Cheryl Cage, one of the top career consultants in the aviation field, identifies six key approaches and traits that separate successful professionals from struggling ones. Cage's two decades of experience in guiding thousands of clients into aviation careers has convinced her that following these six simple strategies on a daily basis with dedication and motivation can help maximize your prospects for career success.
May 10, 1999
|About the Author ...
Cheryl Cage is president of Cage Consulting, Inc. and the author of
Checklist for Success: A Pilot's Guide to the
Successful Airline Interview and
Start Monday? A Nine-Step Job Search Guide. She has been offering pilot interview
preparation services since 1988. During 1988 and 1989 Cheryl worked primarily with
individual pilot clients offering resume/application preparation and an extensive
interview preparation program.
In 1990 the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA-the national
airline pilot union representing 36 airlines and over 42,000 professional pilots) hired
Cheryl to present her Pilot Interview Preparation Program to displaced ALPA pilots who had
lost their jobs due to airline bankruptcies or furloughs. Her program has been presented
to thousands of pilots from Braniff, PanAm, Midway, TWA, USAir, and Aspen Airways.
Cheryl's client list also includes hundreds of military pilots pursuing civilian pilot
positions as well as "beginning" pilots taking their first steps towards an
airline career. She may be contacted by telephone at (303) 799-1991 or by fax at (303) 799-1998.
my consulting career, I began to notice certain approaches and traits that were common to
successful professionals. On the flip side, while working with struggling professionals, I
saw a commonality in their mistakes. The area where the successful professionals excelled
were often the areas where struggling professionals made their mistakes.
All technical experience and expertise being equal, if you can adopt the following
strategies, your chances for a smoother career path could dramatically increase.
1. Keep Networks Active
Many positions within aviation (especially entry to mid-level) are discovered by
hearing about job openings from a friend or colleague. Successful professionals keep their
networks active, even if they feel they have reached the pinnacle of their careers. They
stay in contact with other professionals within their field, keep in touch with former
employers and coworkers, and are actively involved in professional organizations. Through
keeping their networks active not only do they keep themselves in the "loop" for
new opportunities but, if they are responsible for hiring or training, they can be the
first to hear of a wonderful employee who is looking for a new challenge!
These professionals not only network for personal opportunities, they keep their eyes
open for opportunities others might enjoy. They approach life with a "mentor
philosophy." They are open and generous with their knowledge. Secure in themselves
and their talents, they are not afraid to help others succeed.
2. Do the Necessary Research
Aviation is an incredibly safety oriented, government regulated and critiqued, publicly
viewed industry. Successful professionals adhere to high safety standards and are
cognizant of the need for rules and regulations. Because of these facts, they understand
the importance of discovering whether their potential employer is also dedicated to
maintaining high standards in safety and compliance.
It is extremely disruptive to your career progression to have to leave a company after
a few months because you discover the rumors about poor maintenance practices were true.
It may be more disruptive to find yourself unemployed because the company declares
bankruptcy three weeks after you begin work. You can alleviate finding yourself in any of
these situations by simply doing some basic homework. Visit the library or the Internet
and review the company's financial history. Talk to past and present employees and listen
closely to their impressions about the company work atmosphere and financials. A few hours
of research can spare you months of unemployment! (In addition, knowing about the company
also prepares you to shine in the interviewing process.)
3. Respect Employers and Coworkers
One of the most consistent traits successful professionals possess is an appropriate
respect for their employers and coworkers. This does not mean they follow orders without
question or constantly acquiesce to their employers and peers. In fact, many of these
professionals have reputations for speaking their minds (see#4).
Successful professionals rarely use sick leave and when they do, the time off is valid.
They have a reputation for chipping in when extra help is needed and respond as true team
players. They view every responsibility with equal importance from grooming to completing
projects on time to brainstorming about ways to improve their job performance and thus the
company's bottom line. Although they look for ways to improve, their goal is not to
uncover "shortcuts" to make their job easier. In addition, you will rarely hear
one of these individuals speak poorly about the company or its employees outside the
When these professionals feel it is time to pursue other opportunities, their current
job never takes a backseat to their job search. When they acquire the new job they show
their respect and loyalty towards their employer by giving the minimum two-week notice.
During those two weeks they continue to give full attention to their job (see #5).
4. Express Opinions and Handle Conflicts with Empathy
Successful professionals understand that, although their own opinions are valid, there
is never an excuse to embarrass another or be condescending to a less experienced
co-worker. Because of this knowledge, they express their opinions, voice their concerns
and handle conflicts in a mature, straightforward and confidential manner.
Whenever possible, professionals go throughout the chain of command to resolve
conflicts and problems. They give coworkers and bosses the benefit of the doubt. They
confirm rumors before reacting, keep confidences and do not contribute to personal gossip.
5. Stay Focused During Transition
In a field like aviation it is not uncommon to change jobs. When making a job
transition, these professionals never forget the importance of remaining focused and
dedicated to their current job.
I worked with one young professional who had finally been offered his dream job. He
appropriately gave his current employer notice that he would be leaving in one month.
During that month, he took sick leave when he was not ill. He also became lackadaisical in
his attention to detail which resulted in his not being available when he was scheduled to
Unfortunately, when his dream company called for a recommendation, his current employer
was in the process of making the decision to terminate him because of current problems.
Needless to say, the job offer was rescinded and his current employer made the decision to
terminate him. Only through his past good work record, sincere embarrassment over his
mistakes and his complete acceptance of responsibility was this individual able to save
his job. This was a very hard way to learn an important lesson.
6. Pursue Excellence
The successful professional never does just the minimum. In required professional
courses and testing, they begin the preparation process early and are always prepared to
do their best. They are knowledgeable about current events in their field. They are open
to new ways of approaching old tasks.
As you can see, there is nothing magical about these six
strategies. However, although they are simple, it does take dedication and motivation to
put them into action on a daily basis.
As an adult, the only requirements to join the ranks of successful professionals are a
true desire to succeed in a career that you love, an openness to constructive criticism
and the ideas of others, and the motivation to replace old habits with newer, more
You most likely have all of the requirements, so begin using these approaches today and
enhance your chances for success!