A Biography of Cheryl Cage, Founder/Chairman and former President of Cage Consulting, Inc.
Cheryl Cage was born into a military family. Her father was a 30-year veteran of the Army Infantry. After graduating college with a degree in psychology, Cheryl worked for Braniff International. During her time there she was a member of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA).
Cage Consulting began as a general job search service. Cheryl's clients were professionals from all fields. Her introduction to working with pilots came when she offered her resume services to a small group of pilots living in the Denver area. These pilots had recently lost their jobs due to the bankruptcy of Braniff.
While working with these individuals she sensed a pervasive belief that technical background and experience were all that was needed to secure a new airline job. This was outdated thinking and it disturbed her.
What these pilots had failed to understand was that the selection process had changed over the years. Flight departments were no longer just searching for people with technical proficiency in flying. Airlines were interested in hiring individuals with highly developed management, communication, and team-player skills in addition to technical skills.
To discuss one's abilities in these introspective areas requires a different kind of preparation than these pilots had ever experienced.
Having watched these professionals stumble-- and not wanting to see it happen to others-- Cheryl was motivated to develop her Pilot Interview Preparation Program.
The initial program in 1988 was based on Cheryl's work with business professionals, discussions with pilot interviewers at the major airlines, and her own airline background. Since 1989 the program has been continually reviewed, updated, and expanded. Cheryl has discussed the interviewing process with flight interviewers, chief pilots, and aviation medical experts. Cheryl spent many, many hours debriefing her clients after their interviews.
Over 25,000 pilots have used the services of Cage Consulting in preparation for pilot interviews and over 100,000 copies of Cage Consulting aviation and business career books have been sold.
In addition to her work with individual clients, from 1990 to 2001 Cheryl served as an Independent Consultant to the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA). During this time she presented pilot interview preparation seminars to over 5,000 displaced ALPA pilots from PanAm, Midway, USAirways, TWA, Air Wisconsin, West Air, and Aspen Airways to name a few. In 2001 Cheryl was retained by the Allied Pilots Association (the pilot union for American Airlines) and the United Airlines ALPA to present job search workshops for their furloughed pilot members.
The Pilot Interview Process post September 11, 2001
By: Cheryl Cage
At 0915 on September 11, 2001 I sat snugly in Row 13, Seat C of a United A320 enjoying my first cup of coffee. The flight had just departed Dulles International Airport and I was feeling extremely satisfied with my life. I was returning home after hosting a very successful 50th Wedding Anniversary for my parents and Cage Consulting was on the road to having its best year ever.
Twenty minutes later the world looked very different. Once I knew family and friends were safe my thoughts over the course of the next four days (as I planed, trained and automobile'd my way home) were mostly about clients and the career challenges they were going to be facing.
Interestingly, I never considered that aspiring professional pilots would change career plans. This thought never occurred to me for one simple reason: the overwhelming majority of individuals who pursue a pilot career do so because it is what they are driven to do. They love the ongoing challenge of flying. Pilots are highly motivated individuals regularly forced to handle difficult situations and have always had to struggle in an intensely competitive job market. No. I knew that the majority of people destined to become pilots would simply view this as another (albeit an unusually large and lengthy) career setback.
So, what has the impact of that day in September had on the pilot selection process?
Obviously, the numbers of pilots interviewed and hired were dramatically lower. Although there was increased public discussion about background checks of individuals in safety-related positions, the already intensely structured and demanding pilot selection process itself did not need, nor did it undergo, a dramatic change. In terms of change to the pilot selection process the introduction of the Pilot Records Improvement Ace mandating a five-year background check had more of an impact on the applicant and the process.
Airlines are still looking for future captains, individuals with strong leadership, conflict-resolution and decision-making abilities. The method of preparation I have advocated since 1988 remains the same today; gain an understanding of the interviewer's responsibilities, embark on a strong course of self-evaluation and become adept at describing your traits using personal stories. If you do your homework your chances of a job offer significantly improve.
The turmoil experienced by the aviation industry has been well documented; there is no need to rehash what is widely known. You have most likely experienced your share of turmoil along with thousands of other aviation professionals, myself included.
So, we've shared the turmoil. However, more importantly, we share the desire for you to succeed in your chosen field. It pleases me to know that you have elected to view this turmoil as a temporary setback to your career path.