What job search lessons can we learn from NASA Engineers and Balloon Boy?

I am digressing from the Job Search Toolkit series for one article because I just had to share this.

So, yesterday, NASA spousal unit and I were having breakfast with Financial Black Hole #2. With his iPhone never far away (you never know when he has to do an emergency calculation and, of course, there’s an app for that) he is reading something and just starts laughing. (The evening before, by the way, we were watching Wolf Blitzer sitting in for Larry King and it was all about Balloon Boy. I must admit that during the day, I was riveted as the balloon sailed across the Colorado sky and was saddened about the terrified little boy going for the unintended ride, further saddened by the fact that it was empty upon landing. It didn’t take long for spousal unit and his Poindexter friends to start analyzing the situation.) Spousal unit was laughing because of these actual e-mail exchanges between his colleagues:

From: G
> Date: Thu, 15 Oct 2009
> To: D, D, M, S

Subject: Balloon Boy calculations
> Some quick calculations (attached) could have spared everyone
> a lot of panic today:


> Conclusion: The kid wouldn’t have gotten off the ground.

> -G

From: S
> Date: Thu, 15 Oct 2009
> To: G, D, D, M
> Subject: Re: Balloon Boy calculations
> Interesting.
> That is actually closer to flying than I thought.
> The instant I saw a picture of the balloon, I was pretty certain
> there was no human sized weight being carried. Without some
> structure, it would have been teardrop shaped and seemed way
> too small to fly a kid.
> Good example of mass (internet facilitated) hysteria I guess.
> S

From: D
> Date: Fri, 16 Oct 2009
> To: G, D, S, M
> Subject: Re: Balloon Boy calculations

> Sorry, G, but your calculation wouldn’t have spared anyone any
> panic (except a few nerds like us). As S points out, the answer
> you got was pretty close to flying; do you really believe a parent
> or law enforcement officer would look at your calculation and say >”oh, don’t bother looking for my kid in that balloon–G told me it
> wouldn’t get off the ground.”
> I was similarly skeptical when I saw the balloon yesterday, so I
> googled “helium balloon lifting force” and got an answer of 1
> cubic meter of Helium for per kg mass (I’ve long forgotten how to
> do fancy buoyancy calculations like you did). I then used
> Wolfram|Alpha to get the mean weight of a 6 year old (21 kg, by
> the way). Finally, I heard the balloon was 20 ft in diameter, 5 ft
> tall, for a total volume of 45 cubic meters (also assuming a
> cylinder).
> I therefore decided that, while improbable, I couldn’t rule out the
> possibility that it could get off the ground.
> In other words, I was still **** my pants for that kid.
> By the way, this is beginning to sound like a publicity stunt.
> Check out this quote from CNN:
>> But in a later interview on CNN’s “Larry King Live,” Falcon said
>> he heard his parents call for him from the garage. When asked
>> by his father on air why he didn’t respond, the boy replied, “You >> guys said we did this for the show.”
>> When Richard Heene was pressed by fill-in host Wolf Blitzer to
>> explain what his son meant, he became uncomfortable, finally
>> saying he was “appalled” by the questions. He added that
>> Falcon likely was referring to all the media coverage
> D

From: D
> Date: Fri, 16 Oct 2009
> To: G, S, D, M
> Subject: Re: Balloon Boy calculations
> One more thing: all you need to do with your calculation to get
> the kid off the ground is change the dimensions of the balloon
> slightly (say 6 m diameter or 3 m height)…

From: G
> Date: Fri, 16 Oct 2009
> To: D, S, D, M
> Subject: Re: Balloon Boy calculations
> Lucky for this kid his dad wasn’t slightly less incompetent as an
> engineer and slightly more proficient at being a nut.
> – G

It goes on but I’m stopping here because they start delving into conspiracy theories that have no eventual connection to job-hunting.

Well, I don’t know about you, but they’re blinding me with science. What I did stagger away from the exchange with was the realization that looking at the incident and applying cold hard facts, could have saved a lot of people a lot of anxiety. There’s something to be learned from that process as it applies to your job search.

Finding a job is more challenging now than it has been for decades. We know that. The problem is that for many of us, we are greatly defined by our jobs and careers . . . our families, too, of course, but it’s our job or career choices that allow us to provide for them. The search becomes emotional. For a moment, separate — albeit difficult — the financial strains of unemployment. What we run the risk of doing is becoming our own worst enemy by taking rejection (or lack of interest or communication) personally. You just can’t do that. Looking at the numbers — the data — we see that it’s tough. Data, of course, does not pay the mortgage or buy food, but what it does tell us is that we doggedly must keep at the effort. It’s all numbers . . . the more adjustments you are willing to make to your own “data,” the greater the number of opportunities available to you. These adjustments could include salary, commute time, willingness to relocate, a more junior title, etc. I’ll leave you with this:

Let data keep you “grounded”

I looked at indeed.com and created the filter for “corporate communications” (in quotes) roles that are within ten miles of my home zip code (when looking for a job in Southern California, commuting time is an issue for most.) There were three. When I broadened to a 25-mile radius, the number of jobs increased to 77. If willing to travel 50 miles, the number hits 99. Removing the quotes around corporate communications, by the way, provides 315, 3,228, and 4,905 jobs, respectively. What does this mean? It means that the data reflects a growing number of opportunities if you make some adjustments to what you are looking for; in this case you are spending more time in the car, but you have more opportunities to pursue.

Even with all the data the Bureau of Labor Statistics can provide, it’s still going to be emotional, we all have to accept that. But, try to make it less so; with some adjustments to your data, you have more control of the job search situation than you may think.

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