Building the Resume and Marketing Yourself

Return to Tips for Getting a Job in Geography.

The average resume is scanned for about ten seconds.  Since your resume may be the 35th one the selector looks at that day, you must think of resumes as an attention-getting device, not just as an objective story of your life.  That means you need above all to think about your reader: what is she/he looking for?  It's best to know plenty about the company and the job but, short of that, you can assume employers hire people who can help them immediately, who won't require a lot of hand-holding, and who have hands-on experience at similar jobs.  Employers also look for people with good academic records (which demonstrates consistency, predictability and responsibility).

Sample Resumes

Sample Resume #1 Sample Resume #2 Sample Resume #3 Dr. Bertolas' Resume

What job or type of job are you looking for?  State the title of the position, if known.  If you are using this resume for general purposes, be as specific as possible without limiting job possibilities.  It's hard to say how specific to be: "Planner" is a little vague; "transportation planner" is better; "transportation planning, with an emphasis on trip analysis and ride demographics and trends" may be better yet, depending on the job.  State the type of position, setting and skills and abilities you would like to be able to use: "GIS position with a private firm where my skills in cartography can be used."  If you are unfocused as to the type of position you seek, consider omitting this section from your resume.

Include your degree dates (expected or earned).  List any Geography emphasis or similar course work related to your objectives (e.g., courses in Computer Science, International Business, Urban Design and Planning, etc.).  Mention your honors, scholarships and awards.  State your GPA if it is above 3.0.  Spell everything out: "Bachelor of Arts in Geography, Wayne State College.  Expected date of completion: May 9.  Cumulative grade point average: 3.5.  Economic development emphasis in geography, with additional course work in economics, marketing and urban geography."  Use the GPA that is to your best advantage: GPA in major, last two years' GPA, etc.

List all relevant experience, paid or voluntary and even if it was only for a short time.  If a number of jobs were for short periods, omit dates in this section.  Emphasize skills and abilities you have learned, responsibilities you have had, and accomplishments you have made.  You can pull "transferable" related skills from unrelated positions: in one example, the applicant was a secretary at a real estate company, but emphasized the knowledge and technical skills she learned and used there: software, zoning information, etc.

Skills To Develop and Put On Your Resume
As a social science major, develop and market the following skills:
Bibliographic skills; data identification, analysis, presentation.
Geographic information system and computer mapping skills.
Statistical software; descriptive and inferential statistics.
Understanding of social patterns, problems, forces.
Spreadsheets, word processing, graphics software.
Ability to meet a variety of overlapping deadlines.
Organization and attention to details.
Census data analysis.
Land use analysis.
Writing ability.

As a Geography major, you might emphasize the following skills:
Synthesizing data (i.e., population, housing, environmental concerns).
Understand and produce charts, graphs, and tables.
Identify and gather data, turning it into map form.
Ability to write, prepare reports, present data.

  Technical Skills
This is the section to demonstrate the applicability of your major.  Without misrepresenting your ability to walk into a job and start using these skills, don't hesitate to mention your analytical skills.  Also important: expertise in word processing, spreadsheet, data base, and graphics software; statistical skills (especially SPSS or Microcase); comfort with mainframes; cartographic and GIS skills (e.g. ArcView software); and survey design and other research skills (e.g., familiarity with census data and other government documents).  If you've written a lot of papers, and especially if you've done an honors paper in Geography, list writing as a skill.  Most employers are desperate for good writers.

Available upon request, have a nicely-printed list ready to go--and make sure to alert your references, and supply them with a copy of your resume.

  Helpful Hints
Get your resume either professionally printed or done on a laser printer.  Don't include personal information (age, weight, marital status, etc.).  Make two or three resumes in case your job search leads you in different directions. Use action verbs and short phrases.  Complete sentences not necessary.

And never, ever lie or misrepresent yourself on a resume.  People get fired for this!

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