What skills do you develop with geography and how do you explain them to others? Read this resource for ideas and tips.
Communicating the skills you have is essential to landing a job, and is a core part of completing many job applications. It’s also important to your professional development to recognise your skills – this can help you build confidence in your own competencies.
To start, it may be helpful to think about these skills as ‘geographical skills’ and ‘transferrable skills’. Both are equally important and often you can demonstrate how you used your transferrable skills in the application of your geographical skills
It can sometimes be hard to recognise the skills you have used and developed in your geography degree or through the workplace.
Try to break down your papers, courses and achievements into individual activities. Think about what knowledge, practical activities and preparation you needed to complete them – this can help you identify individual skills you have used.
At university, your geography department should have information available on the aims and learning objectives of your course, including skills development. See if you can relate that information to what you’ve done and studied to identify where you’ve gained skills.
RGS-IBG accredited geography degrees must include:
Fieldwork and experiential learning
Progression towards a substantive depth of knowledge in sub-fields of the discipline
Development of a range of academic, professional and generic skills, including the ability to interpret and analyse information, and make use of appropriate information and communication technologies
Fostering of personal attributes relevant to the world beyond higher education
See the examples below to help you think through your own skills. However, don't just use these - focus on the specific skills you’ve personally developed and the ways you can provide evidence for them:
Out of the field, your university work and dissertation will have included 'desk research', and using data and information from various sources to draw conclusions. Examples of skills here include:
Archival, policy and legislative research
Data modelling – featuring the approaches and platforms you used.
Data presentation – featuring the technologies and platforms you used for graphical or multimedia presentations
Writing/written analysis – don’t forget that writing essays and fieldwork improves your general skills of structuring writing and analysis
Statistical analysis (maybe with specific packages like R)
Qualitative analysis (specifying any techniques you have used)
Fieldwork is crucial to a huge range of jobs. It enables geographers to understand the real world situation and the impacts of decision making.
Fieldwork and data collection skills developed on your course and in your dissertation research may have included:
Remote sensing using LIDAR, drones
Environmental data collection
Planning and structuring fieldwork/project planning
Most graduates won’t have much workplace experience, but the skills you use in the workplace are important to employers and how you work. So don’t neglect mentioning skills like:
Communication – both interpersonal and across any forms of media, to various audiencces
Teamwork – taking part in and driving group activities
Organisational/management skills – managing projects, your time or people
If your course has involved using GIS, don’t just mention it in passing. You can explain particular platforms you’ve used and what you achieved with those applications. GIS skills can include:
Programming languages – Python, R, etc
Cartography – specifying the approach or technology you used
Proficiency on particular platforms
Database construction and management
So now you have an idea of the range of skills you might have developed. However, it’s important to:
Identify the specific skills relevant to the role you’re applying for. There’s no point sharing skills and information that are irrelevant to the employer.
Evidence your skills – don’t just claim skills on your CV or application. Explain with precise and specific examples how you have demonstrated that you have that skill.
Communicate – use clear language and keep things focused on how your skills connect to the needs of the job.
The starting point is the job and application requirements – choose the skills you will emphasise in CVs, applications and interviews according to the to the needs of the job.
You can do this by editing your CV, covering letter and answers for each job application, making sure the experiences you share and the aspects you emphasise are relevant to the role.
In some application processes, you may be given specific structures or questions that ask you to evidence skills (or experiences) in a certain way – the Civil Service’s Success profiles are one example.
You can also expand to using particular templates or approaches that give more structure to how you communicate your skills. You can treat them as competencies, for example, or focus on a situation-task-action-result structure when writing applications or at interview.
If you find it easier write the first draft with headings ‘The situation was …..My task was… The action I took was…. And the result was…’ It will act as a check list and help you think through the elements of your examples.
Throughout, evidencing skills is a great way to demonstrate that you have them - and understand how to apply them, which is something employers especially value.
Don’t just describe what you did in university or work experience. Explain the outcomes, the benefits, and most of all the skills you used that were key to making things happen.
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY NC 4.0), which permits use, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, provided the original work is cited and it is for non-commercial purposes. Please contact us for other uses.
Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) (2022) Communicating your geographical skills. Available at www.rgs.org/careers-resources/communicating-geographical-skills. Last accessed on: <date>
Featured images: Valerii/Adobe Stock, David Henrichs/Unsplash, Jason Goodman/Unsplash, Artem/Adobe Stock
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