Degrees of Separation: Why Pilots Need to be LinkedIn
- Erika Armstrong
Six degrees of separation is the idea that all people are approximately six social connections away from each other. In the aviation world, it's closer to two, but those connections can be on the other side of the world from each other. The great aspect of both aviation and technology is their ability to close the gap of separation.
Especially during the pandemic, that separation can feel like the expanse of space. For those in the aviation industry whose jobs have been altered or terminated, being connected to the aviation community is vitally important. For anyone suddenly looking for a job after decades at one company, it is important to know that job hunting and recruitment methods have changed but the old adage holds true: It's not just what you know, it's who you know.
Social Media for Aviation Geeks
When one flight department closes, another opens, but pilot employment postings aren't often listed on the generic posting boards like Monster or Indeed because they get too many private pilots with 175 hours applying for Gulfstream PIC jobs. They also aren't listed there because technology and social media for business has changed hiring methods, so flight departments no longer have to find an aviation-specific platform or slog through hundreds of random resumes; they can just go on LinkedIn.
With over 500 million users spanning 200+ countries, LinkedIn has revolutionized the old-fashioned Word-of-Mouth business and employment opportunities. In addition to the recruitment aspect, the information shared in the news feed is generally more technical, the dialogue in the comments section is (usually) more productive and solution focused, and the clickbait is at a minimum. Yes, finally, it's social media for professionals.
Unlike the grab bag of topics and arguments on Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn content is a platform focused on sharing industry information. If you are in the Business Aviation industry, for example, your feed will be two degrees of aviation information. Your connections and potential connections are streamlined by industry and if you are a job seeker, this can increase your visibility and enhance your professional opportunities. The best part (and pilots always love this part), it's free to set up a LinkedIn profile.
Face- to-Face with Masks?
Now that business networking opportunities in real life are postponed or altered (if you have masks on, is it still face-to-face?), LinkedIn provides targeted opportunities to connect business to business or with your peers, search and review someone's technical background, share best practices, and ask questions.
If you are a pilot with a medical question for example, you can search for an AME and send a message to one or to ten of them. They have the option of ignoring you, but you'd be surprised to find most people are willing to share their advice and experience.
Maybe you're a new pilot wanting to learn about the local charter business or how to get into being an air ambulance pilot. You can connect with professional pilots in your area and send a message, follow their news feed, and see trends and aviation news in your local area.
If you own an aviation business, it's a wealth of information about your competition, trends in the industry, and an enormous list of potential employees where you can review the comments they post (you can learn a lot about a person by how respectful they are) and most people list expanded resumes/CV where you can get a broader picture of their experience.
Build a Platform
If you have an aviation business, LinkedIn provides several options to market your services. You can, for free, publish articles and share it with your network, and there are tools you can use to track your reach and engagement.
The key for businesses to gain followers is to not be constantly selling. Provide current information, keep it interesting, and then occasionally pitch your business. If all you do is sell and advertise, you'll find that people will block you from their feed, which weakens your platform. If you build a strong platform, business will come to you.
Be a Leader
Whether you're an individual or a business, LinkedIn has trendsetters and industry influencers who you won't find on Instagram or Twitter. They are companies and individuals who work at providing timely and interesting industry-specific content, and their peripheral benefit is visibility and brand exposure for themselves and their employer.
There is a lot of background noise in social media, so it's hard to rise above it all. To help clear the air, LinkedIn also offers smaller professional networks and groups which provides a connection point for those you may already know and those who should know. Often, leaders will get their start in smaller social circles and move outward, which stretches into other circles, which pulls in an entire new group of connections.
It Took a Pandemic
It took a pandemic to fully realize the power and need for connections. The aviation sector was hit hard, but differently. Business Aviation has continued to trudge along through the quarantine and the anomaly is that because of the reduced exposure to COVID-19 during business aviation flights, more people who once might've flown first-class on the airlines are turning to charters and private aviation. Part 91 flight departments are holding their breath, waiting to see how and when the economy will begin its recovery before getting flight schedules back to normal.
The airlines are still flying, but many have only been carrying passenger loads of 5 to 15 percent, so everyone's jobs are in peril as all aviation companies scramble to find a balanced spreadsheet. As the economy gyrates from day-to-day, employment security weakens, growing the need for industry connections.
If you're in aviation long enough, your former flight student might be your future chief pilot. Your subordinate might be your boss in the future. Never burn a bridge, and keep yourself well connected. Life will always prove that it can change in an instant, so it's important to always maintain those bridges to a potential new job.
Social media often gives the feeling that everyone is shouting, and no one is listening. If you make your social media activity meaningful and consistent on LinkedIn, you'll find that you can make purposeful connections so that one day, if you're handed a pink slip, your connections will give you a hand up.
The author, Erika Armstrong, has 428,000+ aviation followers on LinkedIn. Advanced Aircrew Academy now has 5,285 and growing each day. If you have a question for either Erika or Advanced Aircrew Academy, connect with her on LinkedIn or email firstname.lastname@example.org.