I absolutely LOVE to write about the things I’m learning, people I’m meeting, etc., etc., through aviation. You could liken me to a kindergartner who is super excited about their new experience called: school. They’ve got their new pencils, new notebooks, crayons, etc. I’ve got the headsets, Stratus, iPad apps, a few knee boards, etc. (and still collecting) …Soaking up as much information from as many people as possible in aviation makes me so excited and just down right giddy! The particulars go a step further when shared with others who are just as excited and in love with aviation as I am.
Two weeks ago the largest air show of its kind took place in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. My time there cannot possibly be summed up in one weekly blog post. There will probably be a few more posts following this one that recounts some of the things learned from my time there. Part One is all about meeting people. I met a lot of people at Oshkosh and every single person had an impact on me.
The word “networking” may have a negative connotation. The typical vision may be people sitting around a 10-top table in business suits at a country club lunch or perhaps in a bar with cocktail glasses, cocktail napkins and their small cocktail straws. People walk around passing out business cards, “so, what do you do?” However, it is invaluable for all pilots. Jill Tallman recently wrote an article on this subject in Flight Training magazine.
Being forced into a room with individuals from all walks of life, not knowing what the commonalities will be may sound dreadful to anyone. It doesn’t have to be. It’s simply connecting. Being genuine and finding out about other people. That’s not hard it all. We all have something to offer and to receive.
There are several good things about networking at air shows.
1) You don’t have to dress up. It might be weird if you did.
2) Everyone is obviously there because they are personally involved in aviation, most actually choose to be there.
3) You can drink your beer out of a can, with no cocktail napkin.
Oshkosh must be the easiest place on earth to network. It’s more fitting to describe it as building friendships. Everyone is happy there. We’re all there to celebrate the freedom we have in this country to fly airplanes. There are many different facets of aviation and the people behind all of it are at Oshkosh. We are all thrilled to listen to others talk about their role in aviation. People are genuinely interested in hearing about your role as well. This is what networking is meant to be.
Teaching the Youngsters to Network
Weeks before AirVenture in Oshkosh, my company, flyGIRL, held a contest for a lucky winner to join me on my journey to Wisconsin for the big event in my airplane. We would fly together for this epic occasion. The winner was a recent college graduate, and she had just earned her commercial license. She knows more about all of the different types of airplanes than me, without a doubt. We brought along a young videographer to record our time there and help me capture some of the special moments during our trip. Being with these young adults as they begin their lives made me want to teach them something during our journey.
How do you teach young 22-year olds to network? Of course, you should probably start with, NOT telling them you want to teach them anything (as a mom of teenagers, you should never fully disclose your intentions, especially if it involves some type of lesson for them. In my home, that NEVER works out well). Am I right? Hopefully, I could use this experience to teach about networking by demonstrating it in action.
Most of my time at the air show was spent meeting people that have connected with flyGIRL through social media. Many of my “followers” were there and meeting them personally, was a priority and highlight. My thumbs were constantly texting at warp speed, arranging meeting places, walking back and forth from the War-birds to the Light Sports (I had the sunburn, blisters and step counters to prove it)! It was extremely satisfying to sit and talk with each person and get to know about them and learn about their involvement in aviation. This is networking and it’s fun and personable. Many relationships were formed. I really don’t care if these individuals buy flyGIRL products or not. There’s a new link to a unique individual that has something to offer.
"Kids these days!"
Yes, every young adult stares at their iPhone. Currently, 95% of Americans have cell phones. My young female guest was berated by an older gentleman while we were on one of the shuttles that took us from Point A to Point B because she was looking at her phone. My iPhone allowed me to connect with so many people during my stay at Oshkosh. It’s not evil and can bring people together. We just need to be sure to use it in a way that brings us together instead of keeping us apart.
Come to the Dark Side
Learn to love networking. We all need support. Aviation is a challenging, expensive, time commitment. If we don’t have people encouraging us, there would be many reasons to give it up. Most of the people I know have very little interest in aviation and very little understanding as to why I invest so much in it. Talk about being put on the defensive! We need to keep aviation alive, especially general aviation, and bring young people into this fortunate opportunity we have. Hopefully, the trip to Oshkosh was not only super fun but taught my companions to build relationships in order to thrive.