Advice from professionals — Joyce’s Career Tip of the Week

Six professionals shared their career stories and answered students’ questions at the Aviation Panel and Mixer held last week on the Polytechnic campus. The panelists represented professional flight, air traffic control, engineering, law, teaching, management and entrepreneurialism.

Someone asked when a college student should do an internship. The answer was as soon as you can and as often as possible. We heard the story of a career that began with the job of being a “ball boy” for the Miami Heat. The story (and the career) evolved from an unpaid to paid internship, through sports marketing, networking in the circle of professional athletics, seeing the need and providing the link between professional athletes and private jets.

Another speaker began his career as an air traffic controller, hired after the PATCO strike. Today, he is an attorney and college professor. The panelists showed the audience that there are so many paths that one can take in aviation. Some career changes are voluntary while others are not.  All panelists agreed that when one door closes, another will open.

Are there any other employment opportunities for air traffic controllers besides the FAA? Yes, one option is to consider getting experience by working abroad. Teaching is also a possibility, working for private vendors.

Is there really a pilot shortage? Yes! Pilots who began their careers in the military serving in Vietnam are currently retiring from the major airlines. Regional airlines also have a great need for more pilots.

Students heard about the importance of developing strong communication skills and a good work ethic. Basic good habits — being on time, telling the truth, volunteering and showing initiative — are essential. In addition to your technical skills, knowing how to get along with people, being comfortable with who you are and demonstrating “emotional intelligence” are the qualities that will propel your career.


Joyce Donahue is a Certified Career Counselor in the Fulton Schools Career Center.