Military aviators are the best trained pilots in the world, right? How could that possibly be limiting?
Military pilots are extensively experienced, highly trained aviators. They are skilled leaders with combat time, and security clearance. These attributes are listed on most transitioning pilots’ resumes. Unfortunately, civilian employers aren’t looking for any of those skills and they certainly don’t list them in job advertisements. Most military pilots appear out of touch and they never receive a call back.
The truth is, your experience and skills are based upon your flight time, and most military pilots haven’t even been keeping a logbook. They’ve been letting the military keep track of their flight time, which doesn’t keep a flight log in accordance with civilian requirements.
Once resumes and logbooks are finally sorted out, military pilots assume jobs will start falling into place. Wrong. It doesn’t matter how great your resume is - employers are NOT going to come to you. The only way employers will seek you out, is if you’ve already been networking with them.
The key to getting a good job in the civil helicopter industry is face-to-face networking. Making friends and building solid relationships is something that takes time. Don’t wait until your last year in the military to start meeting people in the helicopter industry. Well in advance of your actual transition, you have to truly begin your transition process. If you’re steadily networking in your last few years prior to getting out of the military, you’ll probably find yourself with several job opportunities. If you put off networking, you’ll be among the hundreds of desperate military pilots with limited options, and offers.
You may be extensively experienced, have a great resume, and have your LinkedIn profile squared away, but the dealmaker will always be rooted in the connections you’ve made. Every single interaction that you have with someone in the helicopter industry is a job interview.
A few years before getting out of the military, attend a Heli-Expo, HeliSuccess, or any civilian aviation event. You will need this time to suitably prepare for your transition – the more people you meet, the smoother your transition will be.
A few things to get squared away ASAP:
- Have your one page aviation resume critiqued several times.
- Use employers’ job ad terminology to describe the skills on your resume and LinkedIn profile.
- Keep a pilot logbook from the start of your military flying career, and log your flight time properly (not the military way)
- Get all your FAA certificates in order now (ATP, CFI, NVG Endorsement, Aircraft Type-Ratings, FAA Medical)
About the author: Stacy Sheard’s career began as a U.S. Army Huey and Black Hawk pilot until leaving the military to pursue a commercial flying career. She has civil experience in charter, tour, ENG, EMS, corporate aviation, and as a Sikorsky production test pilot. She is currently a corporate pilot with EJM flying the AW139. She is an HAI board member.