#Careers #Advice for Six-year Olds

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Why career advice for a six-year-old? First of all, twelve-year olds don’t need career advice. Many of them make up their minds to be doctors, or teachers, or chefs, or whatever they decide, and twelve years later that is what they are going to be.

The salient thing about six-year-old is they have short attention spans. They can’t make up their minds like those twelves. Many of us continue to have birthdays, lots and lots of them, but never out grow that six-year-old attention span.

These are the people who might need some career advice: adolescents and adults with six-year-old attention spans. I am one of those, so I know a little from my experience, but let’s look at a famous person who seems to be in a similar situation.

Here is the career path of Sunita (Sunny) Williams as rceounted to the NPR news quiz Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me
(listen to the full interview here: http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?

Her first career goal was to be a veterinarian. When she didn’t get into any of her pre-vet schools. Her brother advised her to attend the U. S. Naval Academy. He said that they liked to camp, so she would like it. Did she worry about where she would camp when the Navy was all about ships? No, she just went.

When she graduated, she wanted to be a diver, but she wasn’t accepted. Her backup this time was to be a Top Gun pilot. She didn’t get to be a jet pilot either, but she did fly helicopters.

As a helicopter pilot, she was curious about how helicopters worked, so she enrolled in test pilot school. In that school she met some astronauts, and decided she’d like to do that.

Now she is an astronaut and holds the records for total spacewalks and most spacewalk time for a woman.

Stating the obvious, interviewer Peter Sagal remarks, “This sounds very accidental.”

I believe three things lead to her success, in spite of her rather non-traditional path.

1) Be fearless. She didn’t let rejection stop her. She took the opportunity in front of her and moved forward. When she couldn’t be a vet, she joined the Navy. When she couldn’t be a jet pilot, she became a helicopter pilot.

2) Be curious. She wasn’t complacent. She looked around. At the Naval Academy she discovered diving, and as a pilot, she learned about astronauts.

3) When in doubt, go to school. Each change in direction was accompanied by a school: Naval Academy and then pilot school.

Thus, if you are going to act like a six-year-old, it helps to emulate six-year olds: Be curious and fearless, and go to school. 

That is my career advice for those of us with six-year-old attention spans.


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