The Almighty Aviation Network

rk_galesgrp I was reminded twice this past week about how small the aviation world really is.  It seems like the old saying that we “are all six degrees away from Kevin Bacon” is especially true in aviation — but in this case, we are all four degrees away from Harrison Ford.

Earlier this week I got an email via Facebook of a fellow alum of Daniel Webster College (though a much more recent class) who now works at avionics manufacturer Avidyne.  She said she works directly with one of my former coworkers at the Collings Foundation (I only had three) and was the direct contact with the avionics department at Cutter Aviation, my new employer. Her spot in my network basically represented the crossroads of my professional career!

Another contact I made later this week through Twitter was made interesting by the intersection of my professional and personal life — aviation and tattoos.  Basically as I was promoting my other hobby blog TattoosInFlight.com (an aviation and flying tattoos gallery), we both determined we had been part of a network of tattooed professionals on the web called Inked Inc. from early on, yet had never crossed paths — and it was aviation (via Twitter) that crossed them for us!

So in other words, aviation is a really small world — a world that can make or break your career if you play your cards right.

If you make it work for you, it’s great.  With some quality and influential contacts, you can find new opportunities that can make your job search easier and more rewarding.

However, if you are a poor employee or have a tendency to burn bridges at your past positions, you’ll find the road to a great career to be bumpy or non-existent.  Word travels fast in a small, tight community and you need to take that into consideration when you make career moves.  Think about how many times you have heard “that guy is a crook” or “I’d never fly with those fly-by-nights” in your conversations with others in the community — it’s easy for people to complain and if they are complaining about you, good luck!

Now with rampant usage of email and the popularity of web networking and social media, the time it takes to grow a network has shrunk considerably — and the time it takes for word to spread as also done the same. In the information age, we are used to and expect almost instantaneous information.

For me, nearly every one of my career moves was done through the use of networking — and not one came from a traditional job posting.  With such a niche like aviation, each position takes a set of unique skills and specialties and in many cases jobs are filled through recommendations more than anything.  Based on that, its advisable to make friends and market your talents amongst them — because you never know when you’ll be looking or when someone may offer something better than what you’re at.

It’s always good to revisit and evaluate your network every once in a while — just to make sure your contacts are fresh and any holes you have in industry segments get patched up.  I personally have a schedule to just send personalized social emails to folks every once in a while so they know what I’m up to and to see what’s new in their world.  If a trade show is coming up, I try to email those who may be there to see if there’s a chance to meet in person.  Anything I can do to stay on their “radar” helps to keep the channels open — you never know when you might use them to travel the rough waters when faced with a layoff or furlough.

Here are some good networking resources to review before re-evaluating your own network:

Getting a Job: Networking 101 – by Daniel Bowen

Networking for a New Generation: Be Authentic – by Penelope Trunk

Business Aviation Networking Notes – by Matthew Keegan

And for those of you who are interested in venturing off into networking on the web, there are some great platforms to do so.  Here are some of the more popular:

LinkedIn – One of the largest professional networks out there. Make sure to check out “Etiquette for LinkedIn” by Penelope Trunk before making some missteps.

Twitter – One of the most interesting ways to network — in 160 characters or less.  See my feedback on Twitter at a past post here — and make sure to stop at @AeroTweets or search at Twellow to find aviation “tweeple” out there.

Facebook – OK, so everyone knows this 900-lb gorilla of social media, but still it takes a committed social networker to get immersed in Facebook and not have it overtake you.  I say, stay away from MySpace though — that’s becoming a dumping ground.

myTransponder – Still in beta, myTransponder has lots of great networking potential for aviation folks.  Right now you need to be invited to participate, but read “Making Aviation More Social” by Rob Mark at JetWhine to learn how you can participate until it’s officially launched.

Good luck on your networking journeys!

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2 Responses to “The Almighty Aviation Network”

  1. Gordon R. Vaughan

    Hey Ryan, thanks for the AeroTweets mention. It’s nice to see others who appreciate the power/importance of networking. We’re still at the very early stage, so many think Facebook, Twitter, etc. are just silly diversions.

    I’ve been using computers for over 28 years and I’ve heard it all before, many times. I got jokes about how computers weren’t good for anything but games, how Macs were just toys, etc., etc.

    People were saying the same thing about blogs and open source software not that many years ago. The same cycle keeps repeating, but when we start seeing some big innovations and deals come out of social networks, folks will stop laughing.

  2. Ryan Keough

    I completely agree Gordon! Luckily aviation seems to have lots of folks who are early adopters, so we seem to always remain on the lip of the wave before it breaks — and that’s clearly evident with the amount of folks who conglomerate into the social networks we are all connected by.

    Certainly Twitter and Facebook can be silly diversions for those who don’t show restraint and use them effectively. Twitter isn’t just for posting what you had for dinner and Facebook isn’t just for posting pictures from your latest party. Once those tools overcome their stigma, then people will start to take them seriously.

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