous article “NexCap”: link.) The Unofficial Mentorship goes hand in hand with CRM/TEM that is already a familiar and known concept in aviation. In the unofficial context, senior, more experienced crewmembers are supporting the younger, less experienced crewmembers on a daily basis by sharing their knowledge, experience, expertise, and techniques.
The Interview Coach
Since I graduated from flight school back in 2006 I have completed more interviews than I care to mention, likely more than most pilots have in an entire career. The reasons are several, but after a few years it was apparent I was not able to sell myself to a recruiter in a good way. Coming to this realization was difficult, but the process of overcoming the challenge has been very rewarding and satisfying.
Before I made the biggest change of my life, moving to the United States, I decided to get myself a personal coach. I was facilitated to better understand the interview process and improve my ability to perform and sell myself at a job interview. My first session was in the summer of 2016. Prior to coaching, I had found myself walking into the trap of trying to respond to interview questions with answers that I thought the recruiter wanted to hear. The effective coaching, facilitated and tailored to my needs boosted my awareness tremendously.
Four years later my success rate is 100% on the six different interviews that followed, each culminating with job offers. Suddenly I was facing a new and different challenge, having to say “No thank you” to a pilot job. Coaching was a game-changer and an eye-opener for me, and I highly recommend this to anyone who has an upcoming interview or is just looking for a change. There were two huge epiphanies from my coaching sessions:
• 80% of communication is non-verbal
• The recruiters want to know WHO you are, nothing else.
I had been doing it all wrong for ten years and never asked anyone about it. A couple of sessions later my secret formula was broken down into three basic and very simple questions:
• WHAT? (What had I done wrong?)
• WHY? (Why did I do it wrong?)
• HOW? (How can I correct it?)
The importance of familiarizing yourself with someone that can guide and support you before you are “on the spot” cannot be emphasized enough. Identify a person who knows the field you’re interviewing for, someone who understands the challenges, someone who can facilitate you to sell yourself and be able to bring out your strengths and at the same time know your own weaknesses and weak spots. By learning to identify, and more importantly, how to successfully embrace your own weaknesses you are able to unlock the greatest strength of them all – confidence.
Mentors, Coaches, Go-To Persons, and industry connections, in general, are indispensable. The various titles/functions I’ve identified can be the same person but don’t have to be.
In the end, it’s all about consolidating the knowledge needed for the phase you’re presently facing. It’s critical to assure you’re not running in the wrong direction and focusing on the wrong things. The network I have gathered for over 26 years is probably more valuable now than ever before. On numerous occasions, I have been steered to opportunities that I might never have identified on my own. However, when you have landed a job it’s only the beginning of the networking that potentially never ends.
“It ain’t what you know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”
sentimental with my pen