Adapting your Geospatial job search during COVID
Landing your dream geospatial job can be hard. There is a lot of competition for geospatial job openings which has been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, and makes the job search process a tough one. Geospatial job postings generally receive an estimated average of 100 applications; however, there are extreme cases. For example, an Urban Planning firm in Vancouver recently reported about 350 applications which was submitted for a GIS position, an extreme of 989 applications was observed for a Crime Analyst position at the Toronto Police service.
There has been suggested ways to keep ahead of the job competition such as tailoring résumés to job postings; applying promptly; and following up on submitted job applications. These methods work well; however, there are additional efforts that can be put in place which help get the right opportunities that are crucial to the job search and geospatial career growth in general. So, what can we do differently?
Explore the ‘hidden’ job sites
Indeed, Glassdoor, GISJobs.Ca, Workopolis are familiar for geospatial job postings but, not all jobs get advertised on these ‘popular’ job websites. Advertising job openings costs money, hence, recruiters may decide to limit the number of websites through which they advertise their openings. For example, I recently came across a job opening for a GIS Technician – Asset Management on the Canadian Network of Asset Manager’s website. I saw this job opening a day before its closure, yet it was not on the popular job sites like Indeed and Glassdoor. Some advice would be to make a list of GIS organisations (e.g.: GoGeomatics) or industries that use GIS (e.g.: Conservation, Asset Management, and Emergency Response); follow their organizational websites; and create job alerts to inform you when Geospatial jobs are posted.
Deliberate Professional Networking
Building professional networks is crucial to your career growth and could make a difference in your job search approach. LinkedIn is a great platform to connect with professionals and build your geospatial network. I cannot think of any other professional networking platform that is widely used by professionals and recruiters. It is quite important that you are deliberate with connecting with the right people that are instrumental to your career growth. While connecting and sending a note with your invite works, asking a mutual connection to introduce you works better. However, beyond adding new connections, it is imperative to create conversations with them. Being genuinely inquisitive about what they do and about their geospatial career will create an avenue for them to talk. In my experience, some of those connections have resulted in informational interviews over Zoom or Skype. An informational interview is a perfect avenue to ask questions about a professional’s career path and organization. This form of interview also gives you the opportunity to create an impression without the pressure of a ‘formal’ interview, hence, it is important to prepare for it like you would for a formal interview. If the conversation proceeds well, you will get firsthand information about the inner workings of their organization, their ongoing geospatial projects, the challenges they currently face and if they will be hiring for a geospatial position soon.
Creating an online GIS portfolio
An online GIS portfolio which showcases your work can set you apart from other job seekers. This could be a sample of maps and analysis you have previously done (if you have permission to publicly share) or personal GIS analysis or projects you have completed for career developmental purposes. Interestingly, I have seen a couple of GIS portfolio’s which were done using ESRI’s ArcGIS online. That is also clever because it gives you a unique opportunity to simultaneously showcase your work samples and your ESRI ArcGIS online proficiency. WordPress, Wix or Medium website offer opportunities to create free blogs, and there are paid subscriptions for advanced capabilities (for example, a personal domain name). However, LinkedIn is the way to go if you are considering time efficient routes. The professional networking site now has features that allow you upload work samples including presentations, pictures, or PDF’s to your professional experience section.
Certifications give prospective employers a higher level of confidence in your skills, ability, and experience. There are a couple of certifications out there that could be beneficial to your job search and your geospatial career in general. As a matter of fact, I have observed an increase in the number of GIS jobs that require certifications in recent times. On top of the list of certifications are the Geographic Information Systems Professional (GISP); ESRI technical certifications; Project Management Professional (PMP); and The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF) which is required for more technical roles including GIS Solutions Architect. The good news is that, some of the certification exams e.g. the PMP and the ESRI technical certifications can be written from the comfort of your home. Additionally, there are tons of online resources that can aid higher exam outcomes.
I recently spoke with a GIS professional with a GISP certification and I asked him the relevance of the GISP certification to his career and his job search. I got an answer which made me rethink my geospatial job search strategy at the time; he said, ‘it did make the hiring manager want to interview me’.