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.


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, 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.

WiFi on the Road

I’m pleasantly surprised to find WiFi in unusual places.

I’m just finishing up a 6-day trip in northern Arizona. As usual, I brought my old 12″ PowerBook along to keep me connected. It has a built-in AirPort wireless card and can also connect to the Internet via Bluetooth with my Treo where Internet service is available on my wireless network.

WiFi LogoI’m pleased to report that I had access to the Internet on every stop of this trip:

  • Sedona. We stayed at the Sky Ranch Lodge on Airport Mesa. I had a Garden View room. I’m not sure if the WiFi connection was available throughout the property or if I just got it because I was relatively close to the main office. I don’t recall seeing it advertised anywhere. So I was very surprised to get a nice strong signal from my room.
  • Grand Canyon. I stayed at Bright Angel Lodge. While there wasn’t WiFi available there, my cellphone service was able to get Internet access, which I could then share with my PowerBook. So although the connection wasn’t fast and it required pinging to keep alive, it was available.
  • Lake Powell. We stayed at the Lake Powell Resort northwest of Page. Although there was WiFi in the lodge lobby, it didn’t extend out to my room, which was two buildings away. Again, the Treo came to the rescue and I was able to get online.
  • Monument Valley. We stayed at Gouldings Lodge. While I know my Treo can’t connect to the Internet there, my room was sufficiently close enough to the main lobby to connect to one of the lodge’s two WiFi hotspots. (I’m not sure, but I think the folks at Red Bull may have added the second hotspot when they were there in May for the air races. They were responsible for getting the cell tower put up nearby.)
  • Flagstaff. I stayed at the Radisson on the west side of town. WiFi is a standard feature in its rooms.

In each case where the hotel provided WiFi access, access was free. I didn’t even have to log on to a service and agree to usage terms. I just opened my PowerBook and waited a moment. A dialog told me that none of my trusted networks were available and offered to connect me with another network.

Paying Extra for WiFi?

I am surprised, however, at the number of high-priced hotels that are charging a fee for WiFi access. It’s interesting to me that lower budget hotels give away WiFi access but you can expect to pay $5 to $10 per day for the same access in a Hyatt or Marriott or Hilton — each of which tend to be more costly than an average hotel chain.

I’ve also come to the point where the availability of free WiFi in a hotel’s rooms weighs into my booking decision. For example, if faced with two hotels that have the same rate, I’ll go with the one that has free Wi-Fi, even if it doesn’t have popular amenities such as in-room coffee, free breakfast, or a fitness room. A fast, reliable Internet connection is more important to me than many other hotel features.

Networking – Part II: How LinkedIn Fits In

I’m not convinced that it does.

HandshakeIn the first part of this series, I summarized my views on good, old-fashioned networking and why I’m such a strong believer in it.

In this article, I’ll explain how I see LinkedIn, a professional social networking service, fit into my idea of networking.


One of the biggest social networks for professionals is LinkedIn. The idea is that you set up an account and provide resume-like profile information. You then “connect” with other LinkedIn members, who become part of your direct network. Through them, you are indirectly connected to other people and can, supposedly, ask for introductions to make any of those people part of your direct network.

View Maria Langer's profile on LinkedInI’ve been a member for about two years now. As of this morning, I have 63 direct connections, 3200+ “two-degree” connections and a whopping 271,000+ “third degree” connections. Yet in the two years I’ve been a member with all these relationships, I have yet to get any leads — solid or otherwise — for work.

I’m not the only one. This is evidently a major complaint among members. Yet they all stick to it, trying to work the system.

Why LinkedIn Isn’t Working For Me

I have three theories on why LinkedIn is not working — at least not for me:

  • Linked in, being an Internet-based network, appeals primarily to technology people. So the user base is deeply skewed toward technology-related fields. I’m a writer who writes about using computers, so I’m on the fringe of this network. I think that people more heavily involved in technology may find LinkedIn more valuable. But I’m extremely disappointed with the number of aviation-related professionals on LinkedIn. Of the three that I’m directly connected to, I brought all of them into the system and two of them only have one direct connection: me.
  • Members have either the “what’s in it for me” or lack of confidence problem I discussed above. As a result, they’re not very likely to highly recommend contacts. To be fair, however, I have had no requests for recommendations in the past two years. In other words, no one has come to me and asked for information about any of my contacts, which include freelancers that do layout, indexing, writing, and all kinds of publishing-related work.
  • Members simply aren’t working the system.

You Gotta Work the System

A few months ago, when a LinkedIn contact asked me whether I’d ever gotten any work because of my LinkedIn membership, after admitting that I hadn’t and discovering that he hadn’t, I offered to ask a friend of mine who I consider a professional networking expert. She’s also a member of LinkedIn and she’s the one who’d pulled me on board. When I asked her the question, she admitted that she hadn’t gotten any work either.

“But I’m not trying very hard,” she added.

I knew immediately what she meant. You can’t simply put your name in a hat and wait for someone to call you with work. You need to work your connections. You need to make sure everyone remembers you and thinks about you when they have a need. You need recommendations. You need to build new connections through the ones you already have.

In other words, you need to network the old fashioned way.

And that’s where LinkedIn falls short of people’s expectations. Yes, you can use it to track down contact information for former classmates and colleagues and clients. But unless you actively keep in touch with these people, you may as well keep an address book in your desk drawer. LinkedIn only puts out what you put into it.

Full Circle

Which brings me back to my original example. Suppose I add Adam to my list of LinkedIn contacts. (The big challenge, of course, is getting him to sign up if he isn’t already a member — non-tech people are extremely cautious about signing up for any online service, even if it’s free.) And suppose Pete (remember him?) is also a member of LinkedIn and gets John to join. Pete refers John to me via LinkedIn. John sees my resume and is impressed. He asks Pete for an introduction. Pete uses LinkedIn to introduce me to John. John becomes part of my network and I introduce him to Adam.

Seems like a long, roundabout way to get things done, but if all of us were already members of LinkedIn before any of this started, it would go smoothly, like clockwork. And, theoretically, a lot of it would be do-it-yourself stuff, with John finding me through Pete’s contact list. A few clicks and introductions are made. E-mail is exchanged, then phone calls. And relationships are solidified by business transactions.

That’s the idea behind LinkedIn.

Sadly, that’s not what’s happening. Not yet. But I’ll continue to try to build my LinkedIn network and try to make some use of it.

Are You LinkedIn?

If you’re a linked in member, use the comments link or form for this post to share your LinkedIn user ID with the rest of us.

If you’re not, check it out. You might benefit from it.

Either way, I’d love to hear experiences of LinkedIn users. Use the comments link or form for this post to share them.

Networking – Part I: Doing It the Old Fashioned Way

When it works…and doesn’t work.

HandshakeI’m a strong believer in networking as a way to build strong relationships with clients, customers, and colleagues. I’ve had some success with it, which is probably why I think it’s such a good thing.

But as times change, so do business techniques. The internet’s social networking features are grabbing hold and changing the way we network. Is it for the better? In this multi-part series, I’ll explore some networking concepts and services as I see them.

Real Networking in Action

For example, suppose I fly for an aerial photographer named Adam. Adam is working for Charlie’s company and has hired me to fly him around while he takes aerial photos of Charlie’s housing development under construction. During the flight, I’m impressed by Adam’s equipment, ability to give me clear instructions, and obvious know-how. He’s a professional, someone I feel privileged to work with. At the conclusion of the flight, I see some of his shots and they’re really good. I observe the way he works with Charlie and Charlie’s response. Everything I see is positive.

Three months later, I get a call from John who is interested in getting some aerial photos of a local mall where his company’s about to build a multistory parking structure. He’s been referred to me by Pete, a past client, and wants to know if I have a photographer on staff. I don’t, I tell him, but I know a photographer who’s experienced in this kind of work. I offer him Adam’s contact information, then, after hanging up the phone, send Adam a quick e-mail message to let him know that John might call.

The hope, of course, is that Adam appreciates the lead and uses my company for the flight. If I’ve done my flying job right, he’s recognized me as a professional who is capable of getting the job done. So perhaps Adam might recommend my company to another client who needs an air-taxi from Scottdale to Sedona. Or a gift certificate for a tour of the Phoenix area.

The result of my networking activities is that Adam and I both get additional business.

When Networking Goes Bad

Too often, these days, people have the “what’s in it for me” attitude. If they were in my shoes, they’d expect some kind of cash compensation — a sort of commission — from Adam if he got the job with John. They don’t realize that Adam might be working too close to cost to be able to cut them in on the action on such a small job. So Adam doesn’t take the job and they both lose.

Or there’s a confidence problem. Instead of offering Adam’s contact info to John, they’d try to broker a deal to keep themselves in the middle. They’d be worried that Adam might prefer using a different helicopter operator and that they’d lose John to someone else. But John may prefer to speak directly to the photographer to make sure the photographer meets his needs. When he can’t get in direct contact with him, he looks for his own photographer who might just have his own favorite helicopter operator. Again, they both lose.

I don’t have these problems. I’m not greedy and I have enough confidence to know that I can do the job satisfactorily. I pride myself on having a good relationship with all of my clients. I get a lot of repeat business to confirm that I’m doing something right.

How a Commissions Structure Fits In

I do need to make a few quick comments about commissions. I don’t want you to think that I’m completely opposed to paying commissions for leads. On the contrary: I work with several outside individuals and organizations who refer customers to Flying M Air in return for monetary compensation.

For example, I work with hotel concierges and pay them a 10% cash commission for hotel guest they book on one of my flights. (With tours starting at $795 in the Phoenix area, that’s not a bad take for making a phone call.) I also work with an individual at an aviation-related business who refers potential clients to me when her company cannot meet their needs. I send her a gift card purchased locally for each call that turns into a flight.

The main thing to remember here is that these people and organizations are not colleagues or clients. They do not have a business relationship with me other than as commissioned referrers. I think of them as a marketing arm of my company. This isn’t networking. It’s marketing and sales.

Next Week

That’s all I have to say — at least for now — about networking the old fashioned way.

Next week, I’ll start my discussion on Web 2.0’s social networking features with a look at LinkedIn and how I see its role in real networking.

In the meantime, why not take a moment or two to share your thoughts about networking. Do you do it? Has a referral really benefited you in the past? Use the comments link or form for this post to share your experiences.