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Ten Hot Tips for a Successful Mil2Civ Helicopter Transition

Posted 2 years 230 days ago ago by Admin

 1.  Prepare years in advance. Ideally, you should be networking in person, and preparing for your transition at least 3 years in advance. Attend annual events such as HeliSuccess and  Heli-Expo. Have your one-page resume in hand or ready to email to any interested employers.

 2.  Attend HAI Heli-Expo, HeliSuccess, and the Mil2Civ Transition Workshop. Heli-Expo is the largest annual helicopter event of the year, and it's the one place to find the answers to all your questions! Attend at least three helicopter conferences before separating from the military. Go every year and stay for the entire show; take advantage of the career development seminars and the professional courses offered. Get out there, and get to know people; the relationships you build at helicopter conferences will make all the difference in your future success... The first year will be the most difficult; you may not know a soul! The follow-on years will be where you make your money networking, the people you met the first year will introduce you to new contacts and then – let the momentum begin. 

  3.  Network – it really is who you know. Whether it’s meeting new people at an aviation conference, or visiting helicopter operators at your local airport. Get to know anyone in the helicopter industry, make friends, humbly ask for guidance, and listen to people when they’re offering that advice (whether you take it or not). Find someone you can utilize as a mentor in the civilian arena. Target what sector you are looking to gain employment, and have a mentor in each sector; be careful not to make a nuisance of yourself.

 4.  Demilitarize, de-acronym, and get your resume down to one page. If your mother doesn’t understand something on your resume, neither will the typical human resources rep. Aviation resumes should be no more than one page in length. By the way, have several civilians read it over and critique it with brutality – maybe even Mom!

 5.  Business cards should be with you all the time...you never know. Use a civilian email address on your business cards, not your military email. In addition to handing out your own information, obtain as many business cards as possible, then go home and put them in your phone with a note as to who they are and how you met them. If they are reluctant to give out contact info, offer to look them up on LinkedIn to connect for career advice.  

 6.  Grooming. Civilian employers may like that you are clean cut, but don’t get a fresh “high & tight” just before your interview. They realize you’re military, but an extreme haircut may give the impression you won’t assimilate into the workplace. Always where a suit and tie to an interview, or even a meet and greet. Never pop into a place of employment looking unprofessional in your attire or grooming, you can do that after you secure a position.

 7.  Social Media. Use Facebook as an unofficial connection to professionals in the helicopter industry. Peruse their profile, friend them, then ask for advice. If they accept your friend request keep an eye on “people you may know;” it will usually connect you to people your new friend is connected with, and they may also be in the industry – many are. Always be the consummate professional while on social media of any type. Many human resources reps review LinkedIn profiles to obtain insight on prospective candidates. Keep it professional, have a suit/tie professional photo. Build your professional LinkedIn profile by modeling it after a mentor.

 8.  Log Book. Civilian flight time is logged differently than military flight time. Know how to log your flight hours, especially pilot-in-command flight time in accordance with the appropriate aviation regulations. You might be shorting yourself some PIC and Total time.

 9.  Medical. Make an appointment, and get your Class 1 medical certificate. After enduring all those arduous military flight physicals, I think you’ll be surprised how easy an FAA physical can be!

10.  Be humble. So, you’re a military helicopter pilot with combat time – that’s nice. Do not assume you know anything about commercial flying; there’s a lot to learn and people much younger than you may be showing you the ropes. Be respectful of their time and energy getting you up to speed. Be humble, this is a very small industry. Make a name for yourself right away and be sure it’s a good one; it will likely stick with you for a very long time.

About the author: Stacy Sheard’s career began as a U.S. Army Huey and Black Hawk pilot until leaving the military to pursue a commercial flying career. She has civil experience in charter, tour, ENG, EMS, corporate aviation, and as a Sikorsky production test pilot. She is currently a corporate pilot with EJM flying the AW139. She is an HAI board member.