December 14, 2020
Given the change of course that has happened in the world, we wanted to provide expert opinions on what aspiring graduates can do to start off their careers in an uncertain economic climate. We wanted to know what skills will be more important, where the economy is doing relatively well, and if there will be any lasting effects on the job market.
Companies are looking for candidates that can handle the new responsibilities of the job market. Recent graduates actually have an advantage because they are comfortable using newer technologies and have been communicating virtually their whole lives. They can take what they've learned and apply it immediately.
We spoke to professors and experts from several universities and companies to get their opinions on where the job market for recent graduates is heading, as well as how young graduates entering the industry can be adequately prepared. Here are their thoughts.
University of Indianapolis
Central Connecticut State University
University of Puget Sound
Michigan Technological University
Montclair State University
Jessica K. Graybill: Coronavirus has brought both challenges and benefits to university students. Disruption of the in-person college experience has meant that students have needed to communicate their needs more clearly and readily to professors and deans, to become more responsible as campus - and global - citizens, and to be more flexible about what is possible for personal growth at this unprecedented moment. These are all lessons - personal and professional - that will assist graduates well as they enter workplaces also changed by the virus.
Jessica K. Graybill: Creativity and analytical skills are key, alongside the willingness to be familiar with a range of digital applications. For example, it will no longer be enough to just know SPSS or ArcGIS - students need to be familiar with navigating other digital and open-access platforms for data analysis. Entering the workforce in a post-pandemic world, Gen Z will need to be flexible about the times and places in which work occurs (in an office or from home), able to accommodate the health needs of themselves and others, and capable of engaging with - and perhaps even introducing - multiple kinds of digital programs and communications devices as they are rolled out and that will continue to connect us in new ways, and not always in person.
Jessica K. Graybill: A student majoring in economics to go into finance is one in a million and doesn't stand out. It's the unusual background that distinguishes a good resume from a great resume. For example, adding mad spatial analytical skills or fluency in a lesser spoken language to the economics skills changes the equation and makes a graduate memorable. Interesting resumes emphasize unique personal and professional paths because this indicates a graduate's mix of in-depth interests and endeavors that include creativity, risk-taking, and flexibility.
David Polly Ph.D.: It is difficult to say if the pandemic will have an enduring impact on graduates in geosciences. If it does, it is likely to accelerate changes in the job market that were already underway. Thirty years ago most graduates went into petroleum, coal, or other fossil fuel energy careers. The proportion of people going into those jobs has already been declining because of changes in hiring practices by energy companies and society changes in attitudes about fossil fuel. Because the pandemic has put a strong damper on travel, many of those companies have temporarily stopped hiring and have laid off workers. That trend may well continue. Meanwhile jobs in environmental geology, other sorts of mineral exploration, GIS, remediation, and research seem likely to continue to grow.
David Polly Ph.D.: Basic knowledge in earth sciences, ability to creatively analyze data, and adaptability. It is rare for a job for a graduate to not require data analysis, sometimes lots of it. Someone who can combine those skills with a firm foundation in earth sciences is likely to be very employable.
David Polly Ph.D.: Evidence of a good foundation in earth science and analytical skills stands out. That might be through degrees, coursework, internships, or other job experience. A combination of both will serve job applicants well.
Central Connecticut State University
Charles Button Ph.D.: Graduating geographers wishing to succeed in today's workforce need to have the following skills:
- Identify and classify physical and human features of the environment
- Observe, collect, and record geographic information from both primary and secondary sources
- Interpret maps, tables, graphs, photographs, and fieldwork data
- Organize and present information in a coherent manner
Charles Button Ph.D.: A geographer's resume should be sure to highlight skills and accomplishments that will distinguish them from others. Some of the more important things to include on a resume are:
- Certificates (e.g., GIS certificate)
- Volunteer activities related to the job field you are applying to
- Honors (e.g., awards received)
Jeffrey Tepper Ph.D.: "I don't foresee any long-term COVID impacts on the geology job market. Employment in the environmental consulting fields (e.g., groundwater, slope stability, clean-ups) will only strengthen as:
-Water resource management becomes more critical.
-The Biden administration returns us to more environmentally-aware policies.
-Population growth drives development.
-The reality of climate change necessitates more long-term planning for natural disasters.
I suspect employment in the oil and gas industry will shrink, and coal, of course, is dead. "
Jeffrey Tepper Ph.D.: The ability to write is always essential. Competence with data management tools/interpretation is also necessary (EXCEL at a minimum, and preferably additional mathematical/statistical packages, such as MATLAB or R). The same goes for GIS (ArcMap or QGIS).
Jeffrey Tepper Ph.D.: A student who has completed an undergraduate thesis has demonstrated a degree of independence / self-motivation / ability to meet a project - all essential traits in 'the real world.' Another resume 'enhancers' would be internships, working for the geologic firm (summer or part-time during the school year), or being a lab assistant (demonstrating skills with analytical equipment or methods). Anything relevant to the geoscience field that shows initiative, reliability, and creativity. Most geology graduates will have taken a similar slate of courses, so 'standing out' requires more than just good grades.
Winifred Curran Ph.D.: The pandemic has led to a tightening in the labor market that allows employers to be far demanding in terms of the skill sets and levels of experience they expect from potential employees. Workers are expected to do more with less and to have a broad array of skills. One thing the pandemic has highlighted is that everything is connected; we need to think holistically about issues, regardless of the economic sector. Luckily, geographers are well placed to do this.
Winifred Curran Ph.D.: GIS is only becoming more important across a variety of sectors, corporate, governmental, and nonprofit, and understanding how to use the technology to solve real world problems, without replicating the injustices that have often come with technological developments in key.
Winifred Curran Ph.D.: I see a bright future for geography graduates. Geographers literally study the world; they understand the connections between people and place, nature, and the built environment. And they acquire both critical thinking and technological skills that allow for a more complex understanding of how we make the world a better place.
Nathan Manser Ph.D.: Students working towards full-time employment in the mining industry need to pursue summer internships and co-ops to show that they can 1) be trained and 2) work within a technical team. Students who have a perspective on the mining industry's multidisciplinary nature will be more effective as entry-level employees.
Nathan Manser Ph.D.: In geosciences, and particular mining engineering, students on a gap year should explore graduate certificate opportunities that expand their skill sets in lifecycle assessment, geographical information systems, geospatial engineering, field sampling techniques, or other marketable skills that complement their interests in the industry. Even the traditional MBA would be a good compliment for students looking to be involved with the management side of mining instead of operations.
Nathan Manser Ph.D.: Engineers must be up-to-date on the latest digital technologies and be involved with how these techs will revolutionize the mining industry. As society demands more socially responsible actions from mining companies, the advancing digital revolution will provide the tools needed to manage a zero-impact mining operation. Students that get on board with that now will have a significant advantage.
Amy Tuininga Ph.D.: Many positions are moving to remote work, resulting in reduced commuting, less dedicated office space per employee, slightly more flexible work schedules, more deliverable-based work, and broad cross-geographic teams working together from different home locations. We see other trends moving to more analytics and tech/electronic sector positions and fewer positions in the service and hospitality industries. This means that graduates may need to rethink their skill set and be ready to apply it to different sectors than they had initially anticipated. For Sustainability, this means more focus on data analysis and reporting in areas such as climate change, emissions, energy efficiency, renewable energy, waste, supply chain, and food security.
Amy Tuininga Ph.D.: Efforts are moving most expeditiously toward developing renewable energy and energy storage, more efficient and more environmentally friendly types of renewable energy, human-interface technologies related to this, such as smart thermostats and smart meters, and developing access for all communities - energy justice and a Just Transition. The second is mapping using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) - smart technology integrated with global positioning and drones.
Amy Tuininga Ph.D.: The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted that jobs related to renewable energy - particularly solar energy and, to a slightly lesser extent, off-shore wind energy - would show the most significant increases in employment over the next decade. Some of these data, though, are based on the 2010 census. It will be interesting to see the new set of data coming out from the 2020 census. Regardless, the solar industry is increasing.
Candice Luebbering Ph.D.: Graduates entering the workforce need to have a strong understanding of the fundamentals of their field. These will consistently inform and guide their work while the specific technology and platforms they use may change from job-to-job, or task-to-task. Having a solid foundation in core concepts, combined with the adaptability to learn and become familiar with new tools and software, will greatly help graduates in the job market.
Candice Luebbering Ph.D.: Surveying and mapping technicians are needed throughout the country as government and businesses incorporate and implement more geospatial data and technology in their regular operations.
Candice Luebbering Ph.D.: Geospatial technologies continue to evolve. Those working in the field will need to stay up to date with the latest trends, tools, and software available so they are prepared for new job opportunities, to collaborate with colleagues in the field, and to communicate the technological options and possibilities with employers, customers, or clients.