Career Changers Corporate Career Change Expat Career Change

How I used my transferable skills as an Air Pilot to build a new career

This week Carlo, 40 years old from Italy, shares his story. From a childhood dream of becoming an astronaut to a life as an air pilot, he speaks five languages, has a Political Science degree, and has now moved to a career that provides him the ideal work/life balance.

According to a survey from the London School of Business & Finance, 47% of the UK workforce would like to make a career change, rising to 66% for Millennials. While for this group getting a better salary is the main reason for wanting a new career path, workers aged from 35 to 44 are looking to improve their work/life balance.

Both groups mentioned increased job satisfaction as another reason for wanting to change their actual occupation.

Financial insecurity and fear of failure are the main obstacles in making a career change, followed by other external challenges. Recruiters or hiring managers may still consider CV’s relevancy as one of the main criteria to match a suitable candidate with an open position. It is often forgotten that a candidate looking to change career may bring many transversal skills, enthusiasm, passion, and a good measure of risk-taking to the table.

In many instances changing careers is not only a matter of learning new skills, something that can be achieved through education or training, but overcoming subconscious feeling of unworthiness or more simply of “not being enough.” In this case, the help of a qualified career coach can contribute to remove such blockages. 

In this new series, we are meeting the career changers, people that had the audacity to change their life and explore several careers path.

This week Carlo, 40 years old from Italy, shares his story. From a childhood dream of becoming an astronaut to life as an air pilot, he speaks five languages, has a Political Science degree, and has now moved to a career that provides him the ideal work/life balance.

  1. What is your educational background?

I have a humanistic background: I was very good at literature and history during high school, and then I’ve chosen Political Science at the university. However, as soon as I started university, I decided to fulfill a childhood dream and went to the US to learn to fly. I’ve completed my degree later on, when moving back to Italy

2. How many languages do you speak? When did you decide to learn them, and why? 

I currently speak five languages with varying degrees of proficiency. Apart from Italian, my native language, I consider myself reasonably fluent in English, Spanish, and Russian and conversational in French. I have a bit of an aptitude for picking up languages, and I mostly learned them by myself. I learned English and Spanish in the USA, Russian and French on my own. I do try to keep my skills sharp by reading books and newspapers, or skyping with my friends around the world.

3. What difference has the knowledge of these languages made in your life? Did it have an impact on the way you think?

 Learning a foreign language opens up a wealth of possibilities, both on a personal and professional level, and has an invariably profound impact on one’s way of thinking. I am convinced that even my personality changes a bit according to the language I am speaking at a given moment! 

4. Which job did you want to do when you were a child?

 I wanted to be an astronaut. I am still waiting for NASA to call me up!

5. How did you become an air pilot?

I got my professional licences in the USA a couple of years out of high school. The training course took about six months from start to finish.

6. How was your experience as a job pilot?

It has been an extraordinary experience, because flying is my passion, but also because I enjoyed teaching. I have been an airplane pilot and instructor for about four years. I was based in Texas, USA. The main pro is that I was paid to do what I loved, and I never felt tired or bored doing it. Probably because I was too young at that time (in my twenties), I couldn’t realize there were cons. Today I can see as cons being so far away from my family and working very long hours.  

7. Which transferable skills did you learn from this job?

The main skills I developed – which have been useful for me during my career change and in general for my life – have been teaching and public speaking. In addition to that, I also learnt two languages: English and Spanish (my roommates were all from Argentina). 

8. What was your next career move? 

 In 2005 I decided to move back to Italy for personal reasons. I then completed my university degree and started looking for a job. After a year, I have got the opportunity to become an insurance trainer at one of the biggest insurance companies in Italy. The main skills required for that position were teaching and public speaking.

 9. Where do you see yourself in the future?

I see myself progressing in my career, but I am not burned by an overarching ambition. A good work/life balance is very important to me. I would much rather work to live and not the opposite. My ideal job? You know the saying: find a job you enjoy doing, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.

10. Do you share your full working experiences on your CV, or do you feel that you need to change your career to make it more relevant to the role you are applying for?

 Honesty is the best policy. An employer will find out eventually if the advertised skill set doesn’t match the actual one. A little “retouching” is an unspoken part of the game, but I suggest sticking to the truth.

11. When should people think about changing their career?

 Do a career change if the drive and passion for your current job have dried out. Do it to follow your true calling; life is too short to be doing something you do not like, or you’re poorly suited for.

12. Have you ever felt that career changers may get penalised in their job search?

 It depends on the employer’s perspective. Some think that team members with different backgrounds bring enormous value to an organisation. It really boils down to what someone brings to the table. Many employers, though, prefer more “standardized” career paths, and they don’t care about skill set not close to the position they are recruiting for.

13. Any final comments on your experience?

 Changing my career was easy also because I was in my twenties. It can probably become more challenging to make this decision when you are older. 

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