View our resource on key careers skills and actions for geographers, with links to more of our resources and external sources.
Watch our webinar on careers skills with panelists Flo Broderick, Joe Thorogood and Mary McLaughlin.
Regardless of the sector or job you’re seeking, certain careers skills are important to building your experience and profile and landing a job. In this resource, learn about the key careers skills and actions that panellists have emphasised across our sectoral webinars.
In any application process, employers and interviewers are looking to identify candidates who are particularly motivated and committed to the role. Before you apply, make sure you have a good understanding of:
Look at each point of the job description and think about how it relates to your skills and experiences. Use company websites and platforms like LinkedIn to work out where the role fits in to their overall work.
Tina Thomson, Willis Towers Watson
Look at the company website and social media to see what projects they have completed or are undertaking. Follow the organisation, as well as other organisations and individuals in the sector, on social media to build up your understanding of what people are up to.
List your skills and experiences, taking a generous approach and expressing your skills in a positive way. Then look at the role description in detail and understand how your skills and interests match what the organisation wants the role to do.
Lucy Rymill, ERM
which are relevant to the role or team. Almost all interviewees will ask why you are interested in the role: this is where you can relate your interests to specific areas of a company’s work.
These actions demonstrate that you are genuinely interested in the organisation’s work, that you understand how your role would fit in with their goals, and that you are enthusiastic about the prospect of working for them.
Remember – you don’t have to hit every role requirement to be a good candidate. If you feel you have gaps or weaknesses, it can be useful to address these directly and explain how you have partly relevant skills or experience or give evidence of you are adaptable and can learn new skills quickly.
You may think 'networking' just involves formal events which people attend purely for professional gain – but that’s not the case.
Networking is anything that gets you engaged with other people that share your passion for a particular issue. Networking builds your profile among peers and employers, and keeps you updated on what’s going on in an area of work.
As our Use Geography panellists have noted across the series, there’s a range of ways to get started with networking:
Create a professional social media presence that is work-focused and shows off your skills and achievements. For example, if you’ve created an interesting map or report in a university project, share that with appropriate hashtags. Comment positively on interesting posts by professionals in your sector of interest. Many employers will check the public LinkedIn and Twitter profiles of potential employers, so a profile where your interest in a sector is obvious can demonstrate your enthusiasm,
Create a journey of your skills to share with others - that gets you noticed. If that CV comes across my desk and I’ve seen these things, I'll dig a bit deeper and look further. Don't be afraid to showcase your skills”
Samantha Hughes, Avon
Especially if you’re aiming for a particular sector, attending free webinars, events and conferences can help you get a better picture of the work people are doing and who’s who in companies and sectors. It can also help you identify areas of work you’re interested in, and people to whom you could reach out.
I didn’t do any work experience! Don't underestimate networking. Show you're reading stuff, that you're interested - we look at [applicants'] LinkedIn and see what they're interested in”
Natalie Stirrat, Arcadis
Professionals tend to form online communities around their areas of work – for example, GIS professionals often share their work on blogs or on Twitter. Don’t be afraid to comment positively or ask questions about their work and what they post – it’s why they’re sharing their work! Also, don’t be afraid to contact staff on LinkedIn regarding work experience, opportunities and careers advice (though remember, it’s best to start with a point of commonality like an event or lecture).
Work experience and volunteering can help you meet and develop your relationship with professionals, while also demonstrating your skill and enthusiasm in person. Even if you’re not able to find opportunities in a business you’d personally like to work for, you can leverage and showcase any experience in a relevant sector through social media and use it as the basis to reach out to other professionals.
Like the Society! This can give you access to professional events, CPD activities, and professional practice groups, while also leading towards accreditation, supporting networking and maintaining your sectoral and subject knowledge. You can learn about the early career benefits of belonging to a professional body here.
In short - don’t be afraid to talk to people. People will be flattered by your interest in their work – though be mindful that professionals are busy and are not obliged to help!
Get the most out of networking – RGS-IBG
How to Network – University of Portsmouth
Networking - Oxford University Careers Service
CVs, cover letters and interviews crucial aspects of almost every job application process and need good written and verbal communication skills.
In a CV or covering letter, it’s important not just to state your skills – give evidence by saying what you achieved. “Capable at writing reports” for example, tells an employer much less than “Wrote a 5,000-word report for a local environmental NGO that was used to inform their land management project”.
Vanessa Pilley, DEFRA
Your CV is not just a static document – remember to update it with new experiences and achievements, and tailor your CV to focus on your most relevant skills and experience for the particular role you’re applying for.
Focus on what’s relevant and cut what isn’t. But remember: how you present things is important. For example, hobbies that may seem irrelevant can be worded to show enthusiasm and relevant skills.
For CVs and covering letters, your university careers service may offer sessions where they review your CV with you and support you with advice to improve your CV or covering letter approach.
You can also find online resources to help you design a clear CV that showcases your skills and experiences in an engaging and appropriate way.
In terms of interviews, your university careers service may offer practice interviews, which can be a great way of refining your approach. You can search online for a wealth of advice on preparing for interviews, including ways to answer common questions like “why do you want to work for us?”!
Advice from the Society on Applications and interviews and CV writing
CV advice from Prospects.ac.uk, the University of Bedfordshire, the University of Portsmouth, the University of Oxford and TARGETjobs
Cover letter advice from National Careers Service, Prospects.ac.uk and the University of Manchester.
Interview tips from Prospects.ac.uk on interviews in general, common questions and questions for you to ask; and interview technique tips from the University of Oxford, University of Portsmouth and University of Manchester.
Tom Grahamslaw, WSP
Work experience takes many forms – and a full summer internship with a major sector company isn’t the only way to gain valid experience.
If you do want to find a 6–8-week summer placement or another formal internship programme, remember to plan this well in advance. To be aware of application deadlines and opportunities, follow relevant companies on social media and via their websites, and sign up for sector newsletters. Your university may share opportunities, so sign up for your careers service.
Kerry Parr, AECOM
However, you can also organise your own work experience. Don’t be afraid to contact local companies and organisations with ideas for a placement. You should research them beforehand: you may be able to identify particular areas of work you could support for a week or two.
Remember, even a day or two of informally shadowing someone at work can help you understand what a job involves, as well as demonstrating your interest and building contacts.
See the advice on networking above and be aware of your existing network. Your dissertation supervisor or tutor may have contacts they can put you in touch with, or your university alumni network may have a mentoring or careers network.
Not all these opportunities have to be taken up in person, there are a wealth of opportunities online,.
Cara Treasure, Pump Aid
Don’t be afraid to reach out to local organisations and businesses for shadowing or work experience. It’s best to contact a specific member of staff at an appropriate level. Emailing the CEO or an Enquiries@ email address may not get your interest noticed in a larger organisation. Emailing someone you’ve already spoken to at an event, with a specific request for advice or experience in a specific area, is much easier for the respondent to deal with.
You don’t have to be certain of your career path to seek work experience. It’s valid to use work experience to get a feel for which areas of work you like. You may find an area of work is unexpectedly interesting and choose to pursue it further.
Jonny Riggall, Stantec
Finally, geography dissertations give you a huge opportunity to showcase your skills. When planning your dissertation, consider linking with an organisation to undertake your research. They may have a project, problem or data set that you can work on. Of course, remember to ensure any work-based project will fulfil your academic requirements!
Advice on finding work experience, from Prospects.ac.uk, the University of Glasgow and the University of Oxford
Types of work experience – National Careers Service
Can your dissertation help you get a job? – Liverpool Hope Careers
Finally, learn to recognise and communicate the value of your geographical skills. Geography graduates are employable:
Last year, one study found geography had the highest proportion, while others have found that geography is comparable in employability to other STEM subjects and that geography grads have relatively high earnings.
Marie Gallagher, Hackney Council
If you’re not sure how to express the skills you’ve gained, have a look through our career profiles to understand which skills geographers use in the workplace, including how they apply geography specifically.
You can also see our Chartered Geographer framework of competencies to give you an idea of how to assess your own skills, and identify examples of how you’ve applied your geographical knowledge. There’s even a guide on how to use it – while new graduates probably won’t be eligible for CGeog yet, you’ll start to understand how your skills and experiences are the foundation to your developing career.
Creating a professional development plan using a self-assessment checklist – RGS-IBG
Writing reflexively about your professional practice – RGS-IBG
Professional behaviour is important in the workplace
Advocating for your profession and sharing your geographical knowledge and skills can be an excellent way to support and inspire other geographers.
Student-focused, step-by-step guides.
Ellie Highwood draws on her experience as a mentor and training as a coach to address some of the questions that often arise for mentors in the course of a mentoring relationship.
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