April 21, 2017

Heidi Gottschall, InternView: Putting your path into focus

Posted by AGU Career Center

Heidi Gotschall worked as an intern at AGU last fall.  One of the many projects she worked on during her time here was our new Pathfinder Beta tool.  In today’s blog, Heidi reflects on what she learned while working on the project.  You can learn more about Pathfinder Beta at the end of the article.

I never knew the answer to the question of what I want to do when I grew up, and I still don’t. During a discussion on post-internship plans with two of the individuals I worked with at AGU, I felt somewhat embarrassed because there were a few things that I thought I wanted to do, but I didn’t have definite answers. And then there were times finishing my undergraduate degree where the constant question “grad school?” popped up so often that I spent a long time feeling really lost, frustrated, and uncertain because I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to pursue.

I thought I had to choose a job or continue studying something highly related to geology, because that’s what I initially studied, so I must continue towards that path, right? Or at least that’s the way it seemed.

Despite those feelings of obligation, I ended up at an internship with AGU working in student programs shortly after college; the peak of using my geology knowledge was helping to answer a question about a potential fifth grade science fair project. Even if I wasn’t using the geologic knowledge I developed from my degree, this experience has been very important to me and my mindset in pursuing my next steps in my career.

One of the projects that I worked on during my internship at AGU was compiling and comparing some of the knowledge and skillsets that are regarded as important for a wide range of careers that geoscientists go into. Jobs ranged from financial advisor to geological engineer to illustrator, so variety wasn’t lacking.

The part that got to me with this project wasn’t the variability of careers, but the skills and pieces of knowledge that overlapped in all these jobs. Some of the characteristics I saw were ones I’ve developed with other experiences I’ve had, not just the ones that I spent working on in a class. The stress that came with feeling like I had to stick with what I spent three years doing in school diminished some while at AGU. I’m realizing that the outcome of my education alone doesn’t have to define my career path, because in addition to that, I have my interests as well as my experiences that have accumulated with internships, other jobs, and coursework that I’ve taken outside of formal education.

Sure, there are components of these jobs that require more specific technical knowledge through experience, or education; I can’t refute that. Despite this, I’m working on finding comfort in knowing that the jobs I might take before I find a job I love aren’t lost time because they will further equip me with skills that are transferable to other jobs. Even if someday I might choose to go back to school for something widely different than what I initially studied, or if I have to start again at entry level positions, my experiences as an intern for AGU and the acknowledgement that career changes happen is something that makes my next steps a lot less intimidating.

Heidi Gottschall graduated with a BS in Geology and minor in Disaster Risk Reduction from Western Washington University. She is a past intern for Student Programs at the American Geophysical Union.  Currently, Heidi is working as a Visual Data Specialist at Randstad and as a curriculum content writer for the Smithsonian Science Education Center

What is Pathfinder Beta?

The American Geophysical Union’s is dedicated to building the global talent pool in Earth and space science. AGU’s new Pathfinder Beta tool allows you to explore potential career paths through its Career Assessment Tool and Paths Through Science profiles. The Career Assessment Tool leads you through a series of questions that identify the values and characteristics and activities that interest you most. Based on the information you provide, it makes suggestions regarding which careers might be best suited to your interests. In addition, Paths Through Science profiles show you the many directions a career in the Earth and space sciences can take.