One Wrong Way to Look for a Pilot Job

Be prepared — and then don’t act outraged when you get an unexpected response.

TelephoneYesterday afternoon, I got a call from a number I didn’t know and answered as I usually do: “Flying M, Maria speaking.”

The caller seemed almost surprised that someone had answered the phone. Maybe I’d answered more quickly than he expected. He stumbled over his words a bit and I recall thinking that he might be someone looking for information about a charter flight. Lots of people who call who have no idea how to ask for what they want get off to a rough start.

But no, eventually he asked for “the boss.” Yes. In those words.

“That’s me.” I replied. Now my brain was wondering what he was selling. Anyone who asks for the owner or the person in charge of parts/maintenance/accounts payable/fill-in-the-blank is trying to sell me some product or service I don’t want. My phone is a cell phone and the number is on the FCC’s Do Not Call list, but that apparently doesn’t stop telemarketers from bothering me multiple times a week.

But no, after some more stumbling over words, I learned that he was a pilot looking for a job.

And that’s when I got annoyed. Here’s a guy who can barely communicate what he wants and obviously did no preparation for his call asking me for a pilot job?

I replied that there were no job openings at my company and that even if I had a job to offer, I wouldn’t offer it to him since he obviously couldn’t be bothered to find out who he was calling before he made a call to ask for a job. I told him he needed to work on his technique.

And then I hung up.

After the initial “I can’t believe how inept job seekers are these days” thought, I got back to what I was doing. I had pilot friends coming for dinner and was prepping for their arrival.

This morning, I got an angry email from the person who’d called. Apparently, he was in the U.S. from his home country (which I don’t think I need to share here), had trained in the U.S., and was outraged that I’d been so rude to him. He said:

I was going to let you know that my approach to you asking for a job was not good at all, I just wasn’t prepared before I called and of all the places I call the owner is never taking the phone.

Interesting that he admitted he wasn’t prepared. And odd that I hadn’t noticed his accent, which really comes through in the wording of his written communication.

He went on to say:

My point with this message is that the way you talked to me was just really disrespectfull [sic], rude and unmotivating for a new pilot.

Apparently, he believed that I should drop everything and give him the polite attention he thought he deserved as he interrupted my day to stumble through his job request. A request made without any advance preparation.

Yes, if he’d bothered to do any research at all on my company before calling to ask for a job, he would have learned that the company is a single pilot Part 135 operator with only one helicopter and one pilot. That should have told him how unlikely it was that I’d be hiring. But at the very least, he would have learned my name and could have used that instead of asking for “the boss.”

Or if he’d read the Help Wanted page on my company’s website, which is linked to the Contact page where he may have gotten my phone number and definitely accessed the contact form he used to email me, he would have seen that I was not hiring.

Yes, I was rude. I’ll admit it. (It’s already been established here and elsewhere that I can be a real bitch sometimes.) But when someone acts like an idiot, how should I respond? By gently coddling him so he makes the same mistake again with the next person he bothers?

Don’t you think this guy will think twice before he makes his next call? That maybe — just maybe — he’ll do a little homework first and learn more about the company he’s calling and whether they’re hiring? Or possibly find out who he should be speaking to to ask for a job?

And am I wrong, but do cold calls ever work when looking for a job? Any job?

The other day, I blogged about the importance of networking for career advancement. Networking can help job seekers make valuable contacts they can use when looking for work. It makes time-wasting cold calls unnecessary.

Am I sorry I was so rude to this guy? Maybe a little. He was probably slightly handicapped by a language issue.

But to me, he wasn’t different from any telemarketer who disrupts my day by trying to sell me something I don’t need or want.

And if he thinks I was rude to him, he should hear me when I’m annoyed at one of them.

So You Want to Be a Helicopter Pilot, Part 10: Network

Who you meet, how you meet them, and what they think of you can impact your flying career.

[Note: Hard to believe that nearly four years have gone by since I wrote most of this series, but I find that the older I get, the faster time flies. I’d planned on writing additional parts, but life got in the way. I’m ready to continue now and, with four years to think about it, I’m pretty sure I’ve got some good content to add.]

Networking is an important part of building any career, including flying helicopters. The people you meet can help — or hinder — your career advancement.

How Networking has Helped My Flying Career

I’ve been flying helicopters for about 15 years now and have accumulated a modest 3,200 hours of flight time, mostly in my R44 and the R22 I owned before it. I’ve been networking with other pilots, owners, and operators since I realized I wanted to build a career as a pilot and it has paid off.

It’s networking that got me an interview with Papillon at the Grand Canyon back in 2004. What I said at the interview got the job.

It’s networking that got me started as a cherry drying pilot back in 2008. I met a pilot doing this kind of work and when he needed a pilot, he remembered and called me.

It’s networking that got me started doing frost control work back in 2013. I spoke to another pilot doing that kind of work and asked him if he knew of any jobs. He gave me the phone number of an almond grower and gave me the information I needed to write a mutually beneficial contract with a new client.

It’s networking that gets me just about all of my new business. Other than maintaining a website for my business, I don’t advertise anymore. I get new clients through word-of-mouth. When I want to explore the possibility of a rides gig, I look through my address book for friends and acquaintances who might have the connections I need to get a toe in the door.

And it’s networking that makes it relatively easy to find new pilots to work with me for cherry drying. I start my search by asking around. I remember the pilots I like — and the ones who rubbed me the wrong way — and make offers — or ignore requests — accordingly.

How to Network

Networking is actually kind of easy. Just meet and talk to new people involved in the industry. Need some ideas to get started? Try these:

  • Get to know other pilots at your flight school or job. Don’t be shy. Socialize. The guy you see in the pilot lounge at your flight school today might be someone working at the Gulf when you’re looking for work — and give you the contact you need to get an interview there. The CFI leaving to work at Papillon next week could be the chief pilot at a charter operation in a few years.
  • Join a helicopter organization. HAI and Whirly Girls comes to mind — although I admit that I don’t belong to either one of them for reasons I’d rather address in a separate blog post. These organizations are full of helicopter pilots and others in helicopter-related jobs. You can meet other members at events.
  • Attend helicopter aviation conferences and seminars. HeliExpo is an obvious suggestion, but other helicopter organizations and publications (such as Vertical Magazine) also sponsor events. And don’t forget the FAA! The Wings program occasionally has lectures for helicopter pilots; try attending one.
  • Aircrane
    I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with the pilot of one of these. Don’t you think it might be interesting to learn more about his work?

    Attend helicopter-related events. I’m thinking of helicopter fly-ins and other airport events. Although relatively rare, they do exist and they’re often full of helicopter pilots who are friendly and enthusiastic. I can think of three pilots I’m still very good friends with who I met at a helicopter event at Falcon Field Airport in Mesa, AZ years ago. One of them has worked for me drying cherries here in Washington.

  • Visit pilots at work. Years ago, on a road trip in Idaho, I passed a field filled with helicopters — a fire base. A Boeing Vertol 107 was parked there and I, a new pilot at the time, wanted to see it close up. I drove into the base, parked, and tracked down the pilot. Because he wasn’t busy, he very graciously took me aboard his ship, showed me how the snorkel pump worked, and let me sit in the co-pilot seat while he sat next to me and explained the mind-boggling array of switches, circuit breakers, and gauges. Although my goal that day was not to network with other pilots, I could easily have done so — there were a dozen or so waiting around for a fire call. Of course, if the base had been active, I would have stayed away. But there’s no reason you can’t visit pilots on duty but not actively working. Think of EMT and ENG bases, too. Often, the pilot is just sitting around, waiting for a call and wouldn’t mind a visitor. Just make sure you’re welcome before you barge in.

The Role of Social Networking

Social networking takes all kinds of networking to a new level. You can network 24/7 with pilots all over the world through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and online forums. Helicopter-specific groups on Facebook, for example, is a good way to share stories, photos, and questions with other pilots.

I’ve met more than a few helicopter pilots on Twitter and Facebook; while my social networking hasn’t advanced my career — or theirs — yet, who’s to say it won’t? In the meantime, I’ve gotten a ton of solid advice from pilots with far more experience than I’ll ever have. That, and the real-life friendship with some of these people, is worth the time and effort I put into online social networking.

Don’t Be a Dick

But be careful! Your activities — both online and in the real world — can come back to haunt you. It all depends on how you approach networking, how you treat your fellow pilots, and what your attitude is or seems to be.

I blogged about a pilot who proved what an inconsiderate and dangerous asshole he could be back in 2009. I’d flown into Sedona, AZ with my brother and his wife and a helicopter pilot didn’t like where I parked. He retaliated by hover-taxiing right past my family, within 15 feet of where they were standing, when he had several other safer departure routes. I reported his action to the airport management. When I reported him to my POI at the Scottsdale FSDO, I was told that he’d caught by an Inspector being rude to the receptionist. The Inspector had attempted an attitude adjustment, but I doubt he got anywhere with this particular jerk.

As regular readers of my blog know, I absolutely abhor online forums. The reason: every single discussion turns into a nasty exchange of inane comments, normally prompted by the comments of a troll who has to prove how smart he is by saying something that gets under the skin of someone else. The replies are fired out fast and furiously and inevitably turn mean. Why people put up with that crap is beyond me. I seldom find any content worth reading in an online forum. But that’s likely because I lack the patience necessary to wade through the bullshit for the gems hiding underneath. Unlike the trolls that haunt these forums, I have a life.

I remember the names of the assholes I meet in this industry. I remember the trolls in the forums, too. And I have a lot of friends in the industry. And we talk.

And what we share affects hiring decisions. Just saying.

I wrote a bit more about attitude in Part 5 of this series.

Networking Works — But It Can’t Work Miracles

I’ve had a good amount of success with networking to further my career, but I have to admit that career advancement isn’t the main reason I network with other pilots. I’m a relatively friendly person and I really like talking to people with similar interests. I’m also interested in learning new things from people who know, through experience, things I don’t know. I guess you can say I’m a natural at networking.

But I do admit that I’m frustrated annoyed by people who contact me directly, by email or phone or even blog comments, obviously trying to use me as an “in” for a job. News flash: contacting a stranger to ask for a favor is not a good networking strategy. I admit that I’m more likely to delete these incoming emails than answer them. Maybe it’s because I’m getting curmudgeony in my old age.

You can’t expect networking to work miracles, especially if you use a heavy handed approach. Just because you had a nice conversation with the Chief Pilot of a charter company while the two of you waited out a thunderstorm in the pilot lounge of an FBO doesn’t mean he’s going to hire you for the next position that opens. Especially if you come across as someone who’s only talking to him because you think that job offer is possible.

But if you make networking a natural part of your professional life, things will happen — normally, when you least expect it.

Why I Suspended My Facebook Account

There simply aren’t enough hours in the day.

It’s hard to believe, but I was extremely productive before social networking came into my life. Not only did I write or revise up to 10 computer how-to books in a year, but I wrote articles about using computers, learned to fly a helicopter and then built a helicopter charter business, and even held down a “real” seasonal job one summer. In my spare time — which I did have — I worked on several novels, went motorcycling and horseback riding, and had a vegetable garden.

People used to say to me, “How do you get so much work done?” I truthfully replied that I didn’t watch much television. I still believe that TV is the main time sucker of “civilized” nations.

What Sucks My Time

Maintaining a blog was the first thing to cut into my time. I took to blogging like a Portuguese water dog takes to water. I always wanted to keep a real journal and the original idea of blogging was a “Web log.” I started blogging in 2003 and have since written about 3,000 entries for this and two other blogs. Many of them chronicle days in my life and things I’m thinking and are a valuable memory aid for me. Others provide information on how to use software or avoid scams. Still others are history lessons or opinion pieces about politics and other controversial topics. I couldn’t give up my blogging any more than I could give up eating. It’s a part of my life.

The loss of my novel manuscript in a hard disk crash — I really thought it was backed up, so you can save the lectures; it was a difficult lesson to learn and I don’t need it rubbed in my face — was extremely painful. I haven’t been able to write any fiction at all since then. Maybe I’m using it as an excuse. Or maybe social networking has cut too deeply into my time, making it impossible to spend time on the things I used to care more about.

I managed to avoid the MySpace craze. That was the first experiment in social networking and a good friend of mine was hooked hard. I didn’t see the point. She was using it as a home page and I already had one of those. (I’ve had a personal Web site since 1994.)

View Maria Langer's profile on LinkedInThen LinkedIn came out and it seemed like a good idea for professional networking, so I joined up. I never spent much time there — and I still don’t. I have a decent sized “network” there, including other writers and editors and even a few pilots. When work got slow, I tried working LinkedIn to get new connections and jobs. I failed miserably. Everyone else on LinkedIn was looking for work; no one was looking for workers. I wrote a bit about it here and elsewhere in this blog.

Facbook LogoThen Facebook, which seemed like the grownup’s version of MySpace, caught my attention and I was sucked in. But I was never hooked. It seemed to me like a complete waste of time. I was apparently expected to build some sort of community based around my home page and “wall.” There were applications and advertisements and a never-ending stream of “friend invitations” from people I did and didn’t know. And e-mail. And I think I was expected to visit the home pages of my “friends” and write on their “walls.” And use applications to share frivolous information or give hugs or sign petitions. I never really participated and tended to ignore all that e-mail Facebook sent me.

Twitter logoBut when Twitter caught my eye in February or March of 2007, it seemed far more interesting to me. “Microblogging.” Meeting new people though short comments they post. At least that’s what it was supposed to be. Like most new Twitter users, I didn’t “get it” at first. But unlike many new Twitter users, I did finally decide that it was for me. I embraced it, and still do. It’s my water cooler, my way to socialize in my otherwise lonely, home-based office. Best of all, it’s easy enough to take on the road with my cell phone. I’ve met people on Twitter who have become real friends and enjoy the interaction with the 100 or so folks I follow and the others who follow me.

Why?

Meanwhile, Facebook continued to bug me with e-mail messages from “friends.” Check out this Web site, add this application, join this group. It never seemed to end. Even when I thought I’d shut down all the e-mail notifications, it continued to dribble in, like there was a leak in the dam, threatening to open up and overwhelm me. I’d visit my Facebook account and look at the home page and wonder why it had all that crap on it. I hadn’t put it there. I couldn’t get rid of most of it. I’d see comments posted by people I knew or didn’t know days or weeks before. Questions I hadn’t answered. Remarks related to Twitter updates.

How could I let something I had almost no control over represent me to the strangers who wanted to know me better?

And why should I bother? I already had a blog that can be found with the easiest address of all: my name.

The other day, a real friend used Facebook to suggest that I follow (or friend?) another Facebook user, FactCheck.org. I was already aware of that user’s Web site. I didn’t see any reason to follow their content in two places any more than I’d see a reason for someone to follow my content in two places. I didn’t see any reason why my friend couldn’t just send me a link to their Web site. Why use a third-party application to get me to follow a Web site in a third party application? Why add a layer of bullshit to ever-more-complex online experience?

I’d been considering suspending my Facebook account for some time and had almost done it twice. But this was the last straw. I had enough social networking bullshit wasting my time. I was obviously missing the point of Facebook and didn’t see any reason why I should devote time and energy to “getting it.” I was already wasting enough time with LinkedIn and Twitter. I had a life to live and I didn’t want to live it in some kind of virtual world. Facebook would be the first step in shedding the social networking crap weighing me down.

So I suspended my Facebook account.

Will I be back one day? Probably not. Will I miss it? Definitely not.

My Advice

Once again, I’m putting out a plea to the folks who spend more time in front of their computers than with their real friends and families: think about what you’re doing. Are you really getting any benefit from the time spent online? Can’t you see how it’s sucking your life away? Wouldn’t you rather spend most or all of that time with real people who matter to you doing real things and building real memories?

I know I would. And I’m trying to.

LinkedIn is likely the next to go.

Waiting for the Cable Guy

No, not a movie review.

At this moment, I’m sitting cross-legged on a comfy new red leather sofa, listening to NPR and staring at a blank “parchment” (think pale pink) wall. The wall will soon house our first HDTV. And, with luck, it will also sprout a cable Internet connection.

I’m waiting for the cable guy.

He’s supposed to be here between 8 AM and 10 AM — a nice, narrow range. It’s 8:21 AM as I type this.

We spent a lot of time researching our Internet and television options for the Phoenix apartment. We discovered that we could get cable Internet that was 7 times faster than what we have in Wickenburg for half the price. (Chalk that down to another benefit of life in a city over life on the edge of nowhere.) We also discovered that if we went with DirectTV (rather than Dish Network or the cable company providing the Internet), we could get HD television service set up in up to four rooms, with DVR (think TiVo) for half of what we were paying Dish Network in Wickenburg for two rooms.

I should point out here that we’re not getting anything other than “basic cable” television channels. Why? Well, there are a few reasons. First and foremost, this is a part-time residence. It’s idiotic to buy premium cable channels for a home we’ll be occupying only part of each week. Second, we have a Netflix subscription. Why be at the mercy of television provider schedules — or pay extra for on-demand television programming — when you can get the movies you want to see on Netflix?

Netflix LogoBut that’s not all. Netflix also has the ability to play many movies on demand on your HDTV through your Internet connection if your connection is fast enough and you have a compatible device to handle the incoming Internet content. Our connection here will be fast enough. Devices to handle this start at $99; we just have to decide which one to buy.

Of course, all this television stuff is moot right now, since we don’t have any television down here right now. I don’t miss it too much, but I am looking forward to watching movies in high definition on a big screen.

AirPort ExtremeAirPort ExpressBut I’m hoping the cable guy can put the Internet connection on this big empty wall. I’ll use an AirPort Express that I brought from home to set up a wireless network and attach a printer, which I’ll also bring from home. If we wind up with a Netflix-compatible device that isn’t WiFi compatible, I’ll bring down a spare Airport Extreme base station from home and swap it with the Express, which doesn’t have an Ethernet out port. Otherwise, the AirPort Express should do the job.

So I’m waiting for the cable guy. It’s now 8:46 AM. He should be here any minute now.

DUN

It works, but barely.

One of the reasons I have a Treo and not an iPhone or other cool, trendy communication device is because it supports DUN — dial up networking. This is a feature that enables me to use the Treo’s Internet connectivity to connect my MacBook Pro to the Internet via Bluetooth.

So as long as I’m in a place where my Treo can connect to the Internet, I can connect my computer to the Internet. I’ve successfully used this in off-the-grid locations such as our vacation property on Howard Mesa, on a cruise ship off the coast of Alaska, and in various hotels, motels, and restaurants all over the country. In fact, I used DUN to post this blog entry from a B&B in Girdwood, Alaska.

If you’re wondering how to do this, read an article I wrote about it for Peachpit Press.

DUN works. And yes, it works better than regular modem dial-up. But not much better.

The connection speed is slow and inconsistent. It might work well for a short time, then get bogged down. And if you don’t actively use the connection, you’ll get disconnected. (I wrote “Ping to Keep Your connection Alive” on MariasGuides.com to explain my workaround for this problem.) You’re also likely to get disconnected after a certain amount of time even if your connection is kept active — I seem to get cut off after 30 minutes or so. Or if you get an incoming call. And it seems to me that it takes multiple connections to get any task done.

Doesn’t sound very good, does it?

Well it isn’t. But it is better than nothing.