5 Reasons You Need To Start Going To Job Fairs.
I started attending job fairs as a moderately experienced First Officer at a regional airline. I was always amazed at the many captains I was flying with that were questioning why I was going. Several Captains told me there was no point in visiting job fairs. They explained any recruiter there was just going to tell me that an upgrade was needed before getting hired. I would always respond with the next line, “and once you upgrade, you need to get 1000 hours PIC.” So what is the point then, if you don’t have 1000 hours of left seat airline experience?
First, the 1000 hours of PIC time is not relevant today (as of 2018) and you shouldn’t take advice on how to do get hired by someone who hasn’t yet been hired. The problem with some of these captains’ thinking is that it focused on the ultimate goal of these fairs, and they missed the larger picture. Plus, I got hired by a national airline with less than 1000 hour of 121 SIC time. So the thinking of many of the captains I was talking to was just flat out wrong. Here are 5 reasons why you need to start going to job fairs today.
#1: Continual Learning
Attend a job fair to make yourself a more knowledgeable pilot. Every conference or job fair I have ever attended has always had a strong educational component. People who thrive in their careers continually learn and seek out opportunities like this to grow professionally. Even established professionals continually learn. They understand they got to their position today because of continual learning in their past. This process also helps drive change. Learning changes us and makes us better. When we learn something, we are obligated to act on that knowledge and through this, we become not only smarter but more effective in our jobs.
Getting feedback from other professionals will also make us better future candidates. You will get an honest assessment of your resume and experience and can use this to grow into the candidate that your ideal job wants. Be purposeful about asking for feedback and using it to learn and grow.
#2: Networking With Other Pilots and Recruiters
One advantage of a setting like a job fair is that it provides great opportunities for networking and making new friends. By investing in the relationships of other pilots you build your knowledge pool of the industry because you have friends you ask questions to in the future. Chances are, someone in this pool has been in the same position as you may be facing now or will sometime in the future. Let this network help you navigate your way to success. This is what some academics call a community of practice. Take advantage of these shows to build your community so you can all support each other in the future.
On a more personal note, our job is a lot more fun when we have friends. We bump into each other at airports, crash pads, and many times we even work together. When we have friends, we increase our job satisfaction, come to work happier, are more engaged, and generally do our jobs better.
#3 Learning About the Industry
Even if you don’t think you can get hired today, don’t pass up the opportunity to learn about the companies who may hire you in the future! By meeting recruiters, you may find a diamond in the rough that you didn’t expect, or you may have had an airline in mind that you learn a little more about while you are here.
Don’t forget, we aren’t robots and employers are not a charity. To have a healthy relationship, we both have to get something out of the deal. Make sure you are applying to airlines you know about and want to work for. But also understand their culture and how you can bring talent, experience, and value to them. One of the best ways to learn about a company is at these fairs, talking to the company itself. Don’t be shy. Ask questions. Sure, they are examining you, but demonstrating your interest in learning about them shows you care who they are too.
#4 Controlling Your Destiny
The world is run by those who show up. Be an active participant in your future. I see a lot of pilots who get comfortable in their position and settle for an easy career rather than an exceptional one. Answering the call to your future may just be as easy as showing up. The one common example I see all the time is regional captains who make $80-90,000 and won’t go take a $10,000 pay cut for one year to move up to a larger airline, even if by year 3 (of a 25-year career) they would be making more money. Don’t fall into this trap. Look a few years down the line to make a good decision today.
I may have been a little early in applying for a final career-type job at an airline. But I can tell you that I didn’t leave anything on the table. I did everything I could to get hired. This effort not only settles my own anxiety about my future but is rock solid evidence to recruiters that they are important to me and I am willing to earn my place at their company. It is much better to be ahead of the curve than behind it.
#5 It’s A Platform To Ask Hard Questions
You might have low expectations of being hired because of inexperience. That is ok. Learning, changing, and becoming a competitive candidate takes time and purposeful effort. Good recruiters will appreciate a pilot willing to learn and grow from the position they are currently in.
When you aren’t expected to be the ideal candidate yet, it allows you to ask recruiters some harder questions than if you were fishing for an interview. As a mentor, I appreciate inexperienced people trying to figure out their industry and so will most recruiters. A recruiter that blows you off as a less experienced candidate says a lot about their companies culture. Maybe the culture at that airline isn’t about developing its pilots, or they don’t really care about your learning. When you find this, you may want to keep moving to the next booth.
As a competitive candidate, it is very fair to ask the company questions. After all, this is a transaction that has to be good for both parties. A job fair is a perfect place to find out an employer isn’t a good fit. It is much worse to find out 6 months into the job.