An internship may just be the best place to start. However, even more important than a well-placed internship is the intern herself.
Life, in many ways, is about who you know. I think we all wish it were different, but it so often plays out personally and professionally that the statement is hard to argue. Accepting this truth, I’d like to move on to a more encouraging idea. The idea that we actually have a significant role to play in our own future; that our actions and hard work will pay off in ways that we could simply never imagine.
Ironically, this video about NASA interns was my final project as someone who “worked at NASA”. In many ways, it was one of the easier stories to produce, from a technical standpoint. However, it had a way of resonating personally, for one simple reason: Many years ago I jump-started my entire career by becoming a NASA intern.
I can’t begin to tell you how hard it was! There were long hours, some pretty boring tasks, and a lot of wondering if this was going to turn into a “real job.” Oh, and did I mention it was an unpaid position? Yet it turned out to be one of the smartest moves I ever made. The boring tasks were far outweighed by amazing opportunities, the hours always had a way of seeming valid in the end, and yes, I was eventually hired and paid.
So this is where the internship meets the intern. It’s one thing to have a fancy logo on your resume as you go hunting for your first job in the field. It’s another to walk away with a life-changing experience, new friends, empowering mentors and door-opening connections. And, through their actions, each and every intern gets to decide which way the pendulum will swing.
Obviously, there’s some sentimentality on my part as I write this. The recent launch events surrounding the GPM Core satellite put me in touch with some pretty cool young people, and of course brought back fond memories of my NASA days. So I’d like to take the chance to encourage all students, from Davis, WV to Davis, CA, from grade school to grad school, to consider this: Each dream, each goal, each crazy idea can very likely be accomplished. Working for an agency such as NASA may seem like a strange, distant desire, right up there with “I wish I could fly.” I say: Shoot for the stars! And don’t be too easily discouraged if you miss the first one. Right now, there are only around 40 active astronauts, but the number of NASA employees and contractors is almost 80,000. And they are all working together as part of the same prestigious family.
So whether it’s NASA, SpaceX, Apple, Google or your very own start-up, it’s worth going for the gold. The journey itself becomes the prize, and chances are you’ll end up somewhere you simply can’t imagine.
And if you missed it in the video, and you want to work for NASA, check out http://intern.nasa.gov.