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Networking: Turning contacts into career catalysts

Posted 106 days ago ago by Admin

The true value of networking and forging meaningful connections is immeasurable. In the beginning of my career I believed I had a clear vision of my professional path, but as I progressed, numerous unforeseen opportunities presented themselves. I attribute a significant portion of my success to the individuals who offered guidance and illuminated new avenues for me. As an introvert, the prospect of reaching out, building networks, and seeking advice was initially overwhelming. Even now it presents its challenges, but I have come to realize that networking is more than a skill, but a crucial catalyst for growth and success unlocking doors to possibilities I never knew existed.

Transitioning from a military career to the civilian sector, requires a strategic approach and a well-established network. I believe for military personnel looking to thrive into the helicopter world, networking becomes an indispensable tool bridging the gap between the structured environment of the armed forces and the dynamic landscape of civilian rotorcraft operations.

Networking within the helicopter world provides access to industry expertise. Engaging with helicopter pilots, maintenance professionals, and industry leaders provides valuable insights into the nuances of civilian rotorcraft operations. Veterans can benefit from the firsthand experiences of those who have successfully made the transition, gaining valuable advice on certifications, job market trends, and the day-to-day challenges of related careers.

Prior to and following a transition from the military, it's essential to take advantage of as many events and trade shows as possible. While many of these gatherings feature valuable career fairs, it’s equally important to set specific goals regarding the companies or industries that pique your interest. Make it a mission to engage with people and ask thoughtful questions. The individuals you connect with will likely remember your interactions, or at the very least, your proactive approach. These initial connections can serve as valuable conversation starters in the future. The insights you gather at these events will not only help steer and progress your career path, but so will the relationships you build along the way.

The online world has expanded the avenues for networking and mentorship as well, making it easier than ever for transitioning personnel to connect with seasoned professionals and access valuable resources. Leverage your online presence through social media, podcasts and webinars, online forums and communities, mentorship programs, and virtual networking events such as HeliSuccess.

Just a few weeks ago, I received an inquiry from a flight student who expressed interest in the utility operation sector of the rotorcraft industry. This individual had reached out through a new mentorship platform, Forever on the Fly/Mentorcloud, to which I have recently offered my time online. Fortunately, the timing aligned perfectly, and I had the opportunity to guide them on a visit through Columbia Helicopters Inc. headquarters. During their visit, they had the unique chance to witness firsthand the maintenance and flight operations of all the aircraft platforms. What made this experience even more valuable was the fact that they could interact with several employees, including the chief flight instructor and chief pilot. They seized this opportunity to ask an array of questions, gaining valuable insights into the company and industry.

You will discover numerous connections eager and ready to respond to your inquiries, sometimes even surpassing your expectations. I have then discovered that setting specific goals for staying in touch with contacts valued is crucial. These are the individuals who can provide inspiration, knowledge, and assistance in achieving your goals. They are also the ones who transition from casual acquaintances to mentorships and partnerships.

For military personnel looking to transition, networking is not just an asset; it’s a lifeline. It serves as a catalyst for a successful transition, offering access to opportunities, industry insights, mentorship, and a supportive community. The collaborative and community-oriented nature of networking in the rotorcraft world reflects the shared passion for flight and dedication to excellence, making it an essential component of a successful military-to-civilian transition.

Miguel Cuesta made a successful transition into the civilian sector in 2010 after serving as an MH47 flight engineer in the U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation Regiment. For nearly a decade, he has served as a command pilot at Columbia Helicopters Inc. and has most recently joined the company’s business development team.

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