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Comment: How pilots can use their training in other industries

written by Staff reporter | July 7, 2020

Andres Czajkowski is a Boeing 737 pilot most recently employed by Virgin Australia at its New Zealand unit, which was closed in April as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

As an airline pilot who has recently been made redundant, I’m now struggling to find any type of employment.

Sure, the economy is not looking good and we are in unprecedented times, but even the most “basic” industries must need people to fill roles (maybe even to fill rolls).

However, the feedback I have received numerous times is that I am “overqualified”. My confidence is definitely taking a beating; I should be getting calls left, right and centre but the phone just is not ringing.

Coming from the airline world, where gaining and retaining your qualifications feels like a never-ending process, I find the rejection a bit jarring.


After all, I thought I would be the ideal candidate to drive a courier van or stack shelves: I have a strong work ethic, learn quickly, show up on time and I’m not afraid of putting in the hours!

Key attributes

I’ve been dealing with on-time performance, managing crews, problem solving, and data analysis for as long as I’ve been a pilot.

Most of the roles I’ve applied for are infinitely less complex than being at the controls of a highly sophisticated modern airliner and its precious cargo.

So, if I am overqualified to stack shelves or pack boxes, what roles am I suited to? What can a pilot bring to the table? Or, knowing that there are many others in my shoes, what can we bring?

Because flying an aircraft has become such an ingrained reflex, 90 per cent of the tasks I perform on the flightdeck now require more instinct than thought.

But it is not those core flying skills I need to be thinking about: after all, a courier van doesn’t have thrust levers, flaps and landing gear.

Actually, it’s clearly the wider skill set that will serve me best in the hunt for non-flightdeck employment.

As pilots, we are self-aware, have solid intelligence quotients, and score well on emotional intelligence. Crew resource management trains us to have good people skills, too: we are strong communicators and effective team leaders.

We are detail-orientated, as well as having solid situational awareness. We analyse data continuously, trouble shoot and problem solve; we are adaptable, can quickly think of a plan b (sometimes even a plan c, d or e).

These are all skills that we continuously prove out in the real world. Sure, they are tailored to a particular occupation, but are applicable to many other jobs out there.

One role that was recently highlighted to me is that of operational manager. This requires the ability to manage a project through to its conclusion, an eye for detail, critical thinking, communication, adaptability, creativity, innovation, data literacy and, most importantly, leadership.

See any parallels yet? Captains, as well as first and second officers, possess all those skills and more. Sure, captains have shinier epaulettes and get to exercise these skills more than the rest of us, but just because we have two or three bars instead of four doesn’t mean we don’t have the same command endorsement or the same capabilities.

Staying power

So, I am encouraging myself to shoot higher, persevere and work towards a better future, regardless of what happens in aviation. I can’t control that, I can only control my attitude and what I do about the situation.

I am heartened to think that I have something of value to offer. I might have to work harder than the candidate next to me who has been in a management role for the past couple of decades, but what’s new about that? I wouldn’t have secured a place in the cockpit if it hadn’t been for my perseverance, tenacity and never-say-die attitude. Besides, any role can be learnt.

I have to believe that someone will look at my skills and give me a shot. I would hate to think that I will have to work in a “brain dead” job for the next two years. But if aviation teaches us anything, it is that we can adapt, we can conquer and – most importantly – we can overcome.

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Comments (12)

  • Mister Wallace


    Welcome to the real world.

  • Stjepan


    I am a private pilot working outside of aviation all my life. Applying is a full time job and even getting an interview before Covid has been a big win. It took me 3 months, 300 applications, 10 interviews to get 2 job offers in 2010. I suggest analysing job ads on e.g. Seek and looking for keywords. Then adjust jor CV and Cover Letter accordingly for every job using those keywords by placing them in 1st, 2nd paragraph. CV should be no more than 1 or 2 pages. Have your LinkedIn page updated (very important!). Consider doing some day-long online training relevant to positions you’re interested. It is language/terminology/keywords that will get you the job. You will probably end up with 4-5 different variants of cv/cover letters. Subscribe to Seek jobs, then keep applying. Don’t give up, keep applying every day, there will be ups and downs, but keep in mind that applying for jobs is a full time job.. Good luck!

  • Admirable attitude my friend! You are not daunted by the knock backs and should find something in a short time! But most of all be kind to yourself and your loved ones in these times!!! Drop me a line and see how we can collaborate!

  • Paul


    With your attitude and your willingness to adapt, I hope somebody who reads this will call you today and offer you a worthwhile role. You deserve it and are an example to all those folks out there in NZ and Australia who are in a similar position. Go well!

  • Andy


    You can’t get low end jobs because you are dealing with people with lower intelligence than yourself. They don’t want a brainiac coming in. They identify with people at the same level as themselves. Trust me, as a pilot who has just been working in a supermarket recently, the mental toll has been immense dealiing with co workers than focus on the tiny elements of life, teenagers, and the gossip is through the roof. What you need to do is change your CV, don’t put airline pilot, at best put you have a PPL. That is the reality.

  • Marcel Nolet


    I’m sorry to hear of your dilemma, I am in the same position. Many times people told me “your over qualified “ which gives your self confidence a Beating. But just persevere you’ll get there and I think you’ll be back in the air soon. All the best mate. Marcel

  • Graeme


    I am a headhunter, and you are correct in most of your assumptions – but ‘the market’ is unlikely to recognise the broader application of your skills. Give me a call on 0414 958 425 – Graeme

  • Nik


    What an inspirational and positive article. Thank you for writing it and sorry to hear about your misfortune. It’s a terrible thing to have to go, especially when its through no fault of your own. Good luck!

  • A VANZ Captain


    Andres, It was a pleasure flying with you during our time in VANZ. We are all find the same responses as you’ve found so your are not alone in the slightest. And we are talking from the newest First Officer to some of our most respected Check and Training Captains with decades of experience.

    Hopefully one day, we can get the band back together….

  • Bing


    I’m sorry to hear about your situation. I’m in the same case as you- updating my CV and cover letter to suit each job advert has been my full time job now. Use the keywords on the job description for your CV as most companies use an ATS software to filter applications. You can also enrol for free courses online to upskill. I’m sure that your skill set is transferable. All the best!!

  • I have recently started a facebook group to provide how-to tools and strategies for furloughed pilots wanting to regain clarity and control of their life and career. There are free guides in there too like, tips for surviving redundancy and steps to running your business. I am a lawyer, business coach and wife of a pilot recently furloughed for the 2nd time. Please drop in to http://www.facebook.com/groups/pivotingpilots/ Hope to see you and your colleagues there ?

  • rocklee


    Nice explained

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