Monday, February 10, 2020

5 Solid Tips for Finding a New Job in GIS for experienced GIS Professionals

I have been advising a large amount of college students for years on how to find a job in GIS after they graduate.  The advice stream started when I hired them as interns; usually four years before they graduated.  I recall one student intern who I hired without seeing him in person. He showed up with his Mom one day and had blue hair with a Mohawk.  Good advice.  Blue hair, a Mohawk, and a job today don't mix. Call me old fashioned if you must but it's old guys (and old gals too) like me that make a lot of hiring decisions and we, for the most part, don't like blue hair.  Mainly because our conservative customers who pay us don't like blue hair and Mohawks either.  Everything else is okay really but blue hair with a Mohawk.   Really you got to draw the line somewhere.

Most of my interns got jobs if they followed my advice.  I’ll do a separate post on how to prepare yourself for entry level jobs later.  Today I want to focus on folks who have at least a few years under their belt doing serious GIS work.

At my last GIS management job in Maryland I not only advised students on how to find jobs, I advised my staff on how to advance themselves as well.  That may have been a mistake as if they actually followed my advice, and many of them did, they quit working for me and went to work for someone else.  But I am glad for them that I was able to mentor them to advance themselves.  But then one day it was myself who decided to find a new job. And I followed my own advice as an example to my guild members.

There are many reasons why you may decide to start looking for a new job.  Here are some of them;

·        *   You hate going to work in the morning for any reason such as, well; if you do hate going to work in the morning you know the reasons so I am not going to rattle them off.

·        *  You have a pretty good idea that you are being way underpaid for your region and you don’t see any room for advancement in your current organization.

·         *  You spent the last five years doing the same thing, which you may actually like for the most part, but you feel you want to broaden your career experience.

·        *   Or you may be like me and end up going through a major life change that has nothing to do with work at all.  That’s how I ended up in Bermuda as an example.

Tip #1

Follow my Mom’s advice.  Don’t quit your current job until you have in “writing” a solid new job offer in your hand.  Feel free though to get into some side-hustles to test the waters.  Even if you simply do some volunteer work in GIS for some needy non-profit.  But hey honestly, I didn’t always listen to my Mom. But I should have.

Tip #2

Build your Internet profile up now.  Beef up your LinkedIn page and add more network contact’s especially in the career area you may wish to move too.  Make sure you actually communicate with them too and don’t just collect new LinkedIn connections like road kill in your rear-view mirror.  And make sure any other social media account you have represents you as a fine upstanding person who also appears to be neutral in regards to politics.  And everything else for that matter.  No one will ever admit to discrimination but it does happen and you will never know.  Get some of your professional friends to give you honest feedback as well on your resume and your social media presence.  I feel obligated myself when someone connects to me on LinkedIn to review their profile before I accept.  If I see something like a misspelled word; I am going to tell them.  Or their picture is like the best example of what picture not to post on LinkedIn.  If I really know them, then my comments might get more brutally honest.  If you feel brave then feel free to link into me and message me if you dare to want some brutally honest comments on your page.

Tip #3

If you’ve been doing GIS for five years you better be certified as a GISP, or actively pursuing that designation.  Too many employers are now requiring GISP even if the "Employers" really have absolutely no idea what it means to be certified and if the certification is actually meaningful.  Enough said there.

Tip #4

You need to keep at your continuing education.  Keep going to conferences and don’t just attend, but present at them.  Keep taking GIS workshops.  And most importantly, if you only have a four-year degree, you best get yourself into a decent graduate school (online or in-person it really doesn’t matter) and get a Master’s in GIS.  No pain, no gain.  I personally recommend Penn State.  What else do you expect a Nittany Lion to do?
Tip #5

Now the hard part.  Finding that job.  There are many search engines.  Use them all.  Although I will have to say that for myself, I am very fond of these job search sites;

And my old classic favorite, the GIS Jobs Clearinghouse.  I love these guys.  But they don't catch all the GIS jobs out there.

Well for me the hard part wasn’t finding “a job”.  I found lots of them.  It is just many of them weren’t where I wanted to be for the salary.  It takes a lot of time to apply for a job, and even more time if you get an interview.  Only to find out down the road that the salary the new employer wants to offer you wouldn’t support your family; or your dog for that matter.  My advice.  Be bold and upfront.  I quite often just flat out ask what their expected salary range for the hire was if I couldn’t figure it out from the advertisement.  But use caution here.  If they do have a salary range, don’t expect to get an offer more than the mid-range and even then, only if you are very well-qualified. If the application process is intense, then I would ask before I applied.  If just a few clicks and press submit then I would wait to ask if they asked for an initial interview.  If they wanted to fly me to Hawaii for an interview; well then, maybe I wouldn’t ask such a silly question about salary in advance.  But any offer to work in Hawaii best be way up there as the cost of living is astronomical.  But not as high as Bermuda was of course.

I hope you found these tips useful in your efforts to advance your career.  Good luck and remember that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side so please try not to burn any bridges when you move on as you never know if you may need to cross them again.

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