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Geographers and the Career Fair Week at UO!

It’s common for students to feel overwhelmed and uncertain at career fairs. What kinds of jobs can I do? What skills do I even have that they want? Do they hire geographers? Will they look at me blankly when I tell them I’m a geography major? What if I don’t like GIS and mapmaking? Will they ask me the capital of Burkina Faso? Aauuugh! (the capital is Ouagadougou, in case it comes up).

In reality, our students are very well-prepared, at least academically, for a career fair. The big trick is learning how to articulate all of the things you CAN ACTUALLY DO to an employer. If you’ve taken the Professional Geographer (GEOG 419), you’re on your way to doing this. If you haven’t (yet), there is still hope (email Dr. Leslie McLees, your advisor at

The Career Center is holding a week of activities designed to help prepare you for the Career Fair (See here for an even more in-depth list, which highlights certain employers holding extra workshops). This is brilliant. I particularly want to draw attention to the workshop on Tuesday about how to attend a career fair.
Here is an overview of the schedule:

  • Mon, Tues and Wed, Nov 6-8th
    Drop-In Career Advising Hours
    2 pm – 4pm          Career Center (in Hendricks Hall)
  • Mon, Nov 6th
    Workshop – Make the Most of the Fair
    11am                    Hendricks Hall
  • Tues, Nov 7th
    Workshop – What to Expect and How to Present Oneself
    11am                    Hendricks Hall
  • Wed, Nov 8th
    Pre-Fair Resume Check
    10am-2pm           Rec Center
  • Wed, Nov 8th
    Fall Networking Night
    5pm-7pm             EMU Ballroom
  • Th, Nov 9th
    Fall Career Fair
    12pm-4pm           EMU Ballroom
  • Fri, Nov 10th
    Fall Fair Interviews
    9am-4pm             EMU Ballroom

It’s difficult to just show up to a career fair without doing any preparation. First, you’ll get nervous and lose your motivation to go. Second, you won’t be prepared to think creatively about both the types of jobs you CAN do, and the types of jobs that these companies might have! Sometimes, even the recruiters don’t fully understand the breadth of what their companies do. It’s true, many get stuck in a business mindset, and don’t realize that Target will hire GIS Analysts and social science researchers. The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Service will hire Data analysts AND biogeographers. Business, non-profits AND government want people who can think creatively across disciplinary divides (wait… economic development thinking might benefit from an environmental perspective? Where are the geographers!).

Do some RESEARCH on the employers you are interested in. There are 104 employers attending this event. Check them out here (upper left hand box). Get creative and think about what you can offer. They likely have a job for that!

Think about what you have learned. The top 10 skills that companies are interested in aren’t GIS or accounting. They are:
Ability to work as a team
Written communication
Oral communication
Strong work ethic
Analytical/ quantitative skills

There’s more, including detail-oriented, organization, friendly, interpersonal skills, etc.

Notice something? These are predominantly soft-skills. You can be trained how to push buttons. What employers want are people who can think critically to solve problems and effectively communicate! That’s what a degree in the liberal arts gets you. And since you’re studying what you really like (because who doesn’t like geography?!), you’re effectively learning those skills. Think about course projects (story maps? research paper?), clubs, volunteering, jobs, anything!

Don’t get caught up in job titles. Most of them are vague and don’t reflect what the entirety of the position. Keep an open mind. There’s won’t be a job title called Political Geographer or Person interested in the interactions between the Environment and Development. Instead, think about what you’re interested in (migration, refugees, resource use, climate change, spatial analysis, social justice, tree pollen) and find a way to talk about it. When you talk about what you’re passionate about, you will come across in a much more positive light and stick in the mind of that recruiter.

By the way, I can always help you learn to articulate these things in a career advising session ( or, our regular academic advising, or in GEOG 419 in Winter 2018! Or, while many of the jobs adds are slightly out of date (i’ll update it soon!), look at all the resources on this page.

Take resumes! You just never know…
But make sure it’s a well-formatted one. There are a million templates online. Do not be fancy, just get your info across to the reader.

Finally, think about the open ended yet answerable like…
-What kind of entry-level positions exist within your company?
-What does your company consider the 5 most important qualities in an employee?
-What courses do you suggest in order to be a successful candidate?
-What is the typical career path of an entry level employee?

Good luck! And let me know if you have any questions!
– Dr. Leslie McLees