Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Keep your day job, er, career

Every now and then I hear from my RJ friend who quit his flying career to be at home with his wife and two boys.  He dove into a Network Marketing system, only a month later to find not success but proof that his wife was on her third boyfriend outside of their marriage.  
Now the divorce is nearing completion, and they share custody of their one son together, while she has custody of her first son from her first marriage.  
He steered away from network marketing and started a commercial janitor cleaning service, which has succeeded well, apart from the constant problem of hiring and keeping good workers, he says.  That problem is also present in his new business, a commercial account donuts business for convenience stores.  
With a starting wage of $10 per hour, which he says is higher that other companies of the same type, his employees work ethic and attitude typically fizzle out after a few months, and he finds himself doing most of the work.  Now with both businesses (because his commercial cleaning business hasn't sold off yet), he sleeps when he can get it, during the day or a nap in the morning after the donuts have been delivered.  He is looking for a manager of the donuts side, I told him he needs a professional.  
"Keep your job career Craig!  At least until you can make as much as your current job career with your business you have now" he says (my business is good but I have quite a ways to go).  
What is the difference between a job and a career?  My First Officers lately have again been describing their occupation of Airline Pilot as 'just a job' and not a real career.  I just refuse to see it that way.  Maybe airline pilots are spoiled prima donnas like the stereotype portrays, because I still constantly meet passengers and others who wish they could have my career.   
I'm feeling a little spoiled right now, actually.  Currently I have a few more days off, because Hurricane Sandy has taken a pretty good swipe at New Jersey and New York City.  I was scheduled to start a four day trip this past Monday, but it was delayed Sunday night.  I will be lucky if I fly the last day of it on Thursday.  As a result of water from Sandy feeding into Long Island Sound from the east, LaGuardia Airport is flooded and closed as I write this.  It might be closed for days more.  Feet of water covers the runway, and the water line is up to the terminal I fly out of.  Consideration of the scene brings questions to mind which include: when will it re-open?  Will the runways be damaged?  Will the runway lights still work?  Will the ILS (Instrument Landing System) still work?  When will I return to LGA?  
Fortunately, I've been blessed to be at home all during Sandy.  Many of my fellow pilots were flying during this event, which is now called "Superstorm Sandy" and were given re-routes from their flight schedules to take their aircraft to places away from danger like Charlotte or Cincinnati.  My hat is off to them.  A good number of them are now stuck away from home on their scheduled days off.  This storm will leave a deep impact in terms of damage and lives lost.
Storms of nature, storms of life.  A mess is created and then someone has to clean it up,  during which lessons are learned in the reflective process, and the "if I could do it again"s come up.  
Aaron's "if I could do it again" after his storm included continuing to fly, even if he knew his wife was having affairs.  No one saw it coming, at least in my circle; I certainly didn't.  Divorce would've been likely whether he kept flying or not.  Even if he did, I think he still would've been a good father to his son, present and active in his life on his days off.  
After about a year, Aaron started to mention that he missed flying, he missed making the 'life and death decisions', I think he missed the joy of it, the adventure of it, and the camaraderie.  He didn't miss the inconvenience of being gone half the time, of living out of a suitcase, from airport to airport to hotel to airport, or the various headaches he had to put up with.  He was using personal skills he had honed while flying in his new business, but it missed some of the challenges and adventures that flying satisfied him with.  I felt bad for him, still do, and every time we talk it is like his words reset my outlook on my career.
What is is the difference between a job and a career?  Chris Rock knows the difference, and its pretty funny (four letter words warning):

Note to self: try not to talk about how fun my job is to friends and relatives (unless they ask). 

If you can't wait to get out of there and go home, and the clock surely runs slow, you are working at a job.  If what you are doing requires extensive training and education, intelligence, good judgement, a specific skill set that can only be had by training and practice, social skills, and entrusts a great deal of responsibility and authority to those in the occupation, you are working as a professional.
That is why they call it being a Professional Pilot.  You call it a job to my face and you might as well have used God's name or His Son's name in vain.  I don't like it, it makes me frown inside.  When you call it just a job, you sell yourself short and you sell the profession short, and give yourself and your passengers a false justification to make less of an effort at excelling at your job than you should.
Furthermore, you place all value of what you do for a living in terms of pay and benefits, when in reality, so much of job satisfaction is experienced because of other factors.  Real job satisfaction does involve pay and benefits, but ask these questions of your job/career: do you enjoy it?, are you good at it?, does it leave you time for a personal life?, does it help or hinder your overall quality of life?
Yes, all airline pilots, including regional airline pilots, make less than they used to, as much as 50% of what they did before the 9/11 attacks.    Yes, it is difficult to get by as a regional jet Co-Pilot these days, especially if you have a family and/or live in a high cost of living area.  Yes, management 'doesn't treat us as well as they used to'.  It is just the way it is.  
The saying "I'll act like a professional when they treat me like one" just rings hollow and like a selfish child to me.  If my Chief Pilot or Domicile Manager rode in the jumpseat, or even in the first row, on every flight, I would act like the professional I am every time (not that I don't already, but even more so).  This is the equivalent of the boss being in the cubicle or office two doors down, a situation which many workers still have, and airline pilots don't.  It is a convenience that we often take for granted.
Furthermore, and I won't dwell on it much but just touch on it: the difference between being a professional just working a job is in the attitude one has.  One could be digging ditches or in a factory doing a mundane job, but if you make a daily effort to give that job your best and take advantage of every opportunity to excel and be the best ditch digger or assembly worker you can be, you will be noticed and advancement in position, responsibility, and pay will follow.
Ahh, but Craig, you say, its easy for you to behave as a Professional, because you have a job you love, and passengers who respect you.  Yes, that is true, I am blessed/fortunate/lucky to make a living at something I love to do, many don't, but stay in a job/career for the money, convenience, etc.  
I can't elaborate very well on how and why one can actually take joy in toil that is not your preferred line of work, but this link can: from the Bible book of Eccelesiastes by King Solomon, this is a good, readable study: "Fear God, Enjoy Life".  I can testify though that anyone can glorify God through their work, if they work with an attitude being one of serving God and doing his will, with joy and to the best of his or her God given ability.  This is scriptural as well: "Modeling Christ in the Workplace Through Work Well Done".
If you would like to have a career as a Pilot and have that burning, passionate desire that you can't shake, like you can feel in your clenched hand when you dream about it, I encourage you wholeheartedly to pursue one, but be prepared to be a Professional in your conduct throughout.  Others will notice, and you will build a reputation that will continue to pay off throughout your journey in the sky.  Professionals do a professional job because they love it, not just because they are paid well to do it.  
And maybe that is the simplest way to look at it.  If what you are doing for a living is something you love, even once upon a time, that is a career, and deserves to be treated as such, for everyone's benefit.  Even the Almighty's.
God bless you and thanks for reading my blog!


Monday, October 8, 2012

A moment in HPN time

I was only a moment I had this evening in a typical day, looking through the best office windows of any job in the world.  I was able to savor it and contemplate for a few seconds, then we came in to land.  Don't fret, I was the PNF (pilot not flying).
We were on approach in mostly smooth air to White Plains, NY, home of some of the wealthest folks in the USA, and home of the most crowded small airport terminal I know of, bar none.  My fine First Officer, with six years (almost) service to our regional airline, was smoothly flying our fully configured for landing CRJ on final approach to runway 34 (towards the north).  The beads of water kept sliding past on the windscreen.  Light raindrops falling were being interrupted at one hundred sixty miles an hour, and rolling back on the 'rain-x' treated windscreen.  The visual of that led me to shift my near focus to the scene outside.  The still lush green lawns and golf course below.  The broccoli tops of the trees now starting to turn to autumn colors.  The dusky yellow light on the horizon, breaking through where gray clouds and scud blocking the view weren't.  The points of light lit up in a vertical rectangle growing larger, quickly on the ground up toward us, - the bent strip of metal shaped runway that make this place one of the more challenging airports we fly into. 
FO Josh was configured, on speed, on glideslope.  The center landing light was on and that meant the Control Tower had cleared us to land.  He reduced thrust and flared right where I would've, in fact he was doing it as I was thinking it.  Then he didn't flare enough.  Or did he?  The runway underneath us had just made the switch from a slightly uphill grade to a pretty steep grade, for a runway anyway.  With the jet losing speed and lift, and the sink rate apt to increase without an increase in yoke back pressure, the runway was 'rising' to meet us faster than normal.  More back pressure was needed to avert a firm touchdown.  I saw us sink that last three feet and it was a nice plop to terra firma, not the firm touchdown I was expecting.  I was impressed.  Josh had a nice touch and didn't land long either, or gyrate the jet too much.
Leaving the runway I knew, I felt, once again, that I was right where I needed to be, wearing this uniform (as much as I complain about it), doing these duties, performing these tasks, being with these people (co-workers), all with pride, honor, and excellence.  At least for this moment. 
I used to hear that to be an airline pilot for a career, and to stick with it, you have to 'really love flying'.  Easy to understand until you think long and hard about what one has to put up with to endure an airline pilot career.  The sacrifices that everyone makes do not stop.  Not everyone gets the six figure plus salary, their desired airline, or a quick upgrade.  Not everyone keeps their first wife or first house (but that is great advice).  Not everyone flies till retirement.  To get into it, sure, you love it, but to put up with all the negatives, you better love it still.  I'm still flirting with getting out, somehow, to be honest. 
But the beauty of the sights to be seen, the moments of camaraderie and achievements to be had, and the opportunities to share my testimony of Jesus with others, still give me a real sense of receiving (outside of pay and benefits) something valuable for what I sacrifice - the precious time I spend away from my wife and family. 
I still hope to write more in the future.  I am currently still trying to juggle my side business better.  I feel that three balls are in the air again, so to speak, and the focus is there.  God bless you, and thanks for reading my blog!