man standing on bridge - bridge job - api aviation

When 2020 began, one of the last thoughts on the minds of aviation jobseekers was the possibility of considering a “bridge job” instead of a dream job.

Now, nine months into the pandemic, aviation jobs are scarce, and there are a limited number of ideal opportunities available.

If you’re an aviation professional looking for work, you understand the challenges of finding solid prospects in today’s market. Competition for infrequent job openings is fierce. In fact, at API we’ve heard stories of more than 200 applicants for a single pilot position!

Is a “Bridge Job” Right for You?

By definition, a “bridge job” is a temporary position. Most often, it’s something you do while you’re transitioning from one job to the next. In our industry, it might mean working part-time. Or you might take a contract position to help make ends meet.

Essentially, a bridge job is your next job—but probably not your last job. Some might consider a bridge job as a step backward. But keep in mind that taking a lesser role can help you “bridge the gap.” In doing so, you can benefit both personally and professionally.

For example, it’s a move that could pay off in a down market. But you need to make sure you weigh the pros and cons for you and your family. And you might just need to adjust your expectations.

Adjusting Your Expectations

At API, I’m honored to coach our outplacement participants—those aviation professionals who, because of the current employment market, have found themselves seeking another job. These highly skilled pros often struggle to identify a new job they deem as good as the one they’ve recently lost. Some even classify their previous position as their dream job or even that they expected it to be their last job.

If you’ve been among the lucky ones who’ve experienced some manner of “job utopia,” congratulations! But going forward, it may be difficult to consider settling for another job that doesn’t exactly match up with your previous one.

Sometimes, we counsel jobseekers to be more realistic about their expectations for a new position. That’s when we suggest the idea of taking a “bridge job,” something that may be a temporary link to a more ideal situation down the road.

A Bridge Job Exemplified

Let me show you one example of how a bridge job works. Through API’s outplacement program, I’m consulting with a displaced pilot who left a job that he loved. He has a young family and wants to find a new job close to home, for all the reasons you can imagine. Thus, relocation is a last option for him and his family.

Despite being well-networked, this pilot hasn’t found a local Part 91 operation that’s hiring. Gratefully, however, he has the benefit of some breathing room thanks to a generous severance. But his top priority is to get back into the cockpit to maintain his proficiency and continue earning a steady paycheck.

“My wife and I have had some very deep and hard conversations,” he told me. “With no idea about how long the pandemic will last, we’ve decided that the best thing for our family is that I work close to home. I’m going to get a job as quickly as possible, even if it isn’t my dream job.”

After receiving a fair offer, this pilot went back to his former employer to fly charter. Sure, this decision is a short-term career divergence from a more traditional corporate aviation job. But by knowing and aligning his motivations, he took action when this transitional opportunity arose. As he said, for the time being, he’s focusing on his family’s priorities.

As my mom always says, life is about choices. There is no definitive answer for “Should I or should I not consider a bridge job?” However, tough conversations are often necessary. And, just as often, difficult questions should be asked of oneself and reviewed. What’s right for you may not be right for the next person. And today’s answers might not be the same a few months down the road.

Questions to Consider

I’ve heard firsthand the stress in the voices of many out-of-work aviation professionals. They ask questions like:

  • When will the market turn around?
  • How long will my severance last?
  • Will I have to move my family to find work?
  • Do you think I will need to take a pay cut?
  • Should I buy my own type rating or recurrent training?
  • Maybe I should consider leaving aviation for a different, less volatile industry?
  • Will I ever find a job I love as much as my last?

What I’ve learned through these difficult conversations is that we all need to have some sense of control in our lives. No one saw a global pandemic coming, and nobody chose unemployment.

Regaining control looks different for everyone. For some, that control, and the answers to some of the above questions, can come from saying “yes” to a bridge job.

And perhaps the benefits of a bridge job even go beyond regaining a sense of control. Aviation professionals are a driven bunch. We work in a fast-paced, highly demanding environment. And our world is far from 9-5, Monday through Friday. When life goes from 100 mph to zero in the blink of an eye, it can really mess with our psyches.

A bridge job offers a chance to keep your head in the game. Aside from keeping your skills sharp, it may also provide a schedule that’s more familiar to you and your family.

Does it Matter What I do with my “Free” Time?

Aviation recruiters like myself, who review resumes on a regular basis, often see economic-based employment gaps due to a catastrophic event.

Take, for example, what happened in the aftermath of 9/11, the Great Recession of 2008-09, and now the 2020 pandemic. Thus, any astute hiring expert understands that these events are no fault of the aviation professional.

But what I like to ask these professionals is how they fill up their “free” time during unemployment. To me, it’s important to know that despite their unfortunate situation they try and remain productive. That might mean that they’re studying for a CAM certification, or they’re going back to school to further their professional knowledge. Or maybe they’re signed up for some sort of specialized training.

If finances are tight, as they well might be, get creative! Do some research to identify low-cost ways to learn via the internet. At API, we’re big fans of taking courses on Udemy, watching Ted Talks and listening to podcasts. You can also be a student of a “master class.” And, of course, you might want to use your time to seek out and accept a “lesser” bridge job in aviation.

Bottom line? Sure, a bridge job may not be right for everyone. But if this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that the decisions we need to make are often very personal ones. And we make them with the best of intentions.

So, will a bridge job ruin your resume? I say no. But, on the other hand, doing nothing just might.

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