HOW TO FLIP INTO GIS

AS AN ENCORE CAREER

Want to move into GIS from another industry?  Learn how to leverage your previous experience and pivot your career path.

Hey!  I’m Rachel, Creator of Geopivot.  This is one of our featured Advice Bytes.  Read on if you want to flip into a GIS career…

So you’re probably wondering, “How does she know how to switch careers“?  Good question.  I’ve done it many times and picked up some tricks along the way.

I started as an environmental activist, became a geologist, moved into city planning, then research and teaching, then sales and marketing.  Three years ago I pivoted again and became a business coach.

I’m going to share four things you should focus on if you want to switch into GIS from another industry.

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WHAT TO FOCUS ON

EARN RESPECTED CREDENTIALS

GET EXPERTISE IN A STRATEGIC NICHE

BUILD CREDIBILITY IN THIS INDUSTRY

REFRAME YOUR PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE

EARN RESPECTED CREDENTIALS

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First up, you need to know what you are talking about.  And employers need to immediately recognize this from your resume.  The easiest way to do this is to earn a GIS Certificate from a highly respected institution.

Penn State’s online program is awesome!  They are consistently ranked as one of the best education options in GIS.   Recruiters and hiring managers will very likely see this and be impressed.

I was able to finish their 4-course program in 20 weeks by enrolling in two classes at a time.  And I did it while I was working full time, so it’s certainly possible.  I got hired as a GIS Specialist immediately after I got my degree.

If you want to really nail this part, you can get a Master’s Degree.  I got to work for all of these guys, so I know their programs are top notch.  Check out Penn State University, the University of Southern California and the University of Redlands.  Here are some additional options.

GET EXPERTISE IN A NICHE

Next, pick a specific topic within the geospatial industry and learn everything you can about it.  You are going to be competing with people that have a lot more direct experience in GIS than you, so you need to find a way to stand out.

Your best bet is to focus on highly sought after skills like automation, web-based GIS solutions, big data analytics or real-time data collection (think drones, indoor remote sensing, etc.).

Esri has several cool online education options:

  • LearnGIS –  A collection of guided online lessons based on real-world problems.
  • Massive Open Online Classes (MOOCs) – Free classes & certificate program focused on the latest technology.
  • ArcGIS Tutorials – Step-by-step directions about how to use specific ArcGIS tools.
  • Esri Training – Online classes, instructor led classes and technical certificates.

BUILD CREDIBILITY IN THIS INDUSTRY

This is fun part!  You get to mingle and make friends with other GIS Professionals.  Find them at networking events, conferences and online.  Here’s a quick list of GIS Professional Organizations to get you  started.  (Sorry this website looks kind of stupid.  I’ve been meaning to update it forever…).

Start saying smart stuff about what you learned so far.  Give a presentation about a GIS topic you are interested in, do a lightening talk (these are only 5 minutes) or participate in a poster presentation.  Expand your reach by publishing stuff online.  There are tons of GIS publications that want new stories (including us).

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REFRAME PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE

You obviously picked up a thing or two that is useful in your previous career.  The trick is to identify your translatable skills and highlight these on your resume.

Let’s say you used to be a gardener.  You don’t want to say that you planted trees on your GIS resume.  Focus on things like management skills, problem solving, sales and people skills that most employers are looking for.

Now you’re ready to flip into the GIS industry!  Apply the techniques I talked about and you’ll be sitting at your new desk in no time.  Let me know what happens here.

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