In Part 1, I posted a line of questioning I received from a soon-to-graduate geography major. You’ll want to go back and read Part 1 if you haven’t already because otherwise my response may not make sense. My response is in 3 parts: (1) summer suggestions, (2) hitting the job market next year, and (3) long-term (3-5 years) career positioning. In today’s post I’ll cover summer suggestions.
In regards to your original question (“what should I do this summer?”), my advice is to do a little bit of everything, at least until you find something that sticks.
- Can you do an independent study class where you learn some database technology like SQL Server (cost of developer license is nominal) or MySQL (free) and also learn some R and work a few hours a week stitching together .shp files?
- Do it all if you can manage, but limit the .shp file work – they would most likely just be taking advantage of your need for experience in exchange for grunt work. Maybe 10 hours a week or something so you can still list it as a legit internship but don’t have to slave doing advanced data entry all summer.
- For the database piece try to come up with a real-world project that would be interesting to you that will force you to learn a few things about being a geospatial database administrator.
- Same thing for the R piece – can you find a relatively simple project that will give you a taste for the spatial statistician route and use R to conduct the data analysis?
- You should probably combine the two to get more bang for your buck. I might be able to come up with an idea for a project. If you’re interested, leave a comment and I’ll get in touch.
- Keep it simple and FINISH. The project doesn’t have to be fancy, just something involving real data, some basic analysis and a presentation of the results (with maps and data graphics). The key is to finish the project and create something for a portfolio.
Try to find a professor who knows something about a bunch of these technologies. If that’s not possible, try to find an open minded professor who is willing to supervise an exploratory independent study so you can earn a few credits. If you don’t need credits, then just go out and do the best you can. Use your time to be creative
so you have something to show people in September. Let me know if I can provide assistance – I can probably point you in the right direction and provide a bit of guidance but I don’t have time to become your tutor.
[By the way, there’s a new open source statistical package that purports to be just like SPSS. It’s called PSPP and you can download it here
. Maybe try that if you don’t like R. I’m guessing it would be easier to learn and, like R, it’s free. I haven’t tried it yet but I plan to check it out soon. Yes, geographers are allowed to use “regular” statistics (as long as you remain wary of spatial autocorrelation
). Not everything requires an ESRI product. GeoDa
is another program worth exploring. There are many others that I should probably list but I’ll leave that for another blog post.]
My analogy for career clarity and discovery, and I’ll expand a bit in my next post, is to treat it like you might approach a visit to a new microbrewery. It’s often best to start by ordering a sampler rather than going straight for a full pint. If you don’t try a taste of everything you won’t know what you’re missing ….or your senses will be dull by the time you get through the entire menu (btw, I arrived at this analogy after many years of laborious market research).
In follow up posts I’ll cover (2) hitting the job market and (3) long term career positioning. Have a great summer!