Skills in the Liberal Arts & Geography
This page provides come context for the skills you are developing in your geography courses. Like any step in career development, you are going to need to sit down, take time, reflect, and think about how you can articulate your skills.
Do NOT just skip over job qualifications that seem nebulous, like leadership or critical thinking. You NEED to demonstrate you can do this, clearly, articulately and succinctly.
Think about how you would answer the question: Tell me about a time you demonstrated good problem-solving skills. Be able to give a clear, grounded, and if possible, exciting, example. Let’s consider how you are developing those skills now:
Consider that for a course in Political Geography, you has to write a 10-15 page paper on the subject of your choice. You decide to write on the issues surrounding the Rohingya refugee crisis in Myanmar. In order to write a paper worthy of your knowledge about the subject, you need to do several things, including:
- generate a research question;
- conduct archival research online (and maybe even in the library!);
- organize data;
- analyze data;
- draw conclusions;
- engage in some critical thinking to make informed conclusions;
- write an effective paper;
- deliver a coherent presentation.
Throughout all of this you had to:
- effectively manage your time;
- develop an interest in the subject;
- reflect on the ethics of how you are portraying all sides of the issue;
- stay focused on the task, despite many fascinating and frankly depressing stories.
Look at all of the skills you used! Now think of other projects or tasks you have completed for your coursework. Here is a list to get you started, but I strongly suggest you think beyond this list if possible!
- Leading discussions
- Using social media for a course project
- Making on-site visits during field trips
- Group projects
- Writing essays
- Other types of large projects (policy brief, creative work)
- Making maps
- Doing a data analysis project
- Taking field measurements
- Conducting interviews for a project
- Don’t forget your involvement in student clubs, sports, leadership, and volunteering!
There are many more ways you are engaging with material and doing things that help you develop your skills. Let’s think again about those transferable skills. We’ve touched on a few, but here is a longer list:
- Critical thinking (being able to understand an issue from multiple points of view)
- Creative thinking
- Effective verbal and written communication
- How to ask questions (this is huge!)
- How to design solutions and answer those questions
- Time management (also huge!)
- Data analysis (not just statistics. Qualitative data analysis is also important)
- Teamwork (every college students’ favorite thing)
- Interpersonal communication
- Effective listening
- Making ethical decisions
- Personal motivation
- Research skills
- Visual presentation skills
- Flexibility/ adaptability
Remember: You will develop all of these skills more effectively if you study what you enjoy. And geography is a fun subject to study!
But what about the specific skills that geography helps you develop? What do you say when someone asks “Why do you study geography?”
Geography Specific Skills
- An appreciation for and understanding of human-environment dynamics (or understanding how multiple systems interact)
- A global perspective (or a scalar perspective: an appreciation for and understanding of how processes at different scales can influence each other).
- Various field methods (surveying, collecting GPS points and metadata, tree or lake coring, measuring stream flow, using reflectometers and rain gauges, etc).
- Human geography methods such as surveys, observation, or interviews
- Cartography (visual hierarchy, color theory, etc.)
- Programming (Python or R, or ?)
- Using drones and analyzing the data
- Analyzing aerial photography
- Understanding spatial patterns
The fun thing about geography is that it has such a reputation of being about trivia. When you can explain what it is really about, understanding the processes that shape places, people become intrigued. Use that to your advantage when explaining geography to anyone, whether you skeptical uncle or a potential employer.
You’ve made ti the bottom of this page, so here is a treat. What are the skills that the Unipiper has likely developed?
Creativity, problem-solving, communication (for booking himself around the northwest and use of use of social media), critical thinking (how to create a niche market!), time management, visual presentation skills, interpersonal communication, flexibility, adaptability, personally motivated, and more!
Just FYI: The Unipier does have a day job as an acquisitions manager. Way to keep a work life balance!