So here you are.
You've paid all that money, studied like mad, flown your socks off, and you are now the proud holder of a freshly-minted frozen ATPL! The next bit - getting an airline job - seemed easy back when you were studying long into the night for your ground school exams. Now you've finished you realise that getting yourself noticed and into an airline flight deck is not as simple as just passing the exams.
It is very possible you'll be waiting a while before that pilot job opportunity arises, and it is down to you to keep yourself employable for as long as possible. That means keeping ratings current (specifically the Instrument Rating). It also means hours - requirements vary, but many airlines require 50 hours of flying within the preceding 12 months to apply for trainee/cadet first officer positions. As time goes on, you are going to need to be doing something to keep your hand in and keep yourself current. Aside from gambling on a self-funded type rating and pouring another 5-figure sum into training, there are options out there - let's look at some of them:
This is probably the most obvious choice - go down to your nearest flying club or flying school, get checked out, and hire an aircraft. A somewhat expensive option on the face of it, but that is not the only thing a flying club can do for you. For one thing, when the IR renewal comes up, the school may have an examiner on staff, and a twin-engined aircraft to hire. A school will almost certainly know where to find one or both if they do not. It is worth mentioning in passing here that every other IR renewal can be completed in a suitably approved simulator, which can be a good way of keeping the costs down.
Flying clubs are also useful places to make contacts - one way of making those flying hours more interesting is to share the flying with someone else, thus enabling you to go longer distances for the same money. Plenty of PPL holders like to share flying with an instrument-rated pilot if they do not hold an instrument qualification of their own since then there?s a get-you-home option if the weather turns bad. Besides which, you never know when you might make a useful contact for the future!
Ever thought about passing on what you've learnt to the next generation of aspiring pilots? Maybe instructing a path worth considering. The course is not cheap - £7000-8000 typically - but it is interesting and rewarding, and cheaper than a type rating. It requires a good existing level of theory knowledge; you knew enough to pass the exams, but can you explain it to someone so that they understand it? As with the ATPL courses, it is important to find the training organisation that?s right for you. It is worth considering that many schools with Flight Instructor courses use them as a primary source of new PPL instructors. There are also opportunities to progress within instructing, such as adding privileges for night instruction, applied Instrument Flight, multi-engine, CPL and aerobatic instruction, depending on experience and where your interests lie.
The good news is that instructing offers a route towards being paid to fly rather than paying for your flying yourself. The bad news is that the pay often isn't fantastic and generally weather dependent - most instructors are paid per flying hour, which makes the British winters quite tough going. Jobs at the big integrated schools tend to be better paid (and consequently rather more scarce). However, you'll develop skills and experiences that will stand you in good stead for the future. Many airlines see instructional experience as an asset, and it will inevitably give you some good stories that make great answers to interview questions!