One of my colleagues is about to get furloughed. He’s young in the industry and hasn’t had the great misfortune to experience the turbulent up and down times he’s heard so much about in aviation. He knew logically that this is a danger of our aviation industry and is a regular occurrence every 10-20 years. But emotionally, it’s a hard pill to swallow when you see it coming your way. All those years of training! All that money invested in ratings and flight hours! All that physical sweat and work to get to this point! And the impending doom of furlough and possibly having your company go bankrupt or dissolve looming in the near future...but not before heated battles on forums and blogs, then union negotiations, then probable concessions- it’s a long list of depressing events prior to the actual furlough.
But it happens to a lot of pilots who’ve worked for the best of companies. And as pilots, we’re not alone in facing this career crisis. Many industries are affected by financial depressions, medical pandemics, terrorism, and other global disruptions.
Here is the gist of the conversation we had about how to face this potential furlough.
Consider it an opportunity.
There’s still a pilot shortage (and shortages in other technical fields). Be first in line when the hiring comes back, and have the best looking resume. Everyone else’s resume looks just like yours right now. So take this opportunity to make yours stand out. What can you do to make yourself more qualified than the other applicants? What do you think your dream company wants in a candidate, and can you become that during your furlough? How can you better position yourself to meet the demands that will happen on the back end of this pandemic?
You’re probably in one of the most demanding fields in the history of work! (Well, at least some days feel like that.) It’s OK to take a breather for a minute. Look at how much you’ve accomplished up until this point. Examine whether this is the right job and career for you. Think about where you want it to go. What does it look like when you’re 65? Sure, take some time for yourself. You may not get this chance for a while.
Go to school while you can.
Thinking about that degree program? Wanting to take a MOOC? Needing that next certificate eventually? Step right up! Many schools have extended application deadlines, reduced tuition, transitioned to online learning, dropped requirements for academic testing, or made other concessions to keep students applying and enrolling during COVID.
Learn new skills.
You’ll probably be asked “What did you do during your furlough?” when you get back. And you’ll definitely get asked this during your next job interview if you move on. Don’t leave this time blank on your resume. Be creative. There’s something you can improve upon in your professional life.
Don’t have any ideas? Check out the bios of the people in your industry you admire. Look at the career path of CEOs, entrepreneurs, and world leaders. There’s a modern-day version of their milestones you can be working on right now.
Build “Job B” and “Job C”.
If you can’t find it, make it. There are a lot of great jobs out there if you’re willing to consider something a little different. Almost everyone has remote work options on their job boards now. Or maybe now is the time for that relocation you hadn’t considered before. Perhaps you need a fill-the-gap job to bridge yourself financially until your Job A comes back. Perhaps you want to get a leg up on the competition when your company goes bankrupt (it’s bound to happen to some of you...sorry…) and you’re all in the interview pool at the next-great-company. Perhaps you’re done with all this institutionalism and want to build your own system. Entrepreneurship is a hard, worthy, ambitious, excellent road. Start taking those beginning steps now. There’s someone who’s dying to help you figure out that path. Just ask around.
Even if you’re not building Job B or Job C, someone in your network is. They need your help. Lend a hand with encouragement, volunteering to take on a task for them, or working for them. I’ll say it again: even if they don’t ask, they need your help. Be a pal and find out with what.
Invest in yourself.
Do not slack off on workouts, health, family matters, or spiritual matters. It’s a slippery slope from free time to laziness. Granted, you should definitely take some down time to rest and regroup, but this is not the time to let loose or lose hope. Be aware of personal signs of apathy or depression. Seek help as soon as you need to. Your first priority is YOU.
Take care of yourself- body, mind, and soul. This might mean talking to professionals or investing some money into a program, but your health is the ONLY thing that’s important in the end.
Develop your hobbies and build relationships.
This period of furlough is like a winter hibernation. You may not be able to advance your primary job (or even keep your skills and certificates current) during this down time. So it’s an unfortunate opportunity to consider what you’d do if you couldn’t return to work at your current job, if your current job disappears forever, or if you decide to leave your current job for any reason at all.
How can you enhance your life? This is the time to work on your professional and/or personal profile. Think of yourself as a Jane/James Bond in training. You’re going off the grid for a bit and will re-emerge as a more powerful superhero with previously unheard of abilities. Whether you choose to strengthen your professional resume (Six-sigma training? Seaplane rating? Diploma in pastry arts?) or to add joy to your personal life (Goodreads reading challenge? Physical fitness training program? Spanish lessons?), now is the no-excuses time to pull out your planner and outline your goals.
Stay fresh with your network. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date, as well as any professional and social media sites you use publicly. What sections of your profile need a better description? Should you make certain jobs more general or more specific as you contemplate your next moves in your industry? Have you recently sent a message to your valued colleagues to stay in touch or provide an update? Have you reached out to inquire how your peers and connections are doing during the difficult time they may be experiencing?