Navigating Career Turbulence: How to Find Your Next Opportunity

Navigating Career Turbulence: How to Find Your Next Opportunity
Representatives from an airline speak with attendees at MOAA's annual networking forum in Washington, D.C. Commercial aviation is one of several veteran-friendly industries coming to grips with new economic realities. (Photo by Jennifer Milbrett/for MOAA)

By Jim Carman and Brian Anderson


It has been said that when your neighbor loses his job it’s a recession, and when you lose your job it’s a depression. As unemployment continues to rise amid the coronavirus crisis, many Americans are realizing their worst fear and, regrettably, find themselves in the job hunt.


If you’re just leaving active duty or if it has been a few years since you had to look for a job, let MOAA be your career navigator. This week, we’ll report on an informal survey we conducted with experts in several career fields who appreciate the value of a veteran, beginning with commercial aviation.


[RELATED: Guidance From MOAA’s Virtual Career and Transition Toolkit]


The year began with record-high load factors at all of the major airlines, but by the first week in April, travel demand had collapsed and those same airlines were reducing their capacity by as much as 94%. More than 2.4 million passengers cleared airport security screening on April 2, 2019; this year on that date, 124,021 did so. 


Although none of the major airlines has furloughed pilots, “the passenger airlines have indefinitely suspended interviewing and hiring pilots,” according to retired Northwest Airlines captain and former Air Force officer Louis Smith, president of Future and Active Pilot Advisors ( According to Smith, “the aid package from the government mandates no layoffs for six months, but by October we will likely see furloughs. It all depends on how fast passenger traffic recovers.”


However, the major airlines have 41,000 pilots on their active rolls who will turn age 65 in the next 15 years, the mandatory retirement age for airline transport pilots. These pilots will need to be replaced and, regardless of their age, military pilots always have an advantage.


Moreover, the major airlines have hired pilots well into their 40s, and regional airlines, particularly those owned by a major airline such as Endeavor Air, Envoy Air, and Piedmont, are an excellent destination for helicopter pilots leaving active duty. Plus, the major freight carriers, FedEx, UPS, and Atlas Air, continue to hire pilots and offer excellent pay and benefits.




While the cyclical nature of the economy can be a frustration in the airline business, there are many attractive aspects to an airline pilot career, including the privilege of flying state-of-the-art equipment for about 80 hours each month, a changing routine, excellent compensation, free time to pursue other interests, and lifetime free travel for the pilot and immediate family.   


For those military-trained pilots preparing to leave active duty who want to explore career opportunities in commercial aviation, Future and Active Pilot Advisors is offering discounted membership for military pilots at     


Bust, or Boom?

Turning to more traditional alternatives for post-military careers, it's unclear how long the coronavirus pandemic is going to last or how much COVID-19 is going to affect the long-term hiring market. The military and veteran-friendly companies MOAA has worked with over the years -- to help transitioning servicemembers, veterans seeking career advancement, and military spouses – are saying all options are on the table.


Depending upon the industry and sector, it appears that many companies are taking a cautious approach by not making any new hires while keeping their current workforce intact. Yet, many others have had to make some very difficult, but necessary decisions that include pausing their hiring and laying off employees.


In addition to freezes and furloughs, we have heard that some companies are deferring graduating college senior start dates until the fall or as much as six months, exploring paid/unpaid leaves of absence and early retirement options.


[RELATED: More Transition and Career News From MOAA]


Business development opportunities and sales for many companies have been severely impacted by a number of factors, including government mandated actions and decreased consumer demand. Small businesses that are deemed non-essential, and companies without a lot of cash reserves or available lines of credit, seem to be the ones hardest hit. They have already begun executing furloughs.


The timing of this trend became even more pronounced when companies began to take advantage of the expansion in both the length and amount of unemployment insurance afforded by the $2 trillion stimulus package.


However, some companies, particularly those with strong balance sheets, are doing everything they can to support employees – and some of these businesses are making their actions known on LinkedIn and other online platforms. For instance, Lockheed Martin Chairman, President and CEO Marillyn Hewson posted on LinkedIn that the Lockheed Martin team continues to take concrete steps to aid the national and global relief effort and support their employees and vulnerable companies in their supply chain by hiring 1,000 new employees in the last two weeks, advertising more than 5,000 open jobs and committing $50 million to support small businesses in their supply chain to sustain jobs.


[RELATED: Join MOAA on LinkedIn]


Furthermore, some industries find themselves in a hiring boom. For instance, grocery store chain Kroger, big retailer Walmart, health care company CVS, and the shipping and delivery titan Amazon (which recently announced plans to add 100,000 workers to plus up its fulfillment centers), are all rapidly bringing on new employees. With nearly 30 million children out of school, online learning companies such as Outschool are swiftly supplementing capacity by adding thousands of new teachers. And add remote meeting and communications companies like Zoom to the list of businesses seeking qualified employees to meet the new coronavirus-related demand. 


In addition, the stimulus package has generated demand in both the private and government space. In this regard, both Ford and GM, along with their suppliers, have converted some of their car plants to medical supply factories to build critical care ventilators and protective equipment such as surgical masks to assist in meeting the health care challenge. Economic downturns are a difficult time for both companies and employees, but it's also a time when entire markets shift and new opportunities open for those who are agile enough to adapt to rapid change.


Guidance From MOAA

Regardless of the path you choose for your life at work after military service, it’s important to remember there are never any guarantees in business. As Phil Knight, the co-founder Nike, once remarked, “the path to business success is messy, precarious, and riddled with mistakes.” 


Expect some turbulence in your career journey. Mitigate risk with good mentors, thoughtful analysis of alternatives, and a willingness to accept some risk in your career planning.


MOAA is responding to the current unemployment crisis with a series of virtual events and webinars focused on every aspect of the job search and self-marketing process. Register for future events at, and join MOAA to hear strategies and tools to accelerate your job search, delivered by some of the best career management consultants and military benefits experts in the business. If you can’t attend the “live” session, still register and we can send you the link to view the recorded webinar.


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