How to Stay Cool When You're in the Pool
The excitement of receiving your first CJO from one of your top targeted airlines can be overwhelming. It’s a very proud moment. You probably spent countless hours perfecting your résumé, cleaning up your logbooks, filling out applications, and preparing for the interview. You worked hard for this moment and now you want to share it with the world. The first thing most pilots do is change their Facebook profile picture to the tail flash of their new employer and blast out a social media message to their friends announcing the CJO. Here is just some food for thought on why you might want to hold off on making a social media announcement to the world.
You are now swimming in “the pool”. In the aviation community, “the pool” is the term used to describe the time period between receiving the CJO and actually starting training. That time period varies from one airline to the next and largely depends on your availability date, how many pilots were swimming in the pool ahead of you, and how many pilots the airline can squeeze through their training pipeline at any given time. The latter of those three factors, the training pipeline capacity, is generally the most limiting factor. Some pilots only spend a few weeks in the pool, but others have been left in the deep end for up to a year without a flotation device. I spent six months in the pool at my previous airline.
One thing to keep in mind while you’re treading water is that a Conditional Job Offer is just that….Conditional. You are not getting paid yet and although it is likely that the airline will get you into training at some point in the near future, it’s not a guarantee. In September 2001, I was stationed at Sheppard AFB, Texas. The airlines were hiring again after a long layoff in the 1990s. I personally knew at least a dozen pilots who had recently been hired by the airlines. Some of them left the military at the twelve-to-eighteen-year point with no retirement. They bought nice houses in other cities where they were going to be domiciled with their new airline. Then somebody decided to crash a few airliners into the Pentagon and World Trade Center, and all of sudden those guys were out on the street. The lucky ones had already started training and got furloughed. It took over ten years for some of them to be recalled to their airlines. The unlucky ones were waiting in the pool, and had their CJO’s taken away.
Even if the situation is not as extreme as the one I just mentioned, you need to consider the possibility that even if this CJO is from your top choice airline, depending on how long they leave you in the pool, you might need to take interviews with other airlines just to put food on the table. Of course that depends on your personal financial situation. The other possibility is that the first CJO is not from your top choice airline and you were already planning to take interviews from airlines that were rank ordered higher up your “dream sheet” list.
My point to all this is to say that you really need to consider how smart it is to blow up social media profile with your CJO and the logo of the airline that just hired you. The next airline you interview with just might (read: probably will) do a Google search on you and it would be awkward to say the least if you are interviewing at Delta and your Facebook profile picture is the American Airlines tail flash! Consider this CJO like your first combat deployment. You want to tell your friends and family where you are going, but OPSEC requires you to stay silent. You probably want to make sure your spouse resists the temptation also, just in case.
While I’m on the subject of social media, it is really important to clean up your social media profiles before you hit send on your first airline application. Any material that might be considered offensive or off-color needs to be removed (that covers about 98% of most pilot’s social media posts). Also remove all those party pictures with drink in hand. I was amazed when I went to clean up my Facebook page just how many pictures had alcohol in them. I know you don’t have a problem, and you know you don’t have a problem, but HR at XYZ airline may not know that you don’t have a problem.
I cover this topic and many others related to the military to airline transition process in Cockpit to Cockpit. www.cockpit2cockpit.com