Throughout your aviation career, one of your main jobs will be to market your talents and skills to prospective employers. You are unique and you bring special talents to your flying jobs. Your goal, as you progress in aviation, is to cultivate your special qualities and market them to your advantage.
Imagine sitting in front of a prospective employer whose first question is, "Tell us about yourself." In sales-speak this translates to: "Why should I buy your product? What can you do better than your competition? Convince me that you're right for this job."
Long before your interview is scheduled, make a list of your best qualities as well as those that make you unique. Your skills, talents, and extra-curricular activities are pluses that you'll want to describe briefly. How will you assist their organization? What have you done in the past that qualifies you for the job? What new ideas do you bring to the company? What special achievements or awards in your past should they know about? Remember, it's up to you to share this information with them. Don't make them dig for it.
Organize your delivery into a two- to three-minute, well-paced presentation that gives the interviewer a good chronology of how you got into aviation, where and when you accumulated your ratings, how you acquired the necessary flight experience, and, finally, how you happen to be sitting before them today. Be sure to make your progression a logical one that follows your résumé and mentions the various training events and employers you've listed. Spice your story with a bit of humor, leaning heavily toward highlighting your best accomplishments. Did you work your way through college, receive a scholarship or special funding for one of your ratings, or score a 99 on your ATP knowledge test?
Do you have interesting hobbies or unusual talents that don't appear on your résumé? Organize the highlights of your life into a concise, interesting short story. This should be an upbeat, positive presentation that gives interviewers the feeling of the real you. It should make them want to hear more about your dedication and the sacrifices you have made for your aviation career. In a word, make your summary memorable-concise, complete, interesting, informative, and humorous.
Selling yourself requires some chutzpah, which you may not normally possess. Recognize the image you want to project and work to show that person to prospective employers. Each one will want to get to know you quickly in an interview situation, and you'll have numerous opportunities to practice your delivery. Plan your delivery carefully, add to it as you acquire additional skills and experience, and remember that your success depends on being your own best salesperson.
Capt. Karen Kahn is the author of Flight Guide for Success: Tips and Tactics for the Aspiring Airline Pilot and a career counselor. A Master CFI and 30-year airline pilot, she flies the Boeing 757/767 for a major U.S. carrier.