“I am sorry, but we are not actually looking to hire anyone at the moment.”
If you were a recent graduate, and/or let go from a job during this pandemic, this might be a phrase you have gotten used to. None of us were truly invulnerable to this; but I thought I was. I was in this sort of position before, in another industry, when I lost my Canadian work visa and had to start over. I hated that feeling. So I did everything in my power to never be in that position ever again. I even wrote an article about it (Member Voices - careerbydesign (asce.org)). But it still wasn’t enough.
Below is just a snapshot of my journey through the pandemic:
December 2019: Graduated from the University of Hawaii with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering.
Graduation from University of Hawaii
January 2020: Started internship with Walt Disney Imagineering in Glendale, California.
April 2020: Was let go from Imagineering due to ongoing pandemic.
Name tag from Walt Disney Imagineering
May 2020: Moved back home to Hawaii. Applied for unemployment benefits and health insurance.
June-December 2020: Tried and failed at a bunch of hobbies (gardening, coding, etc.). Applied to 1,000+ jobs. Interviewed with companies like NASA, Marvel Studios, Sony Pictures, etc.
Sankey diagram of 1,283 jobs I applied to in 2020
January 2021: Received and accepted offer to work for NASA as a Launch Site Integration Manager in California.
April 2021: Moved out to California, bought a used car, found a place and roommates, and began work at NASA.
Sunset at Vandenberg (photo credit to NASA/Randy Beaudoin) (https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/thumbnails/image/pia19137.jpg)
Present: Still figuring out work-related tasks on the job. Meeting new people, acclimating to the weather, getting introduced and really into Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and Dungeons and Dragons.
Members of NASA Launch Services Program
I ended up in a really great place with NASA. I was fortunate, but a lot of people are not. It is easy to see the end result and feel a maelstrom of mixed emotions like jealousy, bitterness, and self-doubt. I spent a ton of time scrolling through social media and feeling that same twinge when I saw people triumph in the face of this historically global adversity. But what you don’t see are all the sleepless nights, unanswered emails, and eclectic Wikipedia browsing. The best of us have had their trials and tribulations, and not everyone has come out on the other side of this thing. To all the people still stuck in the above situation, you have my sympathy, my best wishes, and my respect.
Maxx Taga, Launch Site Integration Manager, NASA/KSC Vandenberg SFB is a somewhat recent graduate and recipient of ASCE's 2020 New Faces of Civil Engineering–College recognition. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 2019. He has additional experience in VFX, research, board game testing, football analytics, and event security.
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