At a time when the aviation industry is facing a difficult and uncertain future and the interest among our emergency services clients to become train drivers shows no sign of slowing down, Sam Smart’s story is perfectly timed. Great points including the value of transferable skills, stepping back from the treadmill of too many applications and: practice, practice, practice!
What are you doing now?
I am a train driver operating passenger services out of London.
What had you been doing before?
I spent 9 years as long-haul Cabin Crew, with a one-year secondment out in New Zealand.
When did you decide to leave, and why?
I became cabin crew in my early twenties after leaving university as I didn't have a clear career path in front of me. I enjoyed my time seeing the world, but it was only ever a job as there was little chance of career progression. As I got older my priorities changed and I needed a new challenge.
How did you find another job?
Great question! I never really knew what I wanted to do as a career. I started looking at different jobs six or seven years ago and applied for some jobs in the sports industry, purely because of my love of sport. Unfortunately, this alone was not enough, and I received several rejections. On reflection, this scatter gun approach was probably not the most efficient and I would have benefited from some guidance!
I took a break from looking as at times the relentless job application forms can be overwhelming. This helped settle me and I renewed my search by focusing on my strengths that I developed from flying and discovered that a lot of these could be transferred to train driving. I did a lot of research and it was something that I was really interested in pursuing, so I took the plunge and applied to become a trainee.
What do you miss? What don't you miss?
When you are up at 0330 to take the first train out and it's pouring with rain and freezing cold, then I do miss the beaches in the Caribbean! I had a great time flying, but there is very little that I miss about it and have no regrets about leaving.
What advice would you give others?
Take some time and write down the skills that you have developed whether that be from previous jobs or from other aspects of your life. You may think that a lot of these are trivial skills, but they are
often quite the opposite. For example, as cabin crew we used to have to arm the door and cross check on instruction - this seemed like a menial task, hardly something to shout about. In fact, you are demonstrating communication skills and that you can follow safety critical procedures which are invaluable and highly transferable skills.
One other tip would be to research and practice. If you get invited to an assessment centre, then find out what sort of things you will be tested on and practice! I spent hours practicing for the tests - I printed off a lot of study sheets and even bought a “Bop It” off eBay to improve my reactions.... it was certainly worthwhile in the end!