There is so much instability right now in the world because of the pandemic, and just like everyone else, the geospatial community is also shaken up by what’s happening. As people anchor down and work from home, there is insecurity about the future. This is a good time to sit down and think about what we should be doing to prepare to navigate the new normal, post-COVID-19. How can you make yourself more Geospatial job-ready as the world reopens?
What a fresher should do?
While applying for an entry-level position, your technical background is the first thing employers will look at. What type of software-specific knowledge can you show? Do you have basic programming understanding? Have you gained any experience even if it’s within your education that will equip you to go into a position to learn and execute some of the functions that the role may require right away?
If you’re fresh out of the university, be flexible with your expectations. Your only domain experience may be a university project that helped you identify where your interests lie. Your technical skills will transfer into domain experience with training and practice.
Communication skills are essential, regardless of what level you are at. Don’t panic. Nobody’s expecting you to be an impactful public speaker. You just need to be able to clearly demonstrate your technical expertise and communicate it in your environment.
Candidates that show self-initiative and the ability to pick things up fast get noticed. If you have a membership to a professional organization or have attended conferences, you’ll be considered as someone with a high level of interest and motivation who is serious about their intentions.
Internships are a great way to get some experience, and even if they don’t develop into a full-time position, they’re a great reference point for the next stop, and it’s more than just an educational experience.
Showcase your experience by investing your time in building an online portfolio. Start now. Upload all the papers you wrote that employers may be interested in. Link your portfolio to your resume. Show it, not just say it. LinkedIn profiles can act as your own little portfolio of work to start you off.
Volunteer for community projects. If you live near a hiking trail, create your own space by offering to make a map for a popular trail for camping and all the facilities on that trail that people look for.
Check out freelancing websites and see if you can team up with someone for their entry-level gaps they need to fill. Some GIS companies need project people such as analysts or specialists on a short-term basis at short notice. These platforms usually cater to a lower scale pay but can give you the experience that may put you ahead of others.
While hiring for mid-level positions, communication and technical skills remain at the top of the priority list of what employers are looking for. At this level, you are now required to demonstrate domain experience that’s specific to a sector in GIS. Have you been focusing on LiDAR, a particular technology or a type of customer you’ve been serving? Maybe you’ve been working within utilities and carved your space out in oil and gas, local government, and you have a clear understanding of the processes and how they utilize geospatial technologies. This is all very helpful and can elevate your career path.
Communication skills are highly relevant here as well. Assuming that you can write e-mails, and put your ideas in a presentation, what you need to show your prospective employers is that you’ll be able to communicate ideas through to your supervisor and team, report on them and lead that project. Your presentation skills will come under scrutiny as you’ll be facing clients and staff regularly.
Adhering to deadlines, project management, and sales skills will give you an advantage as these will all lead you to be able to participate in bringing new business in for the company.
Focusing on a Niche – Good or Bad?
It can be limiting, especially if you’re at entry-level. Most people come out of education wanting to work in environmental causes or a specific area that they’ve learned about in university that they found interesting. Exhaust all means to get into those fields, but opportunities may be elsewhere at the time when you start your search. You should keep an open mind to other things. There is more to the geospatial industry than old fashioned data collection and analysis. Whatever you end up doing at this stage, the experience you gain will be useful. Chase the work, not the title.
As Jessica Touchard, a geospatial recruitment specialist at GeoSearch during a podcast organised by MapScaping explains, “It’s definitely possible to have a niche right at the beginning. Many candidates at the entry level are clear as to what they want to do. They have a specific thing in mind like environment on the basis of the projects done at the university level. However, it’s advisable to be ready to explore as one can develop other interests as well. There’s a whole geomatics spectrum to explore and develop skills in. Working across domains greatly helps. Technical skills transfer, no matter what.”
After each of your assignments, you’ll be more connected with more experience under your belt. Employers often hire for one position and a couple of years down the line that turns into someone’s dream job as things move on and transition into a different vein. The geospatial field is vast with many layers, jobs and salaries. Take data; it’s a whole spectrum of new technologies and processing techniques from cleaning, loading into a GIS, analysis, engineering, and modeling. Expose yourself to a variety of things early on in your career and see where those experiences take you.
Where are the Big Opportunities?
There are lot of opportunities in photogrammetry, LiDAR, LiDAR processors as fields things are picking up. Lot of movement is happening in data collection through UAVs. Programming, understanding a specific domain, and creating unique applications to serve individual requirements is essential right now in GIS. Companies are also exploring autonomous vehicle types and data engineering. These are all excellent fields to explore.