I got my CFI in 1991, during one of the worst-ever downturns in aviation hiring. After 3500 hours of flight instructing and 2500 hours of Part 135 freight, I landed a job as a First Officer at a regional airline.
To be fair, I should mention that I had originally wanted to be a career instructor - not an airline pilot. After ten years of full- and part-time teaching, reality set in and I decided that I needed to be thinking about buying a house, saving for retirement, and advancing my professional career.
One slick ad in "Flying" promises you "the fast track to an aviation career". Well, I've been on the "slow track" or maybe the "dirt track" to an airline job. At the current rate of movement at my company, I will have over 10,000 hours by the time I upgrade to captain.
I suppose some people would find this depressing. I don't. I consider myself extremely lucky in that I still enjoy flying as much as I did as a student (maybe more). To be sucessful in this crazy career, you have to enjoy the journey as much as the destination.
Well I just got my cfi license, although all the ratings took me about two years. I still need the cfii and mei though. I have 261 total time, and am still looking to start my first cfi job. Actually, I'll find out tomorrow if I can start my first flying job or not!