Following our recent blog, Aviation Recruitment Predictions 2021, I realised that it might be useful to write a blog offering some advice and tips for any individual embarking on a career search within aviation. Given our generous market share of the executive airline recruitment market, I believe we have a good vantage point from which to offer advice.
There are a multitude of reasons for someone to consider a career move, so unfortunately this blog cannot be an exhaustive list tailored to everyone’s individual circumstances. That said, I believe these thoughts should offer some valuable guidance and, hopefully, help a few of you secure your next role.
In no particular order:
Keeping your LinkedIn profile updated is important if you want to be found. Companies and recruiters alike will utilise ‘keyword’ search techniques to identify potential talent. Therefore, try to ensure you describe your roles and responsibilities in a manner that will be easy to find. Overly unique job titles or very brief descriptions of your job responsibilities make you less visible. This is equally relevant for the algorithms LinkedIn employ to bring awareness to potentially suitable vacancies being advertised.
In short – treat your LinkedIn profile as if it were a succinct online CV.
There is no such thing as a perfect CV, but there are certainly things to avoid. Senior executive CVs are often too long. Try to keep the CV to two pages, three at a maximum. I realise that in the United States a one-page CV is typical, and this is appropriate for that market. However, generally speaking, two or three pages is an adequate length. Keep the content in reverse chronological order and try to ensure you keep to the key responsibilities and highlights. Details such as reporting lines, numbers of direct and indirect reports, revenue figures/targets, budget figures, aircraft types and relevant systems experience are always valuable. Always include the dates of your roles (months and years), dates of any promotions and explain any large gaps in your employment history.
I do not see a need to hire a company to put your executive resume together. I believe it is better to do it yourself and get the insight of the search partners you are working with. Most will not, and should not in my opinion, charge for this service.
Building relationships with search firms
To ensure you hear about the roles you wish to be considered for, you need to know the right search firms - and importantly, they need to know you. I understand and appreciate this is not necessarily easy. We pride ourselves on offering an extremely attentive service at Venari Partners, but it remains an impossible undertaking to speak to every candidate who might want to engage with us, especially in this current market, with more airline executives than ever seeking new employment.
Knowing which airlines work with which search partner is undoubtedly a difficult task for any candidate to learn. I was tempted to list some of the firms I respect in our sector. However, if I omit one or two firms, I might cause unintended offence. I suspect the best way to form an educated opinion on who will be able to help is to ask your industry peers. Recommendations in our industry go a long way!
You are unlikely to see search firms advertise roles. Typically, we only do so when we are required to for the purpose of a visa application process. We are, more often than not, required to work confidentially, so stay in touch with your executive search contacts to ensure you are being considered for the relevant roles they are working on.
If a respected search consultant does reach out to you, take the call, or respond to the email. It might not be the right job this time, but it could be next time. By ignoring our approaches, we are likely to assume you are not interested in a move. I always say to my contacts “at the very least give yourself the chance to say no by hearing what the specific mandate is”.
Only apply for roles you are relevant for. This should be a given for senior executives, but I still feel it sensible to mention.
Use your own contacts and network as much as you possibly can. Most companies will use a search partner to ensure the candidate market is fully covered when they have a specific senior hiring need. However, not every company will want to outsource this process and pay fees.
You might even be able to secure a role that never goes to market if you leverage your network well! If you are currently employed, be careful how vocal you are about your career search. You do not want your employer learning of your search unless you have already discussed your position and indicated your intentions to them.
Whilst it is not that common, some companies who choose not to use a search partner may select to advertise, even for senior roles. LinkedIn is probably the most obvious source they would use in conjunction with their own website. Try to keep abreast of which roles are being published by the companies that interest you and apply as appropriate. You can follow these companies on social media to help get visibility.
If and when you do apply to companies directly, do not expect much feedback unless they want to interview you. The sheer volume of applicants they will receive means they cannot realistically read each CV application and provide feedback. Unfortunately, no news is often bad news when referring to direct applications.
Your search requirements
Logically, the more flexible you are on your search requirements, the more likely you will be to secure a role.
Do not assume that you can simply convert your current financial earnings into a different currency to establish a sensible salary expectation for a role in another country. It simply does not work like that. Taxes, living costs and bonus cultures differ greatly country to country. When negotiating on a financial package, be realistic and try to factor in the difference in the cost of living.
In the current market, I doubt many companies will be inclined to negotiate much above the initial budgets they set, certainly for the base salary component of an offer. It is probably safe to assume the short-term incentives and long-term incentives are set to be re-calibrated in our industry.
Therefore, it will be a challenge to place an accurate financial value on performance related bonuses and share schemes. Easy to say, I know, but compensation alone should not be the deciding factor in taking a role or not.
Do not be scared of the odd ‘curve ball’. Some roles you come across might not initially appear to meet your search requirements but could surprise you. Job descriptions are not great at offering an insight into the company culture, the makeup of the executive team or the ambition of the company - all important components to what may or may not make a role appealing.
If you are immediately available, consider interim or short-term work. Staying busy is never a bad thing and can often fill the gaps between permanent roles.
You will not get every role you apply for, so do not get disheartened. Try to elicit as much feedback as possible from each process and learn from it. Interviewing is a skill that can be improved through experience. We intend to do a separate blog on the subject soon.
Finally, be patient. I have purposely left this point to the end of the blog as I feel it is most important. Taking the wrong role for the wrong reason is hard to rectify and it can end up being a costly mistake. Most senior executive career searches can take 6-12 months. I do understand that there will be a need to earn for many candidates seeking new employment but do try as hard as you can to find the right role, the one you will be happy in for years to come.