I Know What I Want, Now What?

The release of a book on job hunting has caused me to reconsider reviving my stalled book on helping English majors get a job at NASA. I’ve got to confess that the project hasn’t been exciting me. Why not?

A lot of it has to do with the purpose of the book. Yes, there are absolutely practical things that I could teach about the space business to help people get the job they want, but what really animates me is the process of helping people think constructively about their careers. Maybe, like my friend Kate, I’m really a coach at heart.

The advice I offer on this blog

As I noted in my book review, when readers email me for advice, the requests usually fall into one of two categories:

  • “I have X experience and I’m trying to pursue a career in Y field. How do I go about getting the job I want?”
  • “I have X situation in my career/task, how should I approach it?”

I suppose that makes sense. I’m not certain how useful this blog has been for people who don’t know what they want to do with their career/life, but once a decision has been made, I can offer assistance for what to do next.

Why I do what I do

As it happens, I can trace the exact date I started being able to think this way: October 27, 1994. Way back in those wild pre-internet days, I was working front desk at one of the Disney Resorts and, quite frankly, not very happy with my life. I was asking a lot of whiny, 20-something questions, like “Why does my life suck?” or “Why does so-and-so have a better career/apartment/car than I do?” Or the ever-popular, “Why me?”

At the time, I was reading an anthology of alternate history stories called What Might Have Been(Alternate history fiction is a variation of science fiction where human history is dramatically altered because something did or did not happen–say, like the Axis won World War 2 or the Confederacy won the American Civil War.) Inspired, I sat down and wrote an “Alternate Bart” story in which I portrayed what might life might have been like if X hadn’t happened in my past. I was about halfway through the story when I realized that I didn’t believe in that sort of determinism in my life. I was young, I could still make a better future happen for myself instead of sit around whining about my current circumstances.

So I changed the sorts of questions I was asking myself. Instead of asking, “Why me?” I asked myself, “What do I want out of life?” And the simple, ambitious answer, which sent a little shiver up my spine, was, “I want to go into space.”

“Okay,” my self-conscious responded, “Now what are you going to do about it?”

The next five to ten years were an exercise in figuring out what to do to make that dream a reality. What inspires me is helping people think and work through the practicalities of achieving their dreams. That’s a much broader field than the more tactical, more practical question of “How does an English major get a job in the space business?” On the other hand, it might be more useful to more people. The pursuit of a NASA job could serve as an example of how it can be done.

Things to think about.

About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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