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 keep on reading. While Covid-19 is testing the aviation industry in new ways, there is nothing new in the industry being down.
We would like to help all categories of pilots into jobs, but we have dedicated this blog to the new pilots coming into our industry – generation Z or Gen Z’ers. These pilots are typically born in late 1990s to early 2000s.
Of course we need to generalise a little when we talk about the aviation industry and generations.
It is not only in aviation that there are talks about the wider challenges with Gen Z’ers but the issue across many different industries seem 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. You need to learn the house rules so to speak.
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 opportunities 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 for some time. The same is true for turboprop, however as regional operators have generally been faster to recover, you may have better changes 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 a recruitment, having done what the generation X and generation baby boomers 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 getting any of those type of jobs.
2) Learn to communicate old school wise – face to face and via a cover letter and CV
To get a job it is often about successful communication across generations and this is where you as a generation may have a lot to learn. In our experience, you are really poor at face to face communication (interviews) and writing cover letters and CV’s. 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 your skills and experience matches what they are looking for. It also helps a lot if you deliver your application in person. Something that generation X and generation baby boomers often appreciate is face to face communication. If you drop by the office you may find yourself in a mini-interview all of a sudden. Generation X and generation baby boomers 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 smart phone 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 good.
3) Do things without getting told what to do and build mental strength
If you get a job abroad you generally expect the employer to help you with everything like opening a bank account, finding a place to live etc. Expect to do these things without getting told. The operator is not your mom and dad. Of course building your career can be hard, but you will most likely have little sympathy from generation X and generation baby boomers as this is what they had to do too. In terms of your career, don’t expect anyone to help you.
It is really hard to have a go at you over your attitude (not being able to do much unless you get told) as this is maybe a product of how your mom and dad have been acting like servants for you. Your parents may also rarely have told you the truth (when you sucked at things for example) and your surroundings have told you how incredible you are. One could think, that as a result you are walking around with a very strong self-belief. Our experience is the opposite and like this. You have become so reliant on feedback (likes) that you can quickly loose self-belief, if your craving for feedback is not satisfied or if there is something you are not good at. If criticised you often believe other people are wrong to protect your image of yourself. This makes giving feedback to you very difficult. It is also really hard to make you satisfied if your expectations of what normal life is like is normally very high. If everything must be Instagram able, amazing, x-factor or likeable there will be very few jobs that can fulfil that. Mental training (Olympic athlete style) can be a really valuable tool to support your career. It can help you to cope with the transition of going from mom and dad universe and 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 or 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 your place in the hierarchy and how you get the best out of the people training you.
To some extent in our view, you overestimate your value and skills, thinking you are the best pilots to have come out of flying school. When generation X and generation baby boomers experience this kind of attitude it can be a bit like waiving a red cloth in front of a bull. They tend to absolutely hate this. If you expect to be spoon fed during your line training, you will most likely quickly end up in some conflict with the training department in an airline. What generation X and generation baby boomers 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 turn up at report time asking the generation baby boomer training captain to “train me”, you are likely to be in for a bit of a rough day. If you want to do yourself a favour try instead to be humble and show some appreciation and respect for the experience of the trainer. Try to understand that with low hours you are not the ideal candidate, this applies to all stages, when you apply, at the recruitment and on the line.
5) Learn to wait – while staying current and ready
With Covid-19 around you will have to do something you are probably not very used to – wait. 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 you have not then it is about trying to find just any flying job as this can help you to stay sharp. It is not easy to stay current and ready until the market once again is flourishing. This could easily take 2 years from now. The challenge is how do you stay ready? 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. Probably the sooner you learn this, the better. While waiting for better times our tip to you is to improve your networking skills but do it the old school style. 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 need you to survive. But if you want to do well right now our message to you is to learn to adapt and understand the house rules. 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 time, with the right attitude and ability to present themselves. If you haven’t got those skills already we think you can learn them if you practice. When times are hard 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 into 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.
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.
We have also participated in Aviation conferences where we have given lecturers to operators about how to motivate, attract and manage Gen Z pilots. Stay tuned on our YouTube channel as we will soon publish our two presentations about generations made at the Vilnius Aviation Conference.