The civilian VTOL industry offers a well of career opportunities for military vets.

Transitioning to a civilian job after having served in the military can be confusing and intimidating. But with a little planning and preparation, qualified veterans can land secure, well-paying, rewarding jobs in the civil vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) industry. For those interested in such a career change, here are five dos and don’ts to consider.

1. DO network, network, network.

Networking is one of the most important career development skills for any professional, and that certainly applies to moving from the military to civilian sectors. Networking means talking to, getting to know, and getting to be known by people in your target industry. You can do this by attending events such as HAI HELI-EXPO®, staying connected with current and past fellow service members, and even cold-calling companies to learn more about their operations and how you can prepare for a position with them, as well as getting to know the people who’ll make the hiring decisions. Whether you realize it or not, you also network in every interaction you have with anyone in the industry, even socially. Building a long list of contacts and having positive interactions with them will significantly increase your chances of landing a successful, rewarding civil career.

2. DON’T wait until you’re out of the service to investigate a career change.

It’s never too soon to start researching your postmilitary career. There are a number of networking groups and seminars focused on helping service members make the transition to the civil VTOL industry; the Mil2Civ Helicopter group on LinkedIn is a great place to start. You’ll receive guidance on creating a civil aviation resume, obtaining civilian licenses, speaking “civilian,” and more. Use this time to also research potential employers and their requirements. If you do this work while you’re still in the service, you’ll have more time to prepare yourself with the right experience, licenses, and skills to land that first civil position.

3. DO learn from others who’ve gone before you.

Former service members who are working in the civil industry are the best source of advice and support for making the transition to a post­military career. Ask them the important questions: How did you get your job? What was easy about the process, what was hard, and what do you wish you had known before you started? Vets who’ve already navigated their mil2civ career transition can be a direct source of job advice, leads, or even offers. Learn how the civilian job you’re seeking compares with its military counterpart and what you can do in advance to prepare for the position. Take to heart the advice and experience of those who’ve preceded you in this journey—it might very well ensure your future in the civil sector.

4. DON’T limit your options.

While some types of work done in the military directly translate to civilian jobs, some skills may not, on the surface, look like they’re marketable in the civil industry. Don’t let that stop you. Combat field maintenance is exceptionally valuable to the utility operator with aircraft operating out of a base in the woods, for example. There are far more types of helicopter operations in the civil industry, all around the world, than in one branch of the military. Break your military job down into the skills you’ve developed and look for civil jobs that use those skills. You’ll learn that you’re far more marketable than you might have thought.

5. DO represent yourself positively and professionally.

Service members have an edge in many job searches, coming from a military background that emphasizes respect for authority and following the rules. Take that professionalism to every exchange you have and every person you meet in the civil industry. You never know who’ll reach out to offer you that next break. Always speak positively and respectfully about your job, your service, your experience, and your aircraft. Civil operators seek skilled team players with a positive attitude who’ll respect the job, the customer, the procedures, and their authority while showing great care and respect for the aircraft and its limitations. Expressing those traits in every interaction leaves a lasting impression.

Thanks to Stacy Sheard, former HAI chair, and the panelists of the Feb. 18, 2021, HAI@Work webinar “Mil2Civ Transition: Finding a Job in the Civil Helicopter Industry.” A military veteran herself, Sheard has worked to build HAI’s Mil2Civ Transition ­program to help service members successfully transition to the civil market and to build support within the helicopter industry to hire veterans. Watch the full webinar at rotor.org/webinar to gain more valuable advice on how to transition to the civilian helicopter industry.

Author

  • Jen Boyer is the principal of her own firm, Flying Penguin Communications. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and holds commercial, instrument, flight instructor, and instrument instructor ratings in helicopters and a private rating in airplanes. She has worked as a professional journalist and marketing communicator in the aviation industry since the early 1990s.

Jen Boyer

Jen Boyer

Jen Boyer is the principal of her own firm, Flying Penguin Communications. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and holds commercial, instrument, flight instructor, and instrument instructor ratings in helicopters and a private rating in airplanes. She has worked as a professional journalist and marketing communicator in the aviation industry since the early 1990s.

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