By Larry Collins, PhD Candidate Washington State University

As you near the end of your degree programs, you may have several questions floating around in your mind.  What do I want to do now that I am graduating?  What avenues can I take to ensure that I can have the career/job that I desire most?  Who may serve as the best resources outside of my university to aide me with achieving these career goals?  As part of the 2019 Geological Society of America Annual Meeting hosted on 22-25 September 2019, the GeoCareers events helped students get answers to these burning questions.  To ensure the success of the events, the GeoCareers Ad-Hoc Planning Committee worked to make them as broad and inclusive as possible so that there was something for everyone.  The program was designed to ensure that students who were actively looking for a job, and students who were not quite ready for the job market yet could benefit from the GeoCaeers events, which focused on educating student attendees about the diversity of non-academic careers available to them in the geosciences.  The GeoCareers program included several key events including the Geoscience Career Workshop, Company Lightning Talks, GeoCareers Panel Luncheon, and the Company Connection.  The objectives for each of these events are described below.

Geoscience Career Workshop
Presenters offered information about workforce data, including salary, employment trends, and projections. Presenters also reviewed the fundamentals of crafting a résumé and how to best utilize the USAJOBS database for applications for federal employment.

Lima Soto (National Park Service) providing career advice on careers in the federal government.
Lima Soto (National Park Service) providing career advice on careers in the federal government.

Company Lightning Talks
This event featured talks from sponsoring companies who discussed types of positions, where recruitment happens, and work culture. Participating companies included Chesapeake Energy Corporation, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Hess Corporation, and Newmont Goldcorp.

Panel Luncheon
Representatives from government and industry sectors answered questions and offered advice in preparation for a career in different fields.  Participants included Brandy Barnes (Draper Aden Associates), Terry Briggs (Newmont Goldcorp), J.P. Dube (Chesapeake Energy), Alicia Kahn (Chevron Energy Technology Co.), Greg Liggett (Bureau of Land Management), Bruce Schmacher (U.S. Forest Service), Limaris (Lima) Soto (National Park Service), and Lisa White (UC Museum of Paleontology).  Read tips offered by these panelists. 

Company Connection
Booths set up in the Exhibits Hall showcased companies and agencies who were eager to answer career questions.

Students learning about career options from company representatives at the company connection booths.
Students learning about career options from company representatives at the company connection booths.

As you consider your future pathway in the geosciences, here are some highlighted tips from presenters:

Projected Geoscience Workforce Development
Christopher Keane from the American Geosciences Institute said that the geosciences will see an increase in the number of positions needed to be filled in the coming years.  Sectors that will see the largest rise in project employment include Environmental Science Technicians (9.2%), Environmental Engineering Technicians (8.9%), Environmental Scientists (8.2%), Atmospheric and Space Scientists (8.0%), and Soil and Plant Scientists (7.8%).  The nature of these careers is changing, but availability of jobs will increase.  We must think about this from a future perspective as today’s geoscientists are being trained to work into the 2060s!

Curriculum Vitae or Résumé?
Katie Mangus from Chesapeake Energy described a résumé as your sales pitch and your way of conveying the education, skills, accomplishments, and experiences you have to a prospective employer.  Résumés help show that you are qualified for the position you are seeking and focus on skills and relevant work experiences for the position you are applying to. Résumés are usually one-page in length for an entry level job seeker.  Your complete work history is considered a curriculum vitae (CV) and may be multiple pages in length.

Tips for Organizing Your Résumé
You should always know who your target audience is.  List your relevant work experience for the position first followed by research and field experience.  Research and field experiences should be put into several key bullet points and internships can be included under work experience.  Make sure to list the specific skills you have and software that you are able to use.  When reflecting on how long your résumé should be, one panelist stated “As a director, I usually ignore anything over two pages.  I assume the person is confused and has trouble explaining their value in a concise manner.  If you cannot be concise on a résumé, then you probably cannot be in a business setting either.”  Always seek feedback on your résumé to ensure it is as concise as possible.

Tips for Interviewing
If the prospective employer is impressed by your résumé and they want to interview you, be sure to research the company’s website, double check the date and time of your interview (you don’t want to be late), come up with three to five questions to ask during the interview, and participate in mock interviews with your friends and family.

Interview Pitfalls
Make a lasting impression to the prospective employer by avoiding some common mistakes.  These include asking questions that are outside of the relevant job including questions about age, religion, politics (employers should not ask you these questions either), and pay, benefits (this will be discussed if an offer is made). Make sure not to voice anything negative about a previous employer and avoid negative body language (i.e. staring at the floor, slouching, and crossed arms).  Always have questions prepared for the interview panel.  If you don’t, then the interview panel may think that you are not really interested in the job for which you are applying.

Navigating the Federal Hiring Process
Lima Soto from the National Park Service shared several tips for navigating career options with the federal government.  For federal jobs and careers, she advised to set up an account on USAJOBS where all federal jobs are listed. Be sure to attend USAJOBS webinars and career fairs and have a master résumé available and modify it for each position you apply for.  Make sure to get experience, volunteer, and keep a document that lists all of your professional skills and relevant experience.

Company representatives at the GeoCareers Panel Luncheon.
Company representatives at the GeoCareers Panel Luncheon.

As a member of the GeoCareers Ad Hoc Committee, I interviewed students and collected data from company representatives to gather feedback and help improve the program for next year.  Here are some of the thoughts and perceptions that attendees and company representatives had to say about GeoCareers this year:

“As a student, I am still trying to navigate what exact career path I want to go down.  It is helpful to know where to find data on current job trends and where there will be a need for geoscientists in two years when I graduate.  The insight offered from the speakers at the Career Workshop helped me understand what I need to focus on in order to have my dream career in the future.”

“Thank you for the advice that was shared at GSA regarding marketing oneself…Thank you very much for looking over my CV, and for your vote of confidence!—Student

“Each of the company representatives that I talked to were so friendly yet critical at the same time.  That is one of the best things about this mentoring event is having the “critical friend” that they tell us we need in graduate school.”—Student

“I presented at the round table on Sunday—I felt it was better attended in other years…I learned a lot from the other presenters so I found it an interesting session and their responses were very helpful and geared to support of early job hunters.”—Company representative

“The students really make GeoCareers every year.  I was astounded by the depth of questions that my student who I was mentoring asked me.  I find it to be a new intellectual challenge each year at GSA when I receive the opportunity to be a part of an event like this.  The broader diversity of options at this year’s event has seemed to be so helpful to students who are trying to navigate the job market.”—Company Representative

I’d like to offer a special thank you to all of the mentors, students, and members of the GeoCareers Ad-Hoc Planning Committee in helping to make this a successful program!  We look forward to seeing you again next year in Montreal for your chance to learn about the many career options available to you in the geosciences.

For more career resources and information (including recorded webinars on careers in the geosciences), please visit GSA’s GeoCareers website.

Larry B. Collins, Jr. is a member of GSA GeoCareers Ad-Hoc Planning Committee and is the Geoscience Education Division Representative to GSA’s Student Advisory Council.