It’s unfortunate, but I often hear from aviation pros who suddenly find themselves in an unplanned career transition. Life was great, and things were “status quo.” But then an aircraft sells. A principal dies. A flight department downsizes and the perfect job goes away.
Whatever the case, it seems candidates’ biggest regrets are that they didn’t build a stronger network while they were employed.
And, as we often say, “in business aviation, it’s who you know, but it’s also who knows you.”
Thankfully, there are several ways of creating a meaningful network. One key way is to get involved locally with aviation groups, chapters, committees and organizations.
Local and Regional Outreach
We should never overlook the fact that being an aviation pro means we have access to a pretty fantastic community. Many of our industry colleagues gather at least monthly or quarterly to participate in local and regional aviation-oriented groups.
For example, I serve on the board of “FABA”—the Florida Aviation Business Association. FABA, like other local and regional aviation groups, is a 501c3 organization that cooperates with the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), but is not directly a part of it.
Organizations like the Greater St. Louis Aviation Association, the Ohio Regional Business Aviation Association and the Southern California Aviation Association are completely independent of the NBAA. There’s at least one of these in every state, and often several that you can tap into.
Regardless of their independence (or perhaps because of it), local or regional groups like some of these represent great conduits for reaching into their communities to, in large part, extend the reach of key NBAA/aviation messaging that might not otherwise reach that far.
Kristi Ivey, who is the NBAA’s Northwestern Regional Representative, reinforces this idea. She says that the “NBAA truly values the commitment of the volunteer regional group leaders around the country who, on their own time and with the support of their employers, demonstrate the passion to pay it forward in our industry.”
She and her colleagues at NBAA rely on local, experience-based input on the issues affecting flight operations.
“We applaud local industry leaders who are constantly finding new ways of recruiting business aviation professionals into the industry, as well as coaching and grooming these bright stars into leadership roles within their associations.”
Self-disclosure: Along with many other regional group volunteers from around the country, I serve on NBAA’s Local & Regional Groups Standing Committee. Our committee meets annually at BACE and the Local and Regional Groups Roundtable to discuss best practices, share challenges and celebrate successes of the various groups represented.
Ways Local and Regional Groups Can Benefit You
As part of the valuable grass-roots outreach and connection to local groups and associations, you can glean several benefits. Via your membership and participation in local groups, you may learn how to:
- Address workforce development challenges and educate young people on the variety of opportunities in aviation.
- Serve as grassroots advocates and engage state and airport officials on business aviation issues. You may also tackle local, regional and national aviation issues, such as the ATC privatization.
- Get involved in local aviation industry events, such as Safety Days, Advocacy Days and fundraisers.
- Foster communication with local communities about the importance of airports and of business aviation.
- Guide your regional group in creating its own career fair, safety day, scholarship program or other event. Check out NBAA’s Regional Business Aviation Groups Library, which contains documents and templates.
- Learn more about regional issues that may affect business aviation access at airports around the U.S.
So don’t put all your eggs in one basket by focusing on the tried-and-true “one-to-one” networking paths. Remember, your volunteerism at the local level—in local and regional groups—helps you stand out, especially if you take a leadership role. It can only add to your experience—your “network”—and you will only improve your professional fortunes by doing so.
P.S. Thinking of starting a local or regional aviation group? Check out this Flight Plan podcast episode. NBAA regional representatives Brittany Davies and Paige Kroner discuss tips on marketing and membership, events and outreach, legal issues and more.