I Got My Certificate…Now What?
To start this off: CONGRATULATIONS! You did it! You put in the work and successfully got your certificate. Not everyone can say that they actually put in the work and successfully completed something they were setting out for. It’s truly impressive. But now you’re likely dealing with the same thing that just about everyone does after completing a big goal: Now what?
This is a super common question that runs through people’s minds when they get a new certificate. It likely comes from the intense focus on a singular goal for so long that you don’t plan for what’s next.
It’s quite common for people to put in the work for their NCATT (Aircraft Electronics Technician) AET, General Radio Operator License (GROL), or Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) License, but they don’t know how to get a job in the field. A lot of people put the work in without the next steps planned.
So, here are three simple steps to help you figure out what’s next because nobody likes to be stuck.
First off, you have to start the same way you start looking for any new job. That’s by setting up a resume for your aviation career. Then you will start networking your tail off. The last step is to continue learning and become incredible at your trade.
Tailor Your Resume
That’s right. The first thing you have to do after working your ass off to get your certificate is to get right back into working on a computer to make your resume perfect.
Here’s the thing though, you don’t go to a tailor to make your clothes exist. Most likely, you bought an ill-fitting suit and then took it to a tailor so they made the clothing fit you correctly to look like freaking James Bond at your friend’s wedding. What you do for your resume is start out by making a general resume.
There are literally millions of templates online if you just Google it, or Yahoo! search it…or Bing it, if you’re so inclined. Microsoft Word and Google Docs both offer free templates without any downloads needed. There’s also Canva which lets you get really technical before downloading your resume as a PDF or JPNG.
Doing this will make you look like you have your shit together, which employers tend to like. It helps you get a job, but it also helps you to make more money at said job.
But remember, we’re tailoring this resume. Instead of just making a generic resume, you have to make it with your desired position in mind. Talk about your aviation experience. Give examples of successful projects you’ve completed. Make yourself desirable…without posting a naked selfie. Nobody wants to see that.
It’s not often that you talk to a person about their career and they say, “Yeah I just started applying to things that sounded cool and I got this job.”
Instances like that truly hit near zero when you get into aviation. It’s such a specialized field that requires a myriad of certifications and cross-checking that it’s impossible to get a job in the field without having the correct resume and knowing the right people.
This probably should have started when you were in the process of getting your certificate, but hindsight is 20-20. It’s too late to focus on what you should have done. Just pass on this idea to the next generation as they come up.
Here’s the key to networking in aviation: go hang out at airports. I’m absolutely not telling you to saddle up your pony and ride off to the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. I’m giving real advice here. What you should do is open the fancy little interwebs tool on just about every computer in the world (including the pocket computer you call a cell phone) and search: “airports in (insert city name here).”
This will bring up at least one small airport if not multiple small airports. Then you start heading out there and hanging out with the people there. Get to know the pilots because they are the ones that will need your services. Get to know the airport owners and charter airlines that operate there. Lastly, get to know the mechanics because they are the ones that will hire you to work for/with them.
Then if you meet someone serendipitously, then you can talk about aviation. Aviation is such a unique field that everyone knows someone in aviation, but they don’t do it themselves. If you go about it like that, then they will likely volunteer the contact information and give you an in to get a new job.
There’s a saying for pilots that your pilot’s license is really just a license to learn.
This really should go for ALL fields, but it’s most relevant in aviation because the technology is constantly improving. Especially when looking at general aviation and experimental aircraft. One of the best things about books is that if you ever want to learn anything, there is a book on the topic. This belief now extends to YouTube, podcasts, and documentaries in this day and age.
If you continue your education, which doesn’t have to be formal, then it will make you better at what you got your certification in. When you’re better at your trade, you’re more likely to be hired. Some jobs are based on seniority, such as being an airline pilot; however, there are others where the quality of work is most rewarded. That’s the case for any sort of mechanic.
If you continue learning, both formally and informally, then you will be able to pad your resume, which I already said makes you more hireable. If you are running your own shop, it makes you smarter and better versed in solving issues. Think about it like this; if your car isn’t working and there are two mechanics in town, are you going to take it to the crappy mechanic or the good one?
Adding to this, if you want your car to run for as long as possible, you will pay a little more to go to a better mechanic with a proven record. If you continue learning, you will be that mechanic.
So, get your shit together with an aesthetically pleasing resume. Then start talking to as many people as possible to let them know you work in aviation because you never know where that will lead. Last, continue learning and growing in your field to be the best, charge the most, and grow your career.