As a professor at UVU, I receive multiple requests from students to look over their resumes. This responsibility isn’t as glamorous as research or teaching, but it is often the most rewarding. Any faculty member will tell you the favorite part of their job is helping our students achieve success. For me personally, there is nothing better than running into a former students at industry conferences and seeing their careers eclipse my own accomplishments.
All of this success and achievement begins with a solid resume. Your resume is a ‘billboard’ for your personal brand or product. Like any company, if you don’t effectively market yourself, you won’t achieve awareness and sales will be low.
Good Resumes Start with Career Development
First and foremost, good marketing starts with creating a product of value. You can’t write a good resume if you don’t have skills or experience to advertise. I often see students who wait until they are seniors to ask for help finding a job. At this point, it is too late in the process to build a resume and the student will struggle to find employment. The degree itself is not a ticket to a guaranteed job; it is simply one qualification of many required. Your career starts when you enter college, not when you exit. This begins with involvement in leadership positions of professional clubs and organizations such as Alpha Eta Rho (AHP), National Intercollegiate Flying Association (NIFA) Flight team, American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) and Women in Aviation, International (WAI) available to you as UVU Aviation students. I’ve heard firsthand from multiple recruiters that these are some of the most important qualifications and best indicators of success for entry level candidates.
These recruiters understand that you must start somewhere; they typically look for extracurricular participation as a student. Students often complain entry level jobs require several years experience but there is no way to get this experience. In fact, building this experience starts first with extracurricular work that leads to entry-level aviation positions while you are still in school. Ask any successful professional in aviation and they will tell you their first job was working dispatch before they worked pumping gas on the line or became flight instructors. Very few jump into their careers right after graduation, with no prior industry experience. If your chosen career is in aviation then you need to start working in aviation.
Some hesitate to transition over to aviation because an entry level job may be a step down in pay and they have families to support. However, families grow and student loans come due; it becomes more challenging to make the transition as time goes on. We have chosen aviation as a career because of our passion for this industry. The good news is that most careers in aviation are a long-term investment that pays off. In fact, the return on investment in training for pilots is higher than that of a lawyer or a doctor (Brown Aviation). You should approach your career with the same sacrifice and mindset as that of a professional in the legal or medical field.
Pilots require minimum hour standards. Aviation management employers desire candidates with analytical skills and certifications like the AAAE Certified Member (CM) or Airport Certified Employee (ACE) programs. These skills and qualifications aren’t necessarily taught in regular coursework because they are too specialized to require of all students. That doesn’t make them any less valuable, it just means they must be pursued independently, in addition to your formal education.
As important as these skills and qualifications are, the most critical factor in getting hired is one that all must possess but which cannot be taught: professionalism. You may be the most qualified candidate, but if you come off as cocky, have a history of disciplinary actions, or are not a team player, you will not be hired. You may have no professional flaws, but if you don’t come across as a passionate individual who desires more than anything else to work for the company in question, it may not be enough. Watch UVU’s video from Ray DeFour, Chief Pilot for Delta Air Lines to hear what is expected of professionals at his airline.
Always Work to Improve Your Resume
*Don’t wait until you are a senior or graduate to write your resume. I recommend everyone have a current resume and treat it as a working document. You should constantly be updating and revising your resume. Here are a few guidelines and tips to make your resume conform with best practices.
*Entry level resumes should always be restricted to one page. At this point in your career you don’t really have enough relevant information to justify more than one page. What you have to do is use all of the available ‘white space’ on the page you have. The best way to do this is play with the margins and spacing on your resume. A resume is not like the papers you write for class. Don’t be afraid to cut your margins down to ½” on all sides to make things fit.
*Make sure to use standard font and black font color. As much as you want your resume to stand out, you don’t want to turn off employers by using colors and fancy fonts. Your work experience and education is what will set you apart, not how your resume looks.
*Avoid listing “Reference available upon request.” References are assumed to be available upon request. You don’t need to list the full address or supervisor contact information listed on your resume. You should not include high school information on a resume because it is not relevant. If you have college experience, it’s assumed you graduated from high school. Attending an aviation specific high school, program or FBO may be relevant, but you can work this into another section of the resume or share it during the interview process. Most employers are going to care more about your ratings than where you learned to fly.
*The ‘Interest’ section is not relevant. You only get one page to market yourself and it should only include information that is directly relevant for the position and will help an employer choose to bring you in for an interview. The resume is to show that you are qualified for the job and to get you an interview. Employers do like to see extra-curricular involvement in organizations, even outside of aviation. However, more personal, differentiating characteristics should come out in the interview. An exception to this is your involvement, especially leadership roles, in aviation organizations such as AAAE, WAI, NBAA, etc. Being a member of AOPA doesn’t make you any more qualified, but being student President of the American Association of Airport Executives indicates you have desirable leadership qualities. Another exception would be if you speak other languages or have unique skills that are specifically relevant. You can likely work this into your work experience and won’t have to waste space on a separate section. Regardless, all of the information discussed above is typically provided on the employment application and will be communicated to the employer that way.
*For entry level resumes, your education is actually your most relevant qualification and should be emphasized at the top of your resume, before work experience. This is a personal judgement and if you feel your work experience is more relevant then lead off with that. You should also list when you started and when you expect to graduate. Clearly specify what degree(s) you are working towards (Associates/Bachelors) and any concentrations (Flight/Management). You can also include awards and relevant course work in this section if you have room, but limit it to unique coursework such as Crew Resource Management that isn’t typically included in degree programs.
*Don’t simply list your employers and job titles, but be sure to thoroughly and accurately describe the duties and responsibilities of each job. The work experience duties and responsibilities section is one of the most important parts of your resume: it tells potential employers about your qualifications. A flight operations position at a small corporate charter can include a lot more responsibility and different duties than the same position at a larger regional carrier.
*Most people sell themselves short by failing to effectively describe their roles or assuming that the position didn’t have many duties and responsibilities. I recommend using bullet points under each position and use action verbs to describe the job. For both education and work experience include city and state, but also include month and year for dates of employment/attendance.
Below I’ve include a few sample resumes from my career and a template for you to start from if you don’t currently have a resume or want to start over from scratch. The guidance provided is personal opinion gathered from years of experience, as well as insight gained from industry professionals in human resources and management positions. Treat this information for what it is–advice–and apply what you see fit. The sample resumes and cover letters are provided as references to create your own documents reflecting your personal requirements. Enjoy!
Dr. Ryan Leick is an Assistant Professor specializing in air transport strategy and marketing at Utah Valley University in Provo, Utah, USA. He is a graduate of the Air Transport Management PhD program at Cranfield University in the United Kingdom and alumni of the School of Business at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach Campus. Dr. Leick draws upon industry experience in airline marketing, distribution and information technology acquired from working for entrepreneurial start-up and long-haul, low-cost carrier MAXjet Airways; legacy carrier United Airlines and privately held, niche carrier Aloha Airlines. Ryan lectures on the subjects of airline and airport management, marketing, economics and strategy.