Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Careers abound for geography enthusiasts

Today's guest blog comes from Sharon Sherman, one of CAPS' Career Advisors who specializes in working with graduate students and postdoctoral fellows and who has a keen interest in geography and urban planning.

“Wear comfortable shoes!” As a newcomer attending the 2013 Association of American Geographers (AAG) Annual Meeting, this was the first tip I received from a friendly AAG staff member.

Following the advice we offer students – taking action to create opportunities (a tenet of career management and engagement) – I ventured off to Los Angeles to experience this massive geo-centric event.

The high level of organization required for 7,000 to 8,000 attendees and 5,000 plus presentations and papers was impressive indeed. This comprehensive geography conference, quite possibly the largest in the world, attracts international attention and participation. It’s not surprising then that the AAG offers an actual Newcomers’ Guide to the Annual Meeting. What was surprising was the friendly and welcoming ambiance – almost a ‘down home’ feel – that made me want to proclaim “I want to be a geographer!”

Coming from a career development perspective, I was fortunate to participate as a Career Mentor at the Jobs & Careers Center. Throughout the week, the Center offered career and work search advice, networking opportunities, job postings plus a plethora of well-developed resources. I thoroughly enjoyed my interactions with students and professionals from around the world and was truly inspired by their enthusiasm and commitment. I was amazed at how fresh and energetic several participants seemed even after arriving from distant places on marathon flights.

AAG’s top-notch job and career support emphasizes the transformation of geography degrees into practice, strongly reflecting the approach we take right here at CAPS by adopting the career management model of life-long learning and discovery based on the works of John Krumboltz and Al Levin (Luck is no Accident) and Herminia Ibarra (Working Identity).

Out of numerous tempting field trip options, I selected cutting-edge geographic information systems (GIS) developer ESRI, altered landscapes of Palos Verdes Peninsula, scenic Mulholland Highway and recently $100M renovated Dodger Stadium. The field trips provided wonderful opportunities for learning about local initiatives and making fruitful connections. For example, on the Mulholland trip we were introduced to various conservation groups and I had the pleasure of meeting Harvard Librarian George E. Clark who organized the excellent thought-provoking session “Geographers in the Library: The New Landscape” with U of A’s own Elizabeth Wallace contributing as a panelist. During the trip, the urge to locate homes of the stars proved irresistible even for this crew of dedicated geographers.

Other standout points for me included learning about the multi-faceted interdisciplinary nature of geography, the immeasurable potential of GIS applications and the postdoctoral program offered by NASA. Since my return, I have already incorporated much of the information I gained into my career advising sessions.

Encapsulating the sheer magnitude of the AAG’s Annual Meeting might seem like a challenging task. What would I say if asked for a nutshell version? Easy - it’s a place to meet friends. Next year, Tampa!

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