Due to really good times in aviation in 2018 a record number of wanabee pilots signed up to pilot training. This trend continued until Covid-19 hit us all.

Pilots graduating during Covid-19 will be joining an aviation industry that is on its knees. Thousands of experienced pilots are unemployed at the moment and the future is very uncertain. It may seem totally hopeless for new graduating pilots but we encourage you to keep on reading. Covid-19 is challenging the aviation industry in new ways, however, we have experienced the power of its resilience many times before.

We would like to help all categories of pilots find jobs, but we have dedicated this blog to the new pilots entering our industry – generation Z or Gen Z’ers. These pilots are typically born in late 1990s to early 2000s.

Bare in mind that we need to generalise a little when we speak about the aviation industry and generations. Also in this blog there is a deliberate use of some very direct speech and for some it might be perceived as being condecending which is not our goal. Our goal is to help and we try to do that by being honest and very direct.

We do not promote “Old style CRM” and we welcome everyone into the industry regardless of sex, gender and age.

It is not only in aviation that there are talks about the wider challenges with Gen Z’ers but across many different industries.  It seems to be that the Gen Z’ers are typically not made aware of how other generations view them.

The first thing that can be good to realise if you are looking for a pilot job is how the hiring process is likely to look like. The generation(s) that will most likely be involved in recruiting and hiring you will be “generation X” (born between 1965- 1979) and/ or generation baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964). While every generation is different, generation Z coming into the aviation industry can be like a circle trying to fit in a triangle.

Understanding how you can fit into the aviation industry is important but even more so now when it is really hard to get a job.

This is our 7 FREE PIECES OF JOB ADIVICE to all Gen Z’ers:

1)   Re-adjust your expectations of your first pilot job

Generation X and generation baby boomers rarely had the opportunity to go straight onto a jet. They were building their hours flying in General Aviation until they had about 1500 hours or more. Those times might be coming back but this is something you are probably not prepared for. 

In Europe many students are trained to make the transition straight from school into a commercial airline, flying a jet. With plenty of experienced jet pilots without a job, that transition does not look realistic in the near future. The same is true for turboprops, however as regional operators have generally been faster to recover, you may have better odds if you are willing to consider a turboprop job. 

Some of the good old style hour building jobs are still out there. This could be flying parachute jumpers, tow gliders, environmental survey or sightseeing tours. As you are typically paid peanuts (if anything at all) very few experienced, unemployed pilots will be in line for these jobs. For you, as a new graduate the hours are worth a lot. You want to get away from the big pool of 200 hr pilots and differentiate yourself. Also when you get the chance for recruitment, having done what the generation X and generation baby boomer have done will make you “one of them”. You would probably need to learn step 6 and 7 in order to get a fair chance obtaining any of those types of jobs.   

2)   Learn to communicate “old school” syle – face to face and via a cover letter and CV

A typical mistake is “copy paste applications”. These are rarely effective. Unfortunately it takes time to make a really good application but it is often worth it. A tip is that you need to make your application specific to the operator and demonstrate that your skills and experience matches what they are looking for. It also significantly helps if you deliver your application in person. Something that generation X and generation baby boomer often appreciate is face to face communication. If you drop by the office you may suddenly find yourself in a mini-interview. Generation X and generation baby boomer also sometimes like to look people in their eyes. Typically they also pay a lot of attention to how you dress and present yourself. For example, if you show up with shoes that are not polished and you sit a little too relaxed on a chair or you keep looking into your smartphone there is a high risk of you being judged as being lazy and unmotivated. You only get one chance for a first impression so make it count!

3)    Do things without getting told what to do and build mental strength

If you get a job abroad do not expect the employer to help you with everything like opening a bank account, finding a place to live etc. If you have become reliant on constant good feedback (likes) it can be easy to lose self-belief, if there is something you are not good at. It is also really hard to make you satisfied if your expectations of normal life or a normal career are unrealistic. If everything must be Instagram-able, amazing, x-factor-esque or likeable there will be very few jobs that can fulfil that expectation. Mental training (Olympic athlete style) can be a really valuable tool to support your career. It can help you survive in the aviation industry which in many ways can be very hard and full of pressure. Picking yourself up when things are hard or not going your way, being able to cope under high pressure, are skills you can benefit from learning and this is something mental training can help you with.

4)   Know how you get the best out of the people training you. 

If you expect to be spoon fed during your training, you will most likely quickly end up in some conflict with the training department in an airline. What generation X and generation baby boomer typically had to do was to “earn” the worthiness to be trained. They would most likely have studied hard before for example a line training flight and they would most likely never show up unprepared or last minute. If you just show up at reporting time asking the generation baby boomer training captain to “train me”, you are likely to be in for a bit of a rough day. A better way to get the most out of your training day could be to demonstrate that you have prepared for your training.

5)   Learn to wait – while staying current and prepared

With so many experienced pilots losing their jobs it could be some time before we think pilots straight from school will be able to get a jet pilot job like pre Covid-19 (in Europe). If you have deep pockets you will probably be able to get some jet hours by participating in pay to fly schemes within a year from now. If not, then it is about trying to find any flying job as this can help you to stay sharp. It is not easy to stay current and prepared for when the market may once again flourish. This could easily take 2 years from now. The challenge is how do you stay prepared? Flight simulator, gliding, mental training and apps like Skytest could be an answer but you must stay sharp. It is a classic in our industry that you get the job opportunity when you least expect it and with very little time to prepare. 

6)   Networking is key – learn the skill and get out there and knock on doors

You kind of create your own luck. While waiting for better times our tip to you is to improve your networking skills but do it the old school way. Recruitment for many of the smaller operators, and particular the biz-jet world, is done on recommendations and face to face relations. It could be a good idea to get out there and knock on the doors – well politely of course. If you do this then make sure you have practiced presenting yourself. When you present yourself don’t make the common mistake talking too much about what is in it for you and why you would like the job. It is important, in our view, that you demonstrate what is in it for the operator by making it clear that there is a match between what they are looking for and what you can offer. A tip could be to prepare an elevator pitch – this is a 45-ish second long synopsis of your background, skills and experience. 

7)   The importance of right time, right attitude and ability to present yourself + luck

The aviation industry welcomes you of course. There is also no doubt that the industry needs you to survive. The aviation industry is, in our view, not known for rewarding the best skilled pilots. Our experience is that the pilots that get the jobs are those who manage to be at the right place at the right time, with the right attitude and the ability to present themselves. If you do not have those skills already we think you can learn them if you practice. When times are tough and there are very few jobs around you also, in our view, need good old fashion luck to make it.

The Team behind Ask A Pilot has for many years helped new pilots find jobs by offering various types of mentorships and coaching and mental training. If you would like to know more about the options for you, email us. Or you can also give us a call on +45 5352 7700 and we will be happy to give you 15 min of our time for free.

Happy landings 

Background info:

Our knowledge of generations comes from intensive study and field work and our experience comes from having been involved with pilot recruitment for many years. We have been working closely with René Krieger Christensen, a Danish Author, who has studied generations and written a scientific book about differences between generations.