Why care about [graduate] Human Geographers?

7 Jun

This post is a response to the thought provoking comment from Ed Hannifan on my ‘About’ page. He raised four questions which, in my opinion, every graduate of Human Geography should carefully consider:

1. What’s the point in knowing about any of the stuff we have been taught over the past three years or so?

Well, that is a question that is both subjective and complex in nature. For a start, everybody ‘knows’ different things because nobody has the same experience at University, be it differing units of study (or modules) or uneven levels of learning. Furthermore, it is up to the student to decide whether what they are learning is important or not. This aside and in the interest in finding ‘the point in knowing’, I would suggest the following:

There is a difference between knowing and applying. – ‘that IS the point’

All of the ‘stuff’ we are taught during our Geography degrees only has a point if we can apply it to everyday life, from work to play. For example, the most knowledgeable person in the world (a walking dictionary if you like) is useless unless they can apply themselves.

2. Why would your employer care if you’ve learnt about a disfunctional family of topics and concepts, taught by a bunch or fairly parochial aged men?

I am not sure Human Geography is a ‘disfunctional family’, more of a vast, interlinked monster which lurks everywhere?! (Although, if you want to label Geography dysfunctional, surely this a credit to our ability to deal with diversity?) Moreover, it is the skills we have nourished which is the important factor(s) here. An employer will not care so much about your discipline per se, as long has you can effectively demonstrate how they are at benefit from your presence in their organisation. This leads on nicely to Ed’s next point:

3. Why we are at an advantage having learnt the things we have?

Perhaps otherwise put as “What is the unique selling point of a geographer?” – Literature on student employability will tell you a list of classic examples (See See Rees et al. 2007). However, I will stress that it is down to the individual to make their own advantage; nobody should have to tell you what you have, right?

4. Why should anyone else care that we learnt the things we did?

It is not why they should they care, it is how can we make them care?! Why would anybody care about anything? – Because they are told or convinced they should care.

What Ed has (perfectly and rather conveniently) hit on here is a motive of this blog. I am not claiming to have answered Ed’s questions and you will have noticed that I have only suggested how they can be answered. This is deliberate as I firmly believe that giving Human Geographers a group identity is challenging due to the diverse nature of the subject and the individuals involved. As I view it, the key for graduate Geographers is to minimise your internal competition (against other geographers) whilst maximising your collective identity (making people care about Geographers); surely a paradox? No, innovative and original movers should be noticed first. An individual person cannot represent the whole of Human Geography, it is just too vast. It is the individual’s application of their knowledge and skills which is crucial to graduates.

Geography is what you make it; once you have decided what you have made, only then can you sell it.

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2 Responses to “Why care about [graduate] Human Geographers?”

  1. Simon Faulkner June 11, 2010 at 9:21 pm #

    Hi Team! Man alive there is some great thinking going on on this cheeky little blog, and I have just thought of some ideas following on from the end of Robbie’s ‘Why Care about Human Geography’ reply to Ed.

    Robbie, you end with ‘Geography is what you make it; once you have decided what you have made, only then can you sell it’, and I think your point from your first post about being a product to ‘sell’ is common knowledge and has been since about year 12, but I would argue that I don’t see myself as necessarily trying to sell geography to anyone, and I would potentially argue that employers are not often even looking for the skills that geographers or human geographers or whatever have in the first place. They are looking to see what kind of person you are, if you have good interpersonal skills, a willingness to learn, can work in a team, and will ‘fit in’ to their working environment with the least hassle and angst to them. It occurred to me that many of these skills, if not all of them, I had before even attending university, as is the case with yourself and Ed. As a result, it occurred to me the other day (while being taught something at my current job), that anyone can be taught the skills that human geographers are supposed to have, and if you have the aforementioned skills then it almost boils down to a degree being ‘just a thing to put on your CV’.

    To further explain myself; someone could be a ‘Human Geography Monster’, and could analyse the crap out of stuff, and find links to other things all day long etc etc, and be a complete twat, with a lack of common sense, logic, and interpersonal skills, and that would potentially upset any working environment they are slotted into.

    Also referring Robbie, to your sentence ‘However, I will stress that it is down to the individual to make their own advantage; nobody should have to tell you what you have, right?’I would argue that this is not always the case. I personally have found that it has only when a friend or acquaintance has pointed out a quality (or not!)about me, that it is suddenly made much more aware to me, and I make an effort to either capitalize on it, or alternatively try to stop it.

    Really all I am getting at is that perhaps the skills we have learnt in our degree are ones that would have been taught to us as our lives had gone on, in different jobs and meeting different people and having different experiences, and our degree was simply a quicker way to heighten our awareness of them and provide a false sense of having already got them. In the end, I think, nothing can replace experience and personality, and our degrees did nothing (that I can think of at this time of night anyway) to develop my personality, or to practice our application of human geography in the workplace, if it indeed has a place their at all.

    Anyway their are some of my thoughts and ramblings for any interested. Good job setting this bad boy up Robbie! GOOD EFFORT.

    Party on

    Simon x

  2. Simon Faulkner June 11, 2010 at 9:24 pm #

    Ps. I have just re-read this and it is full of spelling mistakes. I apologize. I am very tired.

    Peace x

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