By Arpad Szakal*
The days of a lifetime career with a single company are long gone in most parts of the world. Although more frequent job changes have become the norm in certain areas, they are still challenging times for those individuals making a career pivot, whether a result of their own choice or especially in the case of a job loss.
Career transitions are complex and they are not just about doing something different professionally. A career transition is a lifestyle redesign that often entails rethinking how you want to feel at the end of the work day, how you want to spend your time, and how this relates to your longer term objectives.
If you’re a mid-career aviation professional considering switching careers for whatever reason, here’s good news: transitioning to a new career – or even industry – doesn’t mean that you will need to begin from the bottom of the career ladder. Even if it’s not in the same field, your experience still counts and can help you skip over entry/mid-level positions.
Here are some concrete actions you can take to pave the way for the smoothest transition possible.
- Take a step back and gain perspective on your situation
Following a job loss, it is critical to reflect on what transpired before pursuing the next opportunity. If you chose to leave your current or most recent role, be prepared to explain why. Were you looking for a change after a long tenure at one company? Was there something particularly attractive about a new sector that drew you away? Of which experiences or assignmnets in your previous role are you most proud? What would you have done differently in your previous role? These questions are not simply a smart way to prepare for interviews — knowing the answers will help you assess your fit for the next opportunity.
Also, before leaving your job, try to find ways to experience what your next position might look and feel like. Does it feel better than what you are doing now? Is it worth committing to this change? If you are able, take some time off of work — even just a few days — to experiment with the industries or roles you are interested in. This might mean volunteering, job shadowing, or even conducting informational interviews with profesionals who have careers you admire.
- Decide What you Actually Want to do Next
There is no better time than one of transition to reexamine what role or field would best align with your interests. Are you willing to pursue further education in order to follow a new path? Talk to people in your field of interest to gain an inside perspective.
Determine if you really want a career change or just a change of environment. Perhaps you enjoy your current work, but want more flexibility in your schedule. Serving as a freelancer or consultant allows you to lend your specialized expertise on your own terms. Take time to determine the direction you want to take next.
- Create a Career Transition Action Plan
Once you identified the direction you want to take in your career, your next step is to come up with a plan for how to get there.
First, you should identify your current skills by listing them. What skills and talents do you possess, and how could they be applied to your new field? Remember, many of the skills employers seek out the most are transferable. This is particularly trie st senior level. Unlike an entry or mid-level employee, you’re not starting from scratch. Look at job pdescriptions for the position you want to have. What specicif skills and requirements are they looking for?
Remember, you don’t need to meet all requirements listed on a job posting to apply. You may need to take a salary cut and start at a lower-level position than the one you’re at currently. Or, you may need to think of creative ways to add experience to your CV, such as taking on a volunteer position that allows you to learn new skills.
- Build a Solid Referrals Network (before your need it!)
Most senior level roles aren’t ever publicly posted, so you’ll only learn about them from someone you know. Networking is even more important when you’re looking to shift into a different role or industry. People in your network, or the people those people refer you to, can fill you in on what it’s like to work in a different industry and what skills you may need to learn. Importantly, they can act as referrals and references for potential new employers. The time to network is when you don’t need it.
- Position Your Career Brand Strategically
Think carefully about how you position and sell yourself to potential employers. You need to rebrand yourself and tell a concise and compelling story that promotes areas relevant to your switch. Talk about yourself differently and connect the dots for people, because it may not be obvious. Identify transferable skills, be adaptable, and position yourself as someone who can fill an existing gap. Especially if you’re a senior executive, you can get involved in boards and find companies in emerging industries that are scaling.
The bottom line
Today’s aviation professionals at all seniority levels must be aware of the potential shifts in their roles and be able to anticipate and adapt to the transitions that will inevitably come. Even if it means a change of company, industry or even career path. Taking the time to plan well ahead before the transition occurs can help make the change a welcome one.