For the last 2-3 weeks, I’ve been writing blogs targeted to my audience members who have emailed me about getting a job in the space business, as those are the majority of readers who contact me. I basically kicked out the remaining chapters of the book I never wrote. While this was satisfying, I noticed something odd about my readership numbers: practically no one was reading them. So okay, lesson learned. From here on, I’ll try to make my postings more generalized unless I get another special request.
“We don’t all want to be aerospace writers”
When I taught my semester at UAH, my students and I had a “feedback session” wherein I was told, “Not all of us want to be professional writers.” Fair enough, I said, but you should still care about the quality of your writing, regardless of what business you end up in so you don’t end up embarrassing yourself or your employer.
In a similar vein, some of you probably saw the titles of some of my posts and thought, “Not all of us want to be an aerospace writer, Bart!” Okay, point taken. However, there was a method to my madness.
Why I Conduct Industry Research
The six posts I wrote describing the nature of the space industry were examples of how of how I recommend going about job hunting. You might have your heart set on working for NASA or the NIH or NOAA or any other acronymed federal agency or maybe a specific company. You might have applied to said agency, confident in your skills and the strength of your resume. And then, come the magic days after your interview, you discover that you didn’t get the job.
Now what? Is this the end of the dream? Are you going to spend the rest of your career bitter and depressed because you didn’t get the exact job you wanted, or are you open to other options?
Me? I wanted to work for Virgin Galactic or SpaceX in 2004. They weren’t hiring writers yet, they wanted engineers. So I took a three-year detour through the Defense Department inside the Beltway, hoping to build up my technical writing cred. When a space job did open up, it wasn’t on the entrepreneurial side of the industry, it was at NASA. That’s when it occurred to me that my passion was space, not necessarily working for a specific space-related organization. I broadened my search (and resume dispersal) to include NASA and NASA-related organizations/contractors. I got the job at NASA and proceeded to have a great time with it.
So part of my career search involved a great deal of researching the entire industry to see where I might best fit. This involved understanding not just the industry but how the various parts fit together, including the political side.
There are other advantages to reading broadly within your industry of choice. It gives you a “systems” view of what’s going on so you can see how your organization or your work fits into a broader picture. It also can give you an outside perspective that your employer can value when they’re not understanding friction or opposition from elsewhere in the industry (actual quote from a customer explaining why they were sending me to an industry conference: “You get along with those people”).
Again, my apologies if I’ve bored some of you with my windy summaries of how NASA or the other parts of the space industry work, especially if that’s not your thing. However, if you do have an industry that you’re passionate about, you might want to consider doing your own “environmental research” to help your career. A lot of what tech writers do involves connecting the dots. The more dots you’re aware of, the better, more accurate picture you can make.
Just a thought.