10 Rules for Transitioning Pilots

By: Landon Cheben

RTAG Nation! What an amazing group of beautiful, talented, and selfless people. The world is a better place because of this group, and because of you and those like you who push the boundaries of the mundane and challenge the realm of ordinary. I’m thankful to be considered a member of this tight-knit group whose focus is to change history in the professional aviation industry. For over two decades we have served the nation overseas, gallantly showing the world we are a specially selected and well trained group of individuals who do incredible things when assembled together as a team. This article is for you, people! Inspired by Jordan Peterson’s books, I wanted to share 10 rules I’ve gathered, with the help of numerous mentors, in my transition from flying choppers to flying jets in the airlines.9 Due to limited space, this article only has the first two Rules. Go check out the RTAG website to read the rest. Let’s get to it!

Questions are always something that have fascinated me. What are the qualities of a good question? How can we recognize a good question from a poor one? Here are a couple from a few books I’ve recently read: Which US state is actually flown over the most? What’s the difference between “complicated” and “complex”? Why are fruits positioned at the front of the grocery store (won’t they get warm and bruised in the bottom of the cart)? All of these questions I could not initially answer. Initially… 

This article is the result of someone asking me another question I could not answer: how do I transition to the airlines? My answer at the time: I have no idea… While I am in no way an expert on this topic, I have gathered a few things in my own personal transition from Active Duty Army to the airline industry. I hope these rules are as useful to you as they have been to me. 

Rule 1: ACTION beats deliberation.

There’s an old adage we’re all familiar with that goes, “measure twice, cut once”. While these simple, timeless words of advice are generally beneficial, some people find themself measuring six times and never cutting anything! Committing to taking ACTION is the first rule for a reason: without it, we can’t go any further. 

I recently renamed this rule, as it was originally titled “Work Really, Really Hard”. I changed it after reading an article from inc.com showcasing the overwhelmingly popular answer to the question posed by LinkedIn in July 2021: 

If you could give one piece of career advice to your 20-year old self, what would it be?12 

The answer is that ACTION beats deliberation every time! While it is absolutely wise to plan, rehearse, self-assess, research, study, and strategize, it is too easy to spend too much time there if you are not careful. There are an innumerable amount of variables to consider, on multiple different levels, with each decision we make. Some variables are within your Circle of Control and are things you can affect. Other variables are merely in your Circle of Concern, and nothing you do can affect these things. When should I submit my Unqualified Resignation (UQR) packet? Should I do a Career Skills Program (CSP) and use my GI Bill to get my ratings, or maybe Army Credentialing Opportunities Online (COOL) money? Can I even use COOL or does that give me an Additional Service Obligation (ADSO)? These are all good and necessary questions. Go take ACTION and go find the answers! Don’t make excuses. Do not wait. Do not hesitate. The RTAG page has an amazing Mentorship Application feature that allows you to connect with a mentor who volunteers his or her time to literally help you through these questions.10 If you have to, stop reading  and go find you a mentor! Wherever you are in your problem solving process, if there is something that is preventing you from taking ACTION, get a mentor to help you get through it.

The last thing: one thing that will always be in your Circle of Control is what you do with your time. It’s truly too easy to waste your time these days. If you don’t believe me, check the Screen Time function on your phone. Do yourself a favor, set the App Limit for apps that struggle to keep you focused. Believe me, your bathroom breaks are entirely too long. If you want a good read on how to deal with technology in the house with family, I’d recommend the book The Tech-Wise Family.3 While you may know the latest TikTok dance, do you know what the area-rule is? Quote §91.175? Maybe decipher this TAF: KMKT 161956Z AUTO 29009G24KT M1/4SM BR FC GR M16/M20 A3065 RMK AO2 PK WND 30032/25 WSHFT 1715 SNE16 SLP414 P0000 T11611200 FZRANO? Also, stop playing XBOX; change my mind. Use your time wisely! Things don’t happen to you, rather, they are a result of your ACTION.2 If you are wondering what better things to do with your time instead, please continue reading. 

Rule 2: Network Better.

Your NETwork is your Networth. When it comes to networking, it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s about how you play the game. What does that even mean? It means in the modern world, networking, connecting, communicating, and personal branding all contribute to the full image of YOU. You can be the best candidate that graduated at the top of your Ivy-League class, saved 10 puppies’ lives, and serve as a volunteer at a retirement home on the weekends, but with no networking footprint you will lose out to someone who has half the profile you do. It’s not fair, but that’s just the way things are. How are you playing the game?     

The first arena that comes to mind with the word “networking” is social media. This is reality in 2021, and most likely beyond. As much as you want to stick to “old-fashioned” networking, and remain firm in your belief of “I don’t do social media”, in my opinion, it will be to your detriment. I’m not suggesting you have to have a robust footprint to be hired, rather that the industry standard is that you have at least something. In 2021, it is estimated 774+ million people will use LinkedIn to connect with other professionals.14 I’ve asked many people, who are or were in the military, if they have a LinkedIn profile and most respond with an arrogant, “Nah man, I don’t need that.” Why not though? Is simply having ‘Veteran’ on your application going to get you hired? Likely not. If you need convincing, don’t take my word for it; check out this article titled “Reasons I Won’t Hire You” (I promise it’s a real article).1 As opposed to Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, TikTok, et cetera, LinkedIn is strictly designed as a professional networking site designed for professionals to share professional content and to advertise themself as a professional. It’s an expanded business card. Take the time and invest in your profile the same way you took the time to make sure your dress uniform was squared away. It represents you. In the military, when someone came up and shook your hand and stared a hole through your awards rack, you were confident because you knew it was right, because you took the time. It’s the same thing here.   

Go get a professional head shot! Put in on your profile(s). I cannot stress this enough. While some argue there isn’t a difference, especially with the current quality of cell phone cameras, this is naïve. Professional headshots are the most immediate way to display a mature profile worth considering. Studies have suggested that what we say accounts for only 7% of what is perceived. The way we say it accounts for another 38%, but what we see accounts for the other 55%!13 This stuff matters, people. Lucky for us, veterans can get a FREE headshot through an organization called Portraits For Patriots. Refer to Rule 1 if you still need convincing on the headshot idea.

As I’ve spoken to many different people, I’ve learned that not everyone knows how to network. They don’t know how to connect with people or how to market themselves because they only know the military, where is it almost faux pas to talk about yourself. Fortunately, there are resources to help those who struggle in this area, which frankly is most of us. There are several non-profits out there that help assist transitioning veterans into the civilian work force. Companies like the COMMIT Foundation, the Special Operations Transition Foundation, and the Honor Foundation that offer their services FREE to transitioning veterans. Personally, I used COMMIT and was very impressed. They coached me through goal-setting, planning, thought progressions, resumes, and hesitations in the whole transition process. I had a 1-on-1 coach with actual assignments and readings that acted as a forcing function to get me to really feel comfortable with transitioning. I highly recommend. If that doesn’t sound interesting, there are also FREE classes through LinkedIn’s Learning portal

Once you have scrubbed your profile(s), gotten a professional headshot, and reviewed some classes on networking, it’s time you “like, comment & share”. Do this again and again in the areas you are interested in. Post photos of your aviation journey; see and be seen. A lot of  times, the people who work in recruiting also work in the social media space. Comment or share a post, add value, contribute, help others, I guarantee it will help you. Veterans can also get LinkedIn Premium for FREE for two years! The first year is through their platform, and the other year is through the ID.me website.

I’ll conclude this rule by emphasizing the idea that networking and relationships are like physical fitness, specifically your 2-mile run time. As soon as you stop working at it, it begins to degrade.7 Continuously update your professional networking footprint, even after you’ve made it to your “forever” job, as you never know who is looking for you to ask you a question and seek help. Which brings us to Rule 3…

Rule 3: Help others. 

Helping others made the top 3 rules for one simple reason: we don’t naturally do it! It goes against our instinct to help others, just like it goes against our instinct to share what we have. If someone finds a really good place to fish, and someone else comes motoring up, they’re going to tell them to piss off (appropriate said in your best British accent). If I help you, now you’re in competition with me!…-sigh-… This couldn’t be further from the truth. While we all have a competitive nature, and we all make efforts to get ahead, helping others is evolutionarily in our psyche. I read an interesting article the other day that explained that human beings not only cooperate, but are the best at cooperating because of 2 things: reputation and reciprocity.8 We like to help those who help others. This is why people sponsor and donate to charities like RTAG. They want to help people who help others (aka Veterans!). When we don’t listen to our desire to help due to our own selfish ambitions, it actually goes against what is scientifically programmed in us. As a collective, veteran group, our very nature is rooted in helping others, in serving, and doing it well. We lay down our lives for the freedoms of people we don’t even know, because we believe in those freedoms and we believe in each other. Continuing that history of service doesn’t  have to be in the military, it can be in this beautiful aviation community. If we continuously look out for one another, if we have the proclivity to lend a helping hand, either directly or indirectly, our population thrives. If you’re trying to help someone, start with this group! And if you really think about it, if you’re assisting someone, you’re most likely ahead of them in the seniority progression anyways, so stop being petty.

-Clap-…-clap-…cool speech man. Now what? Great question! Simple answer: start by speaking encouraging words. The implied task here is to find someone to speak encouraging words to. Find someone in need, and help them. Listen. Prioritize. Do something great. Serve others. Join the RTAG Mentorship Program. Throw your name in the hat to help the younger/other guys who have questions that you know the answers to! Figure out who is local to your city and schedule a meet-up. I don’t know, give away your old, swoopy-pilot-rolly-bag because you just got the newest BrightLine B7 FLIGHT • Echo bag (oddly specific). Help volunteer. Make yourself available to help others trying to do what you’re doing. In the same way there’s always someone ahead of you, there will alway be plenty of people behind you. Help them. 

I’ll conclude this rule with a good pneumonic: the “3Gs”. These things in tandem facilitate the proper mentality essential to helping people without making it painful. 

Gratitude. You can never truly feel grateful for things you feel entitled to. Striving to find gratitude for something each day, preferably at the beginning of the duty day, will sufficiently set you up for the other Gs. 

Generosity. Simply stated, generosity is being a good dude/dudette. No good thing is pleasant to possess, without friends to share it.11 Be generous: with your time, with your money, with your knowledge. What comes around, goes around. So too does the inverse. So get out there and SEND IT!     

Grace. Forgive people. Don’t hold grudges. Be patient with people who may ask dumb questions when you are trying to help them. Remember where you came from and remember all the patience people had with you. No one can do it on their own, and there are no exceptions!

Your reputation is created by others’ steady observation of your habitual actions. If we’re following Rule 2, other people are scrolling, looking, and mentally logging what they see. Everyone is a subject matter expert (SME) in something. What is your talent and how are you using it to help others? Helping is essential to our success as a group. And then maybe, maybe it will bleed over into other areas of our lives; and how cool would that be? Imagine how different the world would be if no one cared who got the credit?

Rule 4: Be Quiet. 

Intentionally following Rule 3, this is especially important if you are the one receiving the help, which is all of us at some point in time. In a certain aspect, we should all be asking for help all the time in a perpetual attempt to improve. You never want to be the smartest person in the room. And if you are, maybe you should consider inviting smarter people … or go to a different room.4 For some of you, Rule 4 may sting a little bit: Stop running your mouth on social media. Stop speaking out of turn. Stop asking for things from a sense of entitlement. Just be quiet. Don’t talk. Be humble. Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise.15 

While I do believe it may be a little harsh, I also believe it’s very appropriate and applicable. As much as it pains me, it doesn’t matter what I did in my last unit; it doesn’t matter how many deployments I’ve had; it doesn’t matter what my rank was in the Army. I am new to the industry and need to posture myself accordingly, remain quiet and ask questions. In my experience flying civilian airplanes, there are many instances where I find myself sitting next to a 21 year old college student who is my instructor. While I have over a decade of flight experience more than him or her, I am a student that needs to learn. Don’t lose yourself in your ego, or overestimate yourself.15 Staying humble goes a long way. 

If you are in a position where you need to ask for help, DO IT! But be prepared to listen. When asking for help, please keep it professional. Too many times there are posts with numerous spelling errors and unprofessional wording. You are not texting. The aviation industry is a professional organization and your grammar can reflect that in a positive or negative way. Consider the following post: “Anyoen PSA? Need gauge, 600TT, AMEL, CFI, asked before but never no response. DM me ASAP.” Um, no? Whenever you ask for something, I would recommend you think of what you can offer to the relationship. You are literally asking someone to stop what they are doing to help you. Why would someone do this if they didn’t feel the recipient valued, at minimum, their time. When you exchange emails, be succinct. Mark Twain famously wrote, “Forgive me for writing such a long letter - I did not have the time to write a short one.” Don’t do that. Get to your point, don’t clog up the net. When you do get a response, read the whole thing! Don’t speed read then ask questions that were already answered. Be professional. 

The last thing I’ll include for this rule is; whether you like it or not, you represent the group. Like the ONE guy in flight school that was from a different service, he or she represented that entire group. When people find out you were former military, or a part of RTAG, they will judge the group based off you. So get out there, Air Force guy in Ranger School, and be the quiet professional on behalf of  us all. 

Rule 5: Read More. 

There is one thing in common with all pilots, doctors, and lawyers: they are perpetual students of their profession. To be a good pilot (and ergo a good pilot candidate), you need to constantly stay in the books to stay current on industry changes, technology, accident findings, systems changes, etc. You never know where you will learn something cool. Did you know the image to the right (located in then Detroit airport) is an example of laminar flow?16 The same thing associated with boundary layer and airflow over an airfoil critical to flight? An airline company can not use you if you are confused. 

The first priority of work for this rule is to learn how to read/study more. If college was good for one thing, it was good for teaching you how to study. Figure out what works best for you: where do you have the most focus without distractions (while resisting the temptation to take a nap); when are you the most astute - mornings or evenings; do you prefer to sit and study on the couch or maybe at a standing desk? For me, coffee, headphones with a SPECIFIC playlist, blue filter glasses, and a standing desk or a hard, non-comfy chair. Some people will claim the ability to study anywhere is more important. To them I would ask which is better, efficiency or adaptability? My answer is efficiency. You can’t adapt if you aren’t first efficient with yourself. 

To help get you started, I’ve compiled 12 resources to get you reading, studying, and looking at aviation-related material.  This is not an exhaustive list.   

  1. Bold Method. This website produces sharable digital aviation and flight training content. They produce stories that teach, entertain and inspire, as well as training courses that help pilots reach certification. (literally verbatim from the website). FREE
  2. THE BIG 3. Airplane Flying Handbook (FAA-H-8083-3B). Aeronautical Knowledge Handbook (FAA-H-8083-25B). Instrument Flying Handbook (FAA-H-8083-15B). These are standard references you must have, read, and reference. So are several other references on the FAA’s Aviation Handbooks & Manuals website. FREE 
  3. FAR/AIM. This is the book of truth regarding all things aviation. Like in the military, knowing the correct reference is essential, and knowing your FARs will also keep you out of trouble. While there are free versions online, some people prefer purchasing a hard copy or an app that is continuously updated. I personally use PilotFAR/AIM. FREE
  4. This ghost writer, supposedly, is one of us! This blog is very beneficial answering questions unique to us such as “How To Submit a Refrad or UQR”, “5 Mistakes When Buying Your Headset”, and “The Truth About Rotor Transition Programs (RTP)”. There are  several other blogs out there as well that have some good information, like Aviation Chief, Pilot Pipeline, and Think Aviation. FREE
  5. FAA Accident & Incident Data. This website has radio recordings of recent accidents, and is kept relatively updated. There is A LOT of good learning from these recordings. FREE
  6. Aerodynamics for Naval Aviators (NAVAIR 00-80T-80). As much as it pains me to give kudos to the Navy, this timeless publication is extremely helpful. You know it’s good when it was written in the 60’s and is still being referenced. FREE
  7. Fundamentals of Aerodynamics. This book is heavy on the math. It is a good reference to go deeper than surface-level understanding of various aerodynamics principles. FREE
  8. The Turbine Pilot’s Flight Manual. This publication is very easy to read and understand. The authors write in a way that is less technical and more conceptual-based to improve overall understanding. FREE  
  9. Introduction to Jeppesen Navigation Charts. The Chart User’s Guide for Jeppesen. You’ll want to have this on your iPad. FREE
  10. (10)The Navy’s T-34 Study Guide. If you are through and through indoctrinated with military publications, this is a good publication. Think Fort Rucker Primary (flight training), but for the Navy T-34. FREE 
  11. (11)Captain Joe’s YouTube Channel. Captain Joe has countless videos explaining everything from how reverse thrusters work to what this little thing is on top of the wing of an A320. FREE
  12. (12)University of North Dakota’s Interactive Trainer webpage. This site has some really good tools to use when first learning how to fly, like a C172S Electrical System Trainer and Airport Signage Trainer to name a few. FREE

If it wasn’t overt enough, all of the resources mentioned are 100% FREE! Flying is very expensive, but hard work and study are almost always FREE. Don’t make excuses for not studying. I’ll say it here: put down the video games, the SnapChat, and the TikTok and read more! 

Rule 6: Work On Your Résumé. 

There is one thing the military is really good at capturing in your annual Evaluation Report: listing your responsibilities. “Soldier managed $30M worth of equipment, 160 Soldiers, and maintained PIC/AMC status. He lived the Army values and fully supported EO and SHARP. He showed up to work and didn’t have any DUIs.” Accounting for your actual accomplishments is something we are horrible at. I would define a ‘responsibility’ as anything on your evaluation that, if you covered the name and only saw the duty position (e.g. Commander, PLT IP, etc.), it would remain a true statement. Raise your hand if, when writing your evaluation, you looked at and/or copy-pasted from the person who held that position before you? I know I have. This makes it extremely difficult to develop a résumé once you’re done with the military, where your accomplishments are really all that matter. You must answer the question: What did you actually do? 

Another aspect about résumé-writing that many are either unfamiliar with or refuse to accept is: a majority of people reading your résumé have no idea what you are talking about. “Served as the unit AMSO concurrently with PACO while flying chalk 2 FMQ while under NVGs OCONUS conducting HAAR, FRIES, and CASEVAC operations ISO the COCOM commander on a JCET.” Wait, what? The odds of someone understanding what we are talking about is statistically not in our favor. The Army is considered the largest branch of service, and it makes up only about 0.5% of the population, of which only about 3% of that group are Army  Pilots.17 The U.S Census reports a little over 10% of the population labeled as ‘Veteran’, which is ambiguously defined and irrespective to branch or specialty, not to mention era and recency. All of that to say, though there are a lot of veterans in the civilian aviation community, the chances are high they aren’t familiar with your particular experiences. So, what do we do about it? 

First, instead of regurgitating bullets from previous Evaluation Reports, listing all the “swoopy” things you’ve done in your career, try to focus on what aviation accomplishments you achieved. Did you receive a 1,000 hour Sikorsky safety award? Were you required to maintain IFR currency, while managing a fully-coupled flight director/autopilot (e.g. FD/DCP, CAAS, etc.) and 5 different radios? If you were an Air Mission Commander, list out what that entails, since what it means in the Air Force is entirely different from what it means in the Army. Don’t think just because you put “Black Hawk PC”, the reader will be able to fill in the blanks on what all that means. 

Second, hire someone who does this professionally. Yes, pay someone to look over your résumé and help tighten it up. Preparation services for big-name companies are the standard, so if you are not doing this, you are the only one. Kit Darby is a household name in the aviation industry as he does everything from cover letters and résumé review to interview preparation and career  counseling. As a retired United Airlines and Army Captain, he has over 24,000 flight and 7,000 simulator hours, as well as founder of AIR Inc. and is an ATP-CTP Instructor for the B-757/767, D-747, & MD-88 for Delta. In short, he knows a thing or two about this topic. It’s also rumored that Kit goes through more red pens than David Piggott goes through sleeves of golf balls on 18 holes. Other companies like Raven Career Development, Emerald Coast, and Centerline offer similar assistance on writing and edits. Other companies offer FREE résumé reviews, like through the COMMIT Foundation, who utilize Mr. Scott Vedder, a renowned résumé guru, public speaker, and best-selling author. My phone call with Scott was outstanding, as he not only shredded my résumé, but my idea and understanding of what a résumé actually was. For that, I am thankful.

Finally, once you’re done with your résumé, upload it to all your applications, then refer to Rule 2 and post it in the “Featured” section of your LinkedIn Premium that you got for FREE. It will go nice with that new headshot you have as your profile picture. 

Rule 7: Fix Your Logbook.

Fix your logbook! I can assure you, it’s broken. You’re DA Form 759 may (or may not) have all of your flight hours on it, but how does that translate into a civilian logbook? If you’ve flown over 1,500 hours in a Chinook, is that considered turbine PIC time, thus do I qualify to apply directly to Delta? Not quite. DISCLAIMER: I would consider myself an infant in the world of logbook understanding, but this rule is designed to help you become aware that your dirty, nasty logbook (or lack thereof) is most likely NOT correct. 

The first topic that usually comes up when discussing logbooks is paper or digital? It really depends on the person’s preference, and both types are acceptable by most aviation companies. Paper logbooks are tried and true, and have been used for years and years, just like newspapers. They provide a physical record of your flight hours that you can touch and keep accountability of without worry of internet failures or hackers damaging a digital file, all for FREE. On the other hand, paper logbooks can be lost, damaged, and/or destroyed. There are no backups for paper logbooks and once you drop it in water, well… Digital logbooks offer more flexibility as you can access and log your flights all from your phone, tablet, and/or computer. They provide easy access to analyze and query your hours to help answer questions like “how many night landings have you done cross country as PIC?” Digital logbooks also afford you the opportunity to print a physical logbook to bring to interviews, which result in a very neat, clean, and professional product. 

If you do decide to go with a digital logbook, there are a plethora of apps and programs to sift through. I’d recommend you do your due diligence to figure out which one works best for you. The two most popular digital logbooks are LongTen Pro and ForeFlight Logbook, both which require a paid annual subscription. There are other FREE digital logbooks out there like ZuluLog, but generally  their analysis and print capability is inferior to services that require payment. 

The next topic regards how to get your military flight time into a civilian logbook. Do I need to go line-by-line and either write in all my flights in my paper logbook, or manually enter all my flights into my digital logbook? Not really, only if you want to. The simplest solution I’ve heard former military rotary pilots do is to make a single line entry into their new civilian logbook (FREE). That single line accounts for their entire flight career, with each entry category filled in appropriately (e.g. day, night, IFR, PIC, XC, etc.). Then, when conducting a logbook scrub or at an interview, you would need to bring in your military records as documentation of those flight hours. Another FREE option is to go ahead and manually, line-by-line add your flights to your new logbook. A third option is to send your CAFRS file (ULLS-A, or whichever file server your branch uses to log each flight) to MilKEEP, an online company that specializes in transferring your military flight records into a digital logbook-compatible file for you to upload to whichever logbook you want. While this service is not free, it is done extremely fast and allows you to shift focus on other aspects of your transition. All of this to say, if you are still flying in the military, do future-you a favor and start logging your flights on a personal logbook. It will surely save you time in the future. 

Lastly, Bold Method has a really good article for logbook advice, which would serves as a good reference as you go about cleaning up your logbook. While I would love to discuss the timeless topics of “what is considered PIC time in a helicopter,” “how do I account for cross-country time in a helicopter”, and “can I log Night Vision Goggle (NVG) time as ‘Night’”, the topics require their own separate article entirely. More to follow. So, now that your résumé and logbooks are good to go, on to the interview! 

Rule 8: Interviews Are Not About You.

Scott Vedder once told me: Interviews are not about you, they are a way for a company to figure out what you can do for them. This is important. Don’t forget this. While interviewers are trying to figure out who you are, they are more importantly trying to figure out if you are compatible with what they are looking for. They want to make sure you know your stuff and are someone they wouldn’t mind sitting next to for 3 days straight. 

There’s a saying out there that goes, “you are one in a million”. Well, that’s great, unless you live in New York City, then there are 8 of you.5 The same principle applies to interviews. While you may think your profile puts you at the top of the recruiters list, that list is 6,000 people deep, and your profile is the same as about 30 others. And you’re the last interview of the day… This is important when considering your interview preparation and what you can do to set yourself up for success. 

First off, you’ll need to know what they expect you to know. Typically this information is found on airline gouges (“gouge” is another way to say G2, poop, dirt, deets, insider information, etc.). The most popular site to access gouge is AviationInterviews.com. This website is mostly user-populated  and has a drop-down menu of virtually every airline out there, and the questions they typically ask. While not free, it does provide a unique look at areas to focus your studies to position yourself better for an interview with that particular company. Other gouges can be found at the RTAG Facebook page under the “Files” tab. While gouges are important, don’t exclusively study those. Broaden your scope and read as many other things you can. A typical question in an interview is, “how did you prepare for this interview?” It looks bad if all you did was look at gouges. 

Second, get a good suit or professional attire. Try to match a pilot’s uniform as close as possible such that in your interview, you almost look like you already work for the company. Keep it simple and try to avoid the temptation to stand out with your attire. Look good in your suit! Keep yourself in good physical condition. As David Goggins would put it, if you look like you are under-performing physically, chances are you’re probably under-performing in other areas of your life as well.6 As explained in Rule 2, what we say only accounts for 7% of what is perceived; how we say it is 38%; and the other 55% is how we look! 

The last piece falls in the same category as Rule 6, except this time it’s Interview Prep. When you are ready to go to the bigger companies, Interview Prep is the standard. In other words, if you are not paying for Interview Prep, you are the outlier. Kit Darby,  Raven Career Development, Emerald Coast, and Centerline are great places to checkout for Interview Prep services. At the end of the day, you want to make sure you put your best foot forward. What makes you better than the next candidate? What you look like, how you present yourself, and how you’ve prepared will make all the difference. 

Rule 9: Focus on Trigger Squeeze.

This rule may seem odd in an article about transitioning from the military, but there is a point. Anyone professionally trained in combat shooting by Mid-south will learn the idea of working quickly through your transitions, but slow… and deliberate… and focused when you pull the trigger. When the buzzer beeps, you reach down as quick as you can, grab your pistol and release the retention  mechanism; you raise the pistol quickly to the center of your chest, careful to ensure the muzzle is pointed in the direction of your target in case an immediate, unaimed shot(s) is necessary; you then squeeze the non-shooting hand around the shooting hand and PRESS the weapon out in front of you pulling the trigger only enough to bring the hammer back just a bit, all as fast as you can. Then, the moment before you fire, you slow everything down, think, focus, aim, breathe, and fire. PING! Good shot. Repeat until proficient.

Using this analogy, it’s essential we do the same thing as we sequence through our proverbial “flows” in the transition out of the military. We need to work quickly through the menial, yet required items of work (e.g. out-processing, traveling, cutting the grass, etc.), in order to get to the important aspects where we need to slow down and focus (e.g. studying, setting up appointments with people, getting a good portrait, etc.). If you CrossFit, minimizing your transitions between exercises is just as important as taking less breaks. A lot of people I’ve spoken with will spend too much time focusing on things that aren’t the essential part of the “flow”. They will spend a year looking for a flight school to go get their ratings at while their LinkedIn profile will sit idle and their logbook remains blank or barely populated. Work quickly through whatever else you are doing so you can slow down and focus on the important parts of your transition. All the little bits of time wasted eventually add up to a large amount of wasted, or not optimized, time. Your “trigger squeeze” is whatever that important item is you are trying to accomplish. It could be spending time with your family, it could be interview prep, it could be spending some time by yourself figuring out what your accomplishments are. Whatever it is, focus on that, and work quickly through everything else.    

Rule 10: Enjoy the Process!

The fastest way to destroy something special is to compare it with something else. Enjoy this time. Don’t compare your journey with someone else’s. Rather, be grateful for what you have and what you have to come. Take pictures, go out, do something new. Remember, this is supposed to be fun. Enjoy yourself! 

In conclusion to this article, I encourage you to stay focused on what’s ahead, but remain grateful for where you came from. You can accomplish your goals by not doing a lot of these things. But, for a majority of us, if you don’t do these things right, you will be left behind. At the writing of this article, if you’re not paying attention and not picking up what literally everyone is putting down, the pilot-hiring domino has been knocked over. The cascading TGT of pilot movement in the vertical direction is underway. Where will you be when this historic time has passed? You will one day represent the group, which is a responsibility not to be taken lightly. Remember that no-one can do it on their own and there are no exceptions. Fly safe, and I’ll see you out there! 

Works Cited

1. Attraction, C. (unk, unk unk). Career Attraction. Retrieved from 9 Reasons Why I Won't Hire You : https://careerattraction.com/congratulations-on-your-military-service-now-here-are-9-reasons-why-i-wont-hire-you/

2. Cardone, G. (2011). The 10x Rule: The Only Difference Between Success and Failure. Wiley.

3. Crouch, A. (2017). The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place. Baker Books.

4. Dell, M. (n.d.).

5. Gladwell, M. (2010). What the Dog Saw And Other Adventures. Back Bay Books.

6. Goggins, D. (2018). Can't Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds. Lioncrest Publishing.

7. McChrystal, G. S. (2015). Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World. Penguin Audio.

8. Nowak, M. A. (2012, November 1). Why We Help. Retrieved from Scientific American : https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-we-help/#

9. Peterson, J. B. (2021). 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. Penguin Audio.

10. RTAG. (2021, August 15). RTAG Mentorship Page . Retrieved from Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/361488988033654/mentorship_application/?ref=group_post

11. Seneca, L. A. (n.d.). Letters from a Stoic.

12. Stillman, J. (2021, June 22). Inc.com. Retrieved from INC. : https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/linkedin-career-advice-jeff-bezos.html

13. Voss, C. (2016). Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It . Harper Collins Publishers.

14. unk. (2021). About LinkedIn. Retrieved from LinkedIn: https://about.linkedin.com

15. Proverbs 17:28; Romans 12:3

16. Destin. (n.d.). Smarter Everyday. Retrieved from SmarterEveryday.com: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7Hyc3MRKno

17. Census, U. (n.d.). Census.gov. Retrieved from Military Service : https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2007/dec/12_military-service.pdf

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RTAG is a Veteran run 501(c)(3) non profit organization designed to help all veterans, regardless of experience, jumpstart their post military career in the world of aviation.

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