GeoLEAD: Career Services for Geoscience Graduates

Understanding specific user needs and flows to establish a new career services platform.

Challenge

The American Geophysical Union (AGU) is working towards creating GeoLEAD, a web portal that offers professional guidance to students in the geosciences to help catalyze a smooth transition into the workforce.

GeoLEAD would aim to provide students and recent graduates with career advice, effective job-seeking methods, and interview preparation all in one encompassing platform.

AGU decided what they wanted to do, but didn’t know what traits employers valued most in recent graduates, or how recent graduates might increase their chances of getting hired in the geosciences field. After receiving a federal grant to pursue this initiative, AGU enlisted our team to conduct research with target students and employers alike to discover and investigate key commonalities, discrepancies, and turning-points in the hiring process, and to identify ideal candidate qualities across various sub-industries.

Approach

The success of the platform is almost solely reliant on accuracy and evidence-based solutions, so it was crucial for us to develop a research plan that would allow us to hit all the right data points.

AGU knew what they wanted to accomplish with GeoLEAD, but needed help with the minute details and execution of the project.

The initial framework of the study called for interviews of 20 recent graduates and 20 employers; however, we soon discovered that graduate participants were unable to provide adequate insights into the hiring and job searching process. Consequently, we recommended research efforts to continue with a stronger focus on employers, who had distinct preferences and insights to offer regarding the types of graduates they hire and what makes their candidacy stand out.

Working in collaboration with project stakeholders, the EchoUser team developed a research strategy and tactical plan based on the direction provided by AGU, and crafted interviews that aligned with project goals. Over the span of three weeks, EchoUser conducted in-person and remote interviews with 21 employer participants and three graduate participants, and then parsed data for valuable insights that could inform the design and functional composition of GeoLEAD. Through these interviews, we were able to both quantify and qualify the most important traits to employers, which we compiled into an “ideal candidate persona” and presented to AGU along with the bulk of our findings at the conclusion of the study.

Impact

Our partners at AGU were pleased with our research findings to the extent that they called for a second round of research, in which we formatted and provided an alternate version of the findings presentation as a deliverable for AGU management to use and present internally.

With these key insights, AGU will be able to speak to students from a position of expertise and credibility, and offer an evidence-backed resource to help students improve their candidacy for professional roles in the geosciences field.

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