Why Do Some Aircaft Mechanics Thrive While Others Struggle?
Finding that first aircraft mechanic job after getting the A&P license can be a challenge. It can be seriously frustrating applying to jobs and not hearing anything back. I think this is one of the biggest challenges that new mechanics face, and honestly, some never overcome this challenge. Other mechanics may have worked in the industry but got laid off. So now they are back looking for work but having trouble finding a job.
These are the aircraft mechanics that are struggling. I hear from them all the time. They bad mouth all of the evil companies that fail to hire them. They say the aviation maintenance industry is dead and your better off becoming an automotive mechanic or a Walmart Greeter.
At the same time, I am meeting professionals in the industry that cannot find capable help. Business is expanding or at least holding steady and they are losing mechanics either to retirement or to greener pastures. I was contracting overseas and making a boat load of money but we were short helicopter mechanics. The problem was, the company was having a hard time finding mechanics with their A&P license and could also pass a security background check. And that was it! those were the basic requirements for the job! They also wanted to hire someone was referred to them by another mechanic. My point here is that the bar is set pretty low in some cases, and the biggest deciding factor was the personal reference.
I cannot point this out enough, The biggest factor to finding a good aircraft mechanic job is building personal relationships! This goes against what we would think as qualifiers when it comes to aircraft mechanics. We think of certifications and schools, training, airframe experience as holding more weight when job searching. But this business is like any other, and even though we work on airplanes, this is still a people business.
So yes, getting the A&P license is a must, any other training you can get is worthwhile. Never turn down a factory school. These schools are all very important, but also, never miss an opportunity to meet new people in the industry. Also, regardless of how pissed off you are, be caution of what you say. Your reputation is at stake here. If your one of the types that bad mouths everything and everyone, you may one day find that all your bridges are burned. Please do not misunderstand me here, I am not saying that you keep your mouth shut. If you see something wrong, or do not agree with something, voice your opinion. Just don’t turn into a “Negative Nancy” and complain every time you open your mouth.
Aside from building up your resume with A&P school training, entry level jobs and related experience, build your personal relationships as well. Even if you hate your current job, do it to the best of your ability. You may need a reference once you move on to another job. Be professional and be the positive type, the positive types always see a solution to a problem instead of finding reasons something won’t work. Trust me, companies have enough problems, they do not need you pointing out more. What they need are solutions to those problems.
Other ways to thrive instead of struggle is to keep active in the industry as best as you can. I have always argued that searching for and landing your first aviation job should start while your still enrolled in A&P school. Find a job at the airport as a fueler or baggage handler. This is very important to meeting new people and plus the extra money won’t hurt. It becomes even harder to find a job if lots of time passes after getting your A&P license and you still haven’t found a job. Perhaps you can find a job somewhat related to the industry but not directly working on aircraft, such as NDI inspection or working in a 145 repair station. Do not be afraid of cold calling companies and asking if they are hiring. Call and ask for the human resources. Ask if they are hiring, and always be polite. Remember to smile when your talking on the phone, it has been proven that people can tell one the other end if you are smiling. People will then try and help you out. Maybe give your some intel on when they will be hiring or who else in the area is hiring. Send out resumes like a mad dog! It takes hundreds of resumes to get a call back. Do not feel beaten down if you do not get any calls. Instead, call the companies. Tell them you sent your resume and you are wondering if they have had a chance to look over it. After you say that, go silent, and say nothing. Let them answer you! This may create a somewhat awkward moment, but let them answer you. Often times it will create action on their part.
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