Monday, February 22, 2016

Attention Students Desiring Space Careers: This Is For You

I am pleased to announce my services as a space career mentor. I've been sitting on this idea for a while and was finally inspired by a friend to move forward with it. I want to thank all of my mentors and mentees for giving me such great mentoring experiences over the years.

As a student, I collected mentors. No matter where I was and what stage I was in, I identified a professional who I admired and wanted to emulate. Interestingly, these were never university-assigned advisors. They were people I came across in passing or people I sought out and partnered with. Only in the case of my graduate school advisor were these formal mentors. Most of them had no idea that I considered them a mentor unless I told them. When told, they often acted embarrassed and didn't know what to say. Even the concept of an informal mentor carries weight. And so I refrained from defining relationships as thus an instead simply appreciated the individual as a colleague or authority figure who inspired me.

Over the past few years since I left academia, I've begun reaching out to individual students and student groups to spread the love of space and inspire space careers. Age ranges included elementary school through graduate students and even a few early professionals. Although these relationships are usually temporary, I have had the pleasure of connecting with some of these students long-term. I've watched some of them progress through high school and college and into professional jobs. I've been a cheerleader and a shoulder to cry on. I've watched some obtain their dream jobs and others leave the field for a better path. I've seen them all grow.

These mentee relationships, all of them informal except for one, have been tremendously rewarding. It's my current and former mentees who I have to thank for showing me how much I enjoy the relationship. It also helps to know that at least a few of them think that I'm pretty good at being a mentor. If I didn't know that I wasn't helping them in some way, I wouldn't offer myself as a mentor. To know that they think well of me and that I inspire them is a gift that they give me in addition to the gift of getting to know them. I thank them for their encouragement.

I also take inspiration from my former career coach who assisted me in jumping the hurdle from student to professional. She looked inside of me and inspired confidence and courage. She showed me that I had potential that I didn't know I had. It was from working with her did I realize that formal guidance could be offered with the assistance of the right tools, the right questions, and good listening skills. She knew nothing of the space field, yet she played a large part in guiding me to where I am today.

And so, I am offering my services as a space career mentor. The details can be found on the Astralytical website. I will still continue to speak with student groups and assist individual students on an informal basis, of course. This project doesn't replace my STEM outreach; it enhances it. I never felt that I had the time to follow up closely with each mentee to help them in the best way I could in the moment. With formal mentoring, I can do just that. I'll be able to assist and guide mentees in ways I haven't been able to before. And this excites me!

Are you looking to pursue or develop a space career, but don't know how or don't know if you're on the right track? Do you feel lost, stuck, or uncertain? Do you want to improve your career progress and prospects? Or do you know of a student or young professional who may benefit from a mentor? I'm here to help!

Hanging out in the VAB at KSC with college students at a STEM outreach event - August 2015 

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