Taking off in a New Career Direction

Taking off in a New Career DirectionI am the blogger for Wharton Magazine who normally writes about airport issues. I have been in aviation for over two decades, and it is a crazy, maddening, exciting and always challenging world. That all crashed down on me in January after my former employer was purchased by an international firm. I was provided with an outstanding severance package, as promised in my employment contract. What next? For the first time in more than 20 years, I was out of work without a parachute—a backup plan or a safety net.

What did I do? After the shock wore off, I started job hunting. I spent money to get a professional to redo my resume for nonaviation jobs. I cleaned up my aviation resume to reduce it from 13 pages to five. (As a consultant, one has a variety of clients and projects.) I upgraded my LinkedIn membership and started responding to ads. I cannot begin to tell you how many. Well, actually, I can tell you. I applied for 84 different jobs in a multitude of industries between January and August. I got about 10 interviews and I got zero offers. I could go on about the vast number of companies that never even acknowledged I existed, or the ones with which I did interview but then took 10 weeks to tell me I was being rejected. But I won’t at this point.

I, obviously, needed a Plan B. I realize that I still have a lot to offer the industry that I love, so I decided that I would hang out my own shingle. Getting started was rough. It’s always a challenge to find clients, and in the aviation world a contract generally cannot just be given but rather must be awarded through a competitive solicitation process. Responses can be very complex, time consuming and expensive, and although I have 13 pages of experience, my company is just a baby. It would be very difficult for me to be competitive on my own. A few friends with larger firms have helped me by providing contacts or small projects, and I’ve worked with a couple of small firms on proposals. It’s a start. Is it sustainable? Time will tell.

I’m not asking for sympathy. I have got to imagine that I am not the only Wharton graduate who ended up out of work through no fault of his own and who then had a brutal time trying to secure new employment.

My message to those who still seek work is do not give up. Maybe the solution is starting something new, as I did. Maybe the solution is changing industries, although that move can be difficult if your expertise is deeply tied into a certain environment. Or maybe the solution, which was also part of mine, is to realize what you do have: family, friends, pets, health … and figure out what you need to get by, even if that isn’t the lifestyle you used to lead.

Do not give up hope. Do not rage against the machine (although I certainly did that). Find your way. It may not be the way you envisioned, but there is life out there for everyone.





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