With the annual AirVenture Oshkosh coming up, many pilots are planning to make the voyage to a small town in the Midwest that outside of aviation was always more famous for the ubiquitous “Oshkosh B’Gosh” TV commercials of the 1980s. If that jingle doesn’t ring a bell, then it means that…well, it means I am north of 40 and you are not, and that you should just think of it as aviation’s Mecca. Be that as it may, pilots know it as the aviation must-see event of the year. While a few make the trek every year, most do not.
If you are one of those fortunate to go, soak it up and make sure you mail Christmas cards to your new 1 million closest friends. If you are a pilot looking ahead to a career in aviation, be it flying for someone or in sales or some other field, look at AirVenture as an opportunity. This is especially true with regard to the flying side. Check out who may or may not be there (not many in that category), and get in touch now with someone from that (or those) corporation(s) or government agencies that you may be interested in speaking with during your time in Wisconsin. If you are able to, get in contact with the persons attending for each. If you can’t get in touch with the actual individuals, get as close as you can, and write down the names of each person at (pick-your-company) that you talk to.
Once you get to the show, find the booth or booths you need, and ask to speak to the person you spoke with; if you weren’t able to make that contact, then ask to speak with so-and-so (or just start talking to someone). Have copies of your resume ready to go, as well as business cards that list both your phone and email contacts (staple them to the resume). Consider a cover letter as well. If you can make an immediate connection or rapport, offer to buy someone lunch or dinner (don’t offer to buy alcohol) if their schedule permits. Remember, what you need is face time, and it doesn’t always matter whose face it is.
The beauty of going to Oshkosh to start job searching is two-fold. First, everyone who is anyone in aviation will be there. Second, it is a very relaxed, fun, informal atmosphere. Think about it: You could wind up having an on-the-spot job interview while wearing shorts, flipflops, and shades, though I recommend you at least wear a collared shirt. The point is that it will be very easy to be yourself, to relax, and to make a very positive impression that will stick. The person or people you talk to may not be recruiters or HR types, but it doesn’t matter. If you do your job, you will walk away with contact info, and an invitation to “call me or visit whenever you like.” Take advantage of that, and take it to heart. Down the road, that network contact may pay off.
This strategy obviously applies to more than just AirVenture. It also goes for large regional airshows and events, AOPA Summit, and Sun ‘n Fun. But the fact is that Oshkosh is the Big Daddy of them all…and it is often the most fun. And if you happen by the AOPA tent, I won’t be there, so tell Ian and the gang how much you love my work!–Chip Wright