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DIY Podcast: Exploration Careers Human Resource Specialists Audio/Video Clips

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Exploration Careers: Human Resource Specialists Audio/Video Clips

This module includes clips in which human resource specialists discuss employment at NASA. They explain the type of background and education that NASA is seeking when interviewing job applicants. They also talk about the characteristics that make a good employee.

The More NASA Experts clips include engineers, scientists and an astronaut. They discuss their backgrounds and their roles in making exploration possible.

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  1. Click "Playlist" at the top of the video player to view and select from available videos.
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Title & Download Links Transcripts
Meet Karen Burton
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(Burton) My name is Karen Burton. I’m the assistant manager of human resources here at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. I assist the manager with hiring new employees and talking to students about careers at NASA.
Preparation is Key
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(Burton) A good school or work record is extremely important: good attendance, good grades, neat work ... Arrive on time and well-dressed for your interview. And do your homework about the organization. That shows me, as an interviewer -- or any hiring manager -- that you really are interested in a career at NASA and that you're not just looking for any job.
Begin Career Planning Early
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(Burton) I don't think sixth or seventh grade is too early to begin thinking about your career. By the time you reach high school, you should be taking classes that are going to prepare you for your future. Also, be aware of your grade-point average. It can make a difference in what college you might be accepted to and also can highly affect any scholarships that ... might be available to you to help you in your chosen career. Yes, high school can be fun, but your future depends on your grade-point average and your work record in high school.
Civil Servants and Contractors
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(Burton) Civil servants are government employees who are paid by federal money that is allocated to NASA each year by Congress and the federal budget. You will often hear them referred to as career employees. In contrast, contractors work for private companies who bid for services -- to provide services -- to NASA. The contractor workforce is a large workforce for NASA, and it can be adjusted up or down based on current project needs.
Meet Christopher Randall
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(Randall) My name is Christopher Randall, and I work at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., for NASA, and I am a human resource[s] specialist in our Office of Human Capital.
From Student to NASA
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(Randall) My pathway to my current career began with my pursuit of a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. While I was in school, I was offered what was then called a co-op position at Marshall Space Flight Center in our engineering directorate. Once I graduated with my bachelor's in mechanical engineering from Alabama A&M University here in Huntsville, I was offered a full-time position with our engineering directorate.
Chris Randall: Engineer
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(Randall) An aerospace engineer is a person who designs and builds aircraft and spacecraft. As an aerospace engineer for NASA, I supported the Space Shuttle and Constellation Programs. I designed, built and tested various parts of the main propulsion systems. A propulsion system is all of the parts that help lift the vehicle off of Earth. Just like in your car, the engine, fuel tank and fuel line are all parts of the propulsion system that helps move your car forward.
From Engineering to Human Resources
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(Randall) While doing my job as an engineer, I often work with students in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines -- or the STEM fields. I've gone to career fairs, gone out to schools to talk to students, and have even had students come into NASA and work with our engineers and scientists on various projects in my department. After many successful student projects, someone thought that it would be a good idea for me to come work in the Office of Human Capital in our Academic Affairs Office on some of our student projects and programs. Now, the Office of Human Capital primarily deals with the "people side" of engineering. We do the hiring and provide training and other services to help NASA's people perform their best. I eventually accepted their offer, and now I work here at Marshall Space Flight Center as the center’s lead for the Pathways Program.
The Pathways Program
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(Randall) The Pathways Program is a suite of education programs that includes the Pathway’s Internship Employment Program, the Pathways Recent Graduates Program and the Pathways Presidential Management Fellowship Program. These programs are designed to allow students a clear path into federal service while they're still in school, as far as the internship program. If you've recently graduated within the past two years, then our recent graduates program allows you an opportunity to come train and learn at Marshall in your field as well. Pathways Programs are relatively new and have replaced what you might know as the co-op program.
What Is an Internship?
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(Randall) An internship is an on-the-job training experience usually reserved for students. Internships are extremely important in the careers of students. And NASA internships typically offer an advantage for students as they try to pursue careers at NASA after they graduate. Now, Pathways internships are longer-duration experiences that are designed to convert a student into full-time federal service upon graduation. While other NASA internships offer a great experience and great educational value, they may or may not be specifically designed to transition a student into full-time federal service after graduation.
Benefits of a Pathways Internship
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(Randall) Becoming a Pathways intern means that you'll get an opportunity to experience working for NASA even before you graduate. Pathways interns work side by side with the world's leading experts in their fields of study on real NASA projects. As a Pathways intern, you'll receive some of the finest training available in your field, as well as be given the opportunity to be converted into a permanent position here at NASA once you graduate. You also make all the people back at school very jealous.
Benefits of Volunteering
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(Randall) Having a work-life balance is important. So when we're recruiting, we're not only looking for students who have excelled academically but also those who are active in their community and in their personal lives. Sports, clubs, volunteering are all important things to have on your resume, but, more importantly, [they're] good to help you establish physical health and mental health, as well as give back to your community.
If at First You Don't Succeed ...
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(Randall) Be persistent. Put your best work forward, but keep trying over and over again even if you're not selected your first time. The application process is very competitive, and we accept thousands of applications from across the country. So just because you weren't selected the first time, doesn’t mean that you weren’t good enough.
When I Knew I Wanted to Work at NASA
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(Randall) I decided I wanted to work for NASA in about the fifth or sixth grade. I remember watching the space shuttle launches on TV in my middle school and thinking that I wanted to know what it was like to fly in space. When I graduated high school, I had to decide between the Air Force or engineering school because I believed that either one would help me work my way into NASA in a career as an astronaut. Now, I currently work for NASA, but I haven't flown yet. But I do know a couple of astronauts, and I guess that's pretty close.
NASA's Future Workforce
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(Randall) We're currently working on Space Launch System, which is the nation's next generation of manned spaceflight vehicle that will take us beyond low Earth orbit into deep space. There are some unique challenges that come along with travelling into deep space, and so we will need plenty of engineers, scientists, mathematicians and technicians to help us solve some of these unique challenges. We're looking for the nation’s best and the brightest in the STEM disciplines.
The Worker NASA Is Looking For
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(Randall) Being interdisciplinary will be in big demand. For example, not only being an engineer but being an engineer who understands computer programming and areas of science will be a major advantage. Knowing more than one subject, or even more than one language, and having the understanding of more than one culture will all be big advantages for students looking to pursue careers at NASA over the next eight to 10 years.
One of the Most Fun Things About My Job
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(Randall) One of the most fun things I do in my job today is travelling to different colleges and universities to talk to students about the Pathways Program. I remember being a student not too long ago, and so it's always rewarding when I bump into a student who is as excited as I am about NASA. It's even more rewarding when I'm able to make that phone call to offer that student a Pathways internship opportunity. When I was in school, we didn't have the Pathways Program, and so now there is a more clear and direct path for students into careers in the federal service than there ever (was) in the past. So I'm very excited about this new program, and I think it's a very exciting time to be a student who is interested in a career at NASA.
Exploration Careers: More NASA Experts Audio/Video Clips
In these clips, engineers, scientists and an astronaut discuss their educational backgrounds, their career paths and how they came to work at NASA. They also explain their roles in making exploration possible.
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Page Last Updated: July 25th, 2014
Page Editor: NASA Education