GIS Career Suggestions; my experiences & opinions

This is a revamp of an old blog post from over 8 years ago that received great feedback at the time so I am interested to see how it holds up today with a few edits. I’ve now hit 16 years in my GIS career. Career advice is everywhere these days from generic all-round advice via do’s and don’ts encompassing any career, to must do’s and must not’s for a more focused delineated career path. For me, the majority of these seem to lack the personal experience of the author and I’ve often felt that the ‘advice’ does not reflect reality, well, my reality anyway. Instead of using the word ‘advice’ I’m using ‘suggestions’. Maybe some of these suggestions suit your personality, or where you are in your career, or will provide a platform of comfort, or even a realization of a direction you want to take with your career, or possibly none of the above.

You might find some of these to be enlightening or on the other-hand you might completely disagree with some, and I think some probably go against the grain. You might even think that one or two are complete nonsense and a terrible suggestion, but at the end of the day these are my experiences, my opinions, and what has worked for me and what I have learned along the way. Something might resonate with you. We are all unique, we are not robots, and we all carve a unique path in life. I tend to stay away from those articles that ‘guarantee’ success by following this ‘simple formula’, if only it was that simple! Here, you will find a human experience and what that human thinks he’s learned along the way. You’re very welcome to comment below with agreements and disagreements and debate, I’m bulletproof so take your best shot (metaphorically of course!). So here we go…

Be educated in GIS.

While experience stands out on a CV/resume it is highly unlikely that your experience would be on your resume without an educational background. Granted, there are exceptions to this but they are outliers. If you want a potential employer to take you serious for an entry level or graduate role (and beyond) then having the necessary education is a huge step in the right direction. Many university courses now offer GIS modules as part of a wider discipline such as Environmental Sciences, Planning, Geology or Engineering for examples. While these modules are a good way to get acquainted with GIS software they will more than likely lack in many aspects. In particular, when it comes to the theory behind GIS and GIScience, the theory behind how the analysis methods and techniques work through their underlying algorithms, and these are often fundamental to problem solving in the workplace. One very simple example that I have encountered numerous times is ‘why are my points appearing in the middle of the ocean?’ Because most of us say ‘Lat-Long’, we assume that Latitude is the x-axis and Longitude the y-axis, when it is, in fact, the opposite. I recently downloaded a CSV from a government website that got this fundamentally wrong!! All I could do was laugh and reprocess the data. This is only one example, but there are numerous more where I have seen the incorrect analysis performed or incorrect geoprocessing tool used and the results ending up in a report that nobody could QA/QC properly because they simply did not have the fundamentals of GIS in their knowledge bank, and these reports were issued!!. At the end of the day anyone can make a map, it’s not really the hard part of GIS, but making a good map after performing several geoprocessing tasks and performing geostatistical analysis on data and putting forward competent results, is! If you are serious about a career in GIS I suggest that you attend a course that purely focuses on GIS, how and why the software does what it does and how you can use the software to solve questions, problems, and aid in better decision making. I have completed two full-time GIS focused postgraduate courses, the GIS and GISci landscape is vast and ever growing and no course can completely cover every aspect, but they are the foundation for future endeavours both educationally and professionally.

Scenario: we are hiring a GIS Specialist, we receive many CVs. There are three types of candidates, one we’ll discuss in the next section, and the two that would be possible interviewees;
1. those that have a Masters Degree in GIS and 2-5 years experience with continued professional development in GIS and
2. those that have another degree with a GIS module and 2-5 years work experience as something like a Geologist for example.
To keep this concise, those from (1) above by far out-shone those from (2) when it came to GIS technical expertise. When you work in GIS, your day is packed with GIS, when you work as a Geologist (or other discipline) your day/week is lightly sprinkled with GIS while you perform your main duties. This is my observation and nothing more. Many people want to Segway into GIS, but I can imagine it is difficult because of the scenario above and the competition you face, especially in the 2-5 years experience range.

Do not stop learning.

I made this mistake and I know a lot of others out there that this will ring true for. I finished a Postgraduate in GIS at the end of 2007 and set about applying my education in the workplace to earn some money. At the time I was delighted to just be finished with studying, mainly because I hated it, although I had found a love for GIS, I always hated studying and the education system as a whole (a story for another day). I didn’t put too much effort into obtaining a degree and my new found passion for GIS helped me complete a postgraduate. I was really just going through the educational motions though, because all I ever heard was that degrees got you a job. I didn’t have a clue about what I wanted to be or do when I grow up and landing the GIS postgraduate kind of just happened for me, it wasn’t something I was aiming for, in fact I hadn’t even heard of it until I applied for the Postgraduate course, and even then I wasn’t accepted until someone dropped out. My first job was a summer role for work experience as part of the Postgraduate, I was merely digitizing and I wasn’t even really using any of the major software, but it paid well for someone that hadn’t even graduated yet. After graduating I worked in Canada for a year and then onto Australia for 4 years. GIS was great, it got me a job wherever I went, but in those 5 years I had lost track of the GIS landscape. I remember looking at GIS roles just to see what’s out there and I began to panic. Every GIS Technician role now wanted or preferred, some or all of; Python programming and ArcPy, JavaScript and various libraries, spatial databases and spatial SQL, graphic design, and many more facets that were well beyond my capabilities. A GIS TECHNICIAN!! I had none of these in my arsenal. Sure, I had experience behind me but experience in what exactly? I had a title of GIS Manager but really I was a glorified GIS Technician that could make a great map, perform the basic analysis as needed, train staff, and some data management skills in the land of the archaic folder based system. Although I picked up many other skills along the way, would the 5 years’ experience I had stack up against a more recent graduate with a year or two experience who ticked more boxes than me? I severely doubted it. They could do more and get paid less for it. GIS had become my bread and butter and I wanted to excel so I made the decision to return to education to study IT with a focus on programming and databases, followed by a Masters in Geocomputation to merge the IT skills and GIS skills together. Now I was back up to speed with the industry and aimed to keep it that way. Although it may suit some of you to do so, I suggest that you never have to follow my route and return to full-time study at the age of 30, simply put some time each week towards constant skills development and keep an eye on the job market so you can keep the development focused. With an ever growing library of printed books, eBooks, online courses both free and at a cost, blogs and video tutorial, there really is no excuse.

Scenario: same as the previous section, we are hiring a GIS Specialist, we receive many CVs. We saw two types of candidates, this is the third.
3. those that have a Masters Degree in GIS and 2-5 years experience in a basic GIS role (I can’t overstate how basic) with no technical skills development over that time. The only cited development is early promotion to supervisor over other GIS Technicians.
GIS is a technical discipline, it is very hard to justify hiring someone with 2-5 years experience when they lack in technical capabilities, afterall, that is what we are looking for, the job title was GIS Specialist not GIS Babysitter. Over time, after interviewing a few, these CVs never made it to interview again, unless! Unless they showed a desire to progress!! That they had put time outside of work to gain extra knowledge such as taking an evening class in Python. They were even a step closer to an interview if they had acknowledged they were ‘stuck’ on the screening call with the recruiter and wanted technical progression. We want people like that, we interviewed people like that, and we hired people like that.
Just to add, we often got ridiculous salary expectations. The number of years on your CV does not equate to what you think you should be paid. Sometimes you need to take a step back to be able to catapult yourself forward.

If you are reading this, and you fall into the scenario above, do something about it now. I know it can get comfortable earning some money after graduating, but that comfort and lack of growth will eventually be a major blocker in the future.

Learn a little about a lot and a lot about a little!

Continuing from the previous section, my suggestion is to learn a little about a lot and a lot about a little. What does this mean? Let’s take ‘learn a little about a lot’; there are so many components to GIS such as theory, software, multiple programming languages, web GIS, for examples. Take a look at the image below, which is far from comprehensive, and you’ll get a picture of what I mean. It is actually a bit outdated and is from a GIS Awareness course I created a good few years ago, there’s a lot more you could add but I didn’t want to scare people.

I have found that by learning a little about as many components of GIS as possible meant that I was not alien to the lingo when in meetings or talking to others in the field or across disciplines and industries. While there are crossovers in the use of GIS across disciplines and industries, they also have their own niche use cases, but underlying it all was pretty much the same technologies and jargon. I understood the basics of as many of these as I could which kept conversations flowing and stimulated more ideas for solutions. When a new problem arose that required a bespoke solution, I could draw from this shallow knowledge bank for potential solution avenues and focus time to see if the solution fit.

On the opposite end, I have learned a lot about a little. I have extensive knowledge when it comes to ArcGIS Pro (and ArcMap), ArcGIS Online/Portal, Python, ArcPy, and the ArcGIS API for Python, Geocomputation and Geostatistics, and some others, but these are the main ones. These are where I excel. I have always disliked the term ‘GIS Expert’ because, for me, it seems impossible to be an expert in all things GIS related. When I consciously made the decision to focus on automation with Python my career aspects and salary had a sharp uptake. I was quite familiar with FME (a fantastic piece of software by the way) at the time, but I preferred to code rather than the visual programming side. FME sits in my pile of knowing ‘a little about a lot’ these days, but it used to belong to the ‘a lot about a little’ crew.

I have often had to use SQL, spatial SQL, JavaScript, R, QGIS, MapInfo and others that sit in the ‘little about a lot’ pile. Having taken the time to learn the basics and some foundations it was easier to know when to implement and how to implement, and also to know when to pass on to someone else who excelled in these when it was possible to do so. Take time to figure out what you love about GIS and make sure to learn a lot about that little piece of the GIS ecosystem, and pair your in-depth knowledge with foundational knowledge of several other components. Your GIS imagination will run wild!

Don’t hide behind a keyboard (if possible)!

I have always found it relatively easy to find employment wherever I have been; Ireland, Canada, Australia and more recently the UK. I get sick and tired of hearing up and coming GIS graduates, and even some more seasoned GIS professionals, complaining about being unemployed and that they are applying for everything out there but getting nowhere. When I question their techniques it’s the same old story, they are only focusing on online job postings or connecting with recruiters on LinkedIn. This has to be the laziest type of job hunting possible and you are pitting yourself against a lot of competition each time you hit that submit button. All you are with the online job posting approach is an electronic document, you might not even make it to being a printed document. You have no personality and your Calibri 11pt font on your PDF resume is not going to make you stand out from the Times New Roman 12pt font from the other applicant. I get it, this is the way the world has gone, but you can use this to swing in your favour. Twice in my career I have found employment by using the following method. First of all, do not limit yourself to online job postings. Not all the GIS jobs out there are advertised and some places may be just starting to consider expanding or even using GIS for the first time. Many places already know who they want to hire but have to go through the advertisement process anyway. Research all the companies in your area that you know will either have or might have a GIS department, including those that are advertising, draft your cover letter and resume, tailored where required, print them off, place them in a nice A4 envelope for each company, research the company and who is more than likely the person to talk to regarding an advertised role or any future roles, physically cut the umbilical cord between you and the keyboard and prepare yourself for some human interaction outside the dungeon of your four walls. Take yourself to their office and ask to speak to someone, that person who you found on LinkedIn or on the company website, who you feel is the best person to talk to, or even just ask for the person responsible for the GIS team. You are playing the percentage game here, more than likely you will struggle to get past reception but be patient and persistent without being forceful, if you get to talk to one out of ten well that’s an achievement and you have gone further than the button bashing has got you. The more you do this the easier it get’s to get through to the person you are after and your percentage of hits and connecting in real life rises. If you get the talk to someone you are already being interviewed informally so be prepared. You are now a human in the process and not digital document. I happened to stumble upon a company who were contemplating expanding, I was interviewed on the spot on a Thursday and started working on the Monday.

I understand that this approach only works if there are companies located locally or an acceptable commute away. If you are within an hour away from a plethora of potential employers and you’re hiding in room, in your pyjamas, applying to them through the personality of your keyboard, well I suggest that you get your head examined.

Note: I left this section untouched from when I wrote it 8 years ago as I still feel it rings true today. I think Covid has been a major setback as none of the above was possible for a few years, and people now rely more and more on online postings and have developed a habit to only rely on these. Break the habit, get yourself out into the real world.

GIS-related certifications are not that important to your GIS career.

Say whaaaaaat! Maybe a little controversial, and I can hear a crowd of you shouting at me. I’m not saying don’t get them, I have a couple myself and will probably get a couple more in the future. In my opinion GIS certifications will not significantly impact your GIS career whether you have them or not. While I acknowledge they can have value, I never include them on my CV. A robust GIS education and professional experience should suffice. Certifications may be beneficial for career progression or signaling a commitment to learning, especially if you’re stuck in a basic role, however, they are not essential. Certifications may also become outdated, and companies often assess competency through practical tests, and having that certification listed might go against you if you are found wanting in that test. A well-documented educational background, work experience, and a portfolio are more impactful than relying on certifications. Continuous professional development is crucial in GIS, but the emphasis should be on learning and growing rather than collecting certifications. If your employer covers the costs, pursuing certifications can be worthwhile, but it’s not a prerequisite for career success.

Granted different countries will have different job criteria, you might have to sell your soul and pay someone/establishment to give you acknowledgement after the fact that an educational establishment has already done that. I certainly do not need recognition from anyone regarding my continued professional development, I’ll spend my money elsewhere, probably on some form of continued professional development. On the other hand, if your employer is paying, sure why not then?, better to waste their money than yours. I suggest that if you feel that certifications make you stand out from the crowd then go for it, it may give you more confidence, you might want to highlight your desire to learn, but don’t stress that you don’t have any, I don’t think an employer is going to think you’re lying about your foundational knowledge of ArcGIS Pro just because you don’t have a certification listed on your CV to somewhat prove it when you have a solid GIS degree (or postgraduate), and/or a couple plus years experience behind you. I would like to stipulate the CPD is essential in GIS, do not flounder, always be learning and growing.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on this so please comment below. Are certifications worth it and when are they worth it? Are they a money-making racket? Take Esri for example, you must pass a foundational level exam before you can sit a specialty exam! Nonsense really. Is there anyone out there who’s career has been significantly positively enhanced from GIS certifications?

Do not work for free! (unless volunteering)

Whoa! What!? But (unpaid) internships are an integral part of the career path process, they give you valuable experience to help you develop skills and expose you to industry standards. Absolute nonsense (for the majority in GIS), you are being taken advantage of. You cannot put a price on your time left on this planet and yet here you are working for free, more than likely doing the boring mundane crap that no one else wants to do, putting in ridiculous hours beyond the expectations of a full-time employee because you want to look good, lining the pockets of someone else, and most likely with no chance of a permanent role after that because they’ll replace you with another intern, there’s plenty of them in the pipeline. I’m sure there are some great unpaid internship stories out there but they will be few and far between. It’s rare that anyone starts their career in GIS not doing the boring mundane crap like digitization and data entry. You can train a monkey to do these things, but you’re an educated monkey and deserve a little more respect. Now I’m not saying don’t pursue a role where you have to do these things, we’ve all done them and even today I have to do some digitization and data entry, it comes part and parcel with the territory, but at least get paid for it. If you are going down the internship route at least attempt to negotiate a stipend so you don’t feel like you’re selling your soul. You’ve just spent a lot of money educating yourself, it’s payback time. We all start somewhere, an internship/work experience is usually the starting point for anyone’s career. I used it as a tick-the-box exercise for my Postgraduate, learned nothing technical and gained very little from it. Try find something that you are interested in and/or something that will expose you to some technical skills. It’s hard. I talk to recent graduates and many still fall into the same trap I did and I also place blame on the companies taking them on, they often put them in a room and leave them there with little guidance to do mundane work. If you take on interns/work experience students and are reading this, give them the time they deserve and make sure they’re getting something out of it too other than to meet their course criteria.

If you are going to work for free, volunteer your services to a charity or non-profit organisation where you have more prospects to be involved in both the mundane to the more exciting tasks and potentially at a higher level. Volunteering will also look just as good on your CV and your soul and self-respect will be intact. Some of you are probably thinking ‘but if I don’t take an internship to get on the experience ladder I’ll struggle to get elsewhere’, don’t sell yourself short, an internship could actually be a waste of time if you are learning absolutely nothing new, you can focus your energy elsewhere in the meantime. While not working make sure that you put plenty of hours into professional development each day, similar to the ‘don’t stop learning section’, there are so many free and cheap avenues to take to continue your GIS knowledge growth. What is more valuable, a six months internship and learning nothing, or spending six months learning Python or FME or Geostatistics and making these shine on your CV? Get simple GIS mapping out of your head and focus more on areas of added value. When hiring a recent Graduate and I don’t care about their work experience, its an entry level that requires zero experience. I am interested in their interest in GIS.

I have never worked for free in my professional career. I remember a fellow colleague, much my junior, used to put in an untold amount of overtime and I heavily advised them not to. Their response was, ‘that’s easy for you to say sitting pretty on your high grade’. I assured him, throughout my whole career I never worked for free, I got paid or took time off in lieu. These were my principals, I instilled them in myself when I was 16. I was working part-time as floor staff in a supermarket, I was only ever rostered to work to 9pm but we never left until 9.30 as the store had to be cleaned after closing hours. After a couple of months working there I noticed I was not paid for this extra 30 mins so I left at 9pm every night. Of course I was called into the managers office and I stated I do not work for free, my roster says 9pm, so 9pm it was. They back-dated my pay.

Back to my colleague… I asked if they were at least putting the time down as unpaid overtime, they said no. I explained that they must, when a similar project comes along the budget will be the same because you have shown that the work was done to budget, you are shafting your future self or someone else. I also advised that you could use the unpaid overtime as leverage when it came to salary negotiating. Don’t get me wrong, there have been time’s I’ve made mistakes and I put in my own time to rectify, but do not let someone else’s poor management dictate your unpaid overtime. There were times a deadline was looming so working outside normal hours was required, but I took that time back. Not sneakily or underhanded, it was all agreed before we proceeded. Simple communication is very effective, it wasn’t my fault we weren’t making the deadline so why should I feel the pinch for it?

Anyone I have ever hired will attest that I tell them the same thing, that I do not want to see them doing overtime unless they are getting paid for it. It doesn’t impress me. I ask them to never be afraid to let me know if the workload is too much and to ask for help at the earliest sign that they need it. This line of communication let’s us know if we need to recruit or not.

Do not work for the sake of working.

This suggestion only really relates to those that are in a position to do so. If your GIS career goal is making simple maps for the rest of your days, not really having to extend your brain power too far, then this does not apply to you, you’re more than likely already living your dream and I’m happy for you. Many years ago, before Christmas came around, I was working for a few months and was really only doing so for the small bit of income, I would have been better off claiming unemployment benefits really. I was learning nothing from the role and the monotony from it all was affecting my mood and my mental health. I dreaded the thought of going into work every single day, and I loved GIS. The role ended at Christmas and I decided over Christmas break that I wasn’t going to apply for a role or accept any roles that I really had very little interest in. I was going to devote my time to up-skilling and putting some blog posts together to attract interest. This was single handedly my best decision in my career to date. No more mundane roles! When not employed I was to treat each day as if I was employed for myself. The working day hours were to be filled with knowledge gains and skills enhancements. I made a list of the books, online courses, and other learning material that I wanted to go through and put aside around 6 hours a day, almost as if it was my full time job. I could do this because I was in a position to do so. If I had a mortgage, kids, or other responsibilities I would not of had the comfort of going down this route without some support. I have talked to so many people that are ‘just happy to be working’ even though they are miserable and have no progression prospects in those GIS jobs. Does 5 years experience doing the most simplistic GIS tasks look good on your CV/resume? In my opinion, no! It looks like you are happy to stay at that level with little to no ambition. If you’re the type of person that can leave a depressing job in the evening and go enhance your skills at night, well then I tip my hat to you. But for the majority of us the energy zapping 9 -5 – I want to shoot myself in the face – job means we’re straight home to the couch to complain about how shit our job is to whoever will listen. I once heard that ‘a job of no interest does more damage to your mental health than being unemployed’, and I support this statement. I went on unemployment benefits, learned a ridiculous amount of material in two months that I was genuinely interested in. Come February I was moving to the UK to a role that would ultimately shape my career to date. The pay was also top tier. Maybe I just got lucky or maybe it was motivation. You will be at different levels at different stages in your career, assess what you want and make the necessary changes to achieve your goals, even if a means to this is through unemployment. But please make sure you have the means and support to take this avenue before storming in and handing in your notice.

Teach others when you can.

Be confident in your abilities as soon as you graduate. When you do eventually land your first role it is highly likely that you will know some things that others in the company do not because your course was tailored differently with modern techniques or many of the GIS users in there are basic users without the education you just received. Always take the time out to help a fellow colleague with troubleshooting or suggesting how you would go about doing things if they are stuck and keep that mentality throughout your career. I once worked for a company where people kept their talents and knowledge to themselves, they wanted to be one step ahead of each other in a race for promotion, the only problem was that there was no room for promotion and the whole situation made for a sour work environment. One guy even spouted on about his ‘dominance in Arc’ as if he ruled over the rest of us. It’s frustrating sitting around being stuck when someone can help you but won’t. Don’t get caught up in getting ahead. Helping others opens the door for others to help and teach you when you need it and creates a pleasant knowledge driven environment.

To add this, never take credit for something that you did not do. I remember leaving a role and handed over to a colleague. Before my last day we were talking to our Managing Director and right in front of me the colleague took credit for my work. I quickly set them straight. I will actually over-credit colleagues and emphasize their part they play when talking to other members of staff or presenting. They deserve it!

Never burn bridges.

I have walked out of a job in the past, the company was sold to me as a tight knit family community that helped each other out. This couldn’t have been further from the truth and it wore me down to the point where I just had enough and walked. I’m proud I stuck up for myself (I won’t go into details) but if something similar was to happen now I would handle it in a different way and be more professional about it all. My walkout never had any adverse affects on my GIS career but it’s not something I recommend doing as on a couple of occasions I had to explain why I lasted 3 months in a company and the nature of why I left and you really have to be careful how you choose your words in those situations, especially in an interview environment. On the other-hand I have worked for the same employer three times and it’s a great feeling when someone wants you back and are confident in your abilities. I suggest that you attempt to keep in touch with past employers and fellow colleagues. LinkedIn has made this quite easy and it is something you should be using to your advantage to keep connected with your professional network.

The above is untouched from 8 years ago. I have found it harder not to burn bridges with some people as time has progressed. When I was younger it was easier to sit there and accept orders, ‘the boss is always right’, and the ‘way things have always been done’ attitude, but as the years passed I grew sick of this. Change and the willingness to change is important. You hired me (and others) for our expertise and then cannot be bothered to listen? It is OK to have conflict in the workplace, nothing will change if conflict doesn’t exist, I just won’t waste my time in a non-progressive environment were mediocrity is celebrated and the clique rules.


People are people, they are a fellow human being who one day were in the position you are now. They should not be feared and you should not see an interview as a daunting experience. Society has painted the interview experience the way its is and it makes people nervous. I still get nervous just before an interview starts. Not getting the job is not the end of the world and you get better at interviews the more frequent you do them. I always thought I interviewed well. That was until I went for an IT role when I thought about moving on from GIS. The GIS roles in Ireland were just so basic at the time. Anyway, I felt completely unnerved. This was simply my mind telling me this isn’t really what I wanted, my answers to questions seemed to always relate back to my GIS career and I knew quite quick that rejection was looming and I was quite happy with that. Shortly after I had an interview for a GIS role and I was back in flying form. I knew what I was talking about, what I wanted, what I could do, what I could bring to the team, my limitations, my aspirations, my goals, my salary expectations (which eventually put me out of the race because our evaluations were way off). People spend hours and even days preparing for an interview, building up the stress levels before they have even sat down with the prospective employer. You do not need to research the ins and outs of a company, you just have a look at their general activities, what industry or industries they operate in. GIS is GIS, pretty much the same or similar wherever you work or whatever industry you work in. I have worked in agriculture, oil and gas, mineral exploration, engineering, planning, and telecommunications and had no clue about these industries before I started. Your GIS skills are what is wanted, not the industry that is looking for them.

I have been asked many times in an interview what I know about the company? I always laugh and say ‘do you want me to regurgitate what I read from your website?’, it lightens the mood. I then say I know what industry the company performs in and I’m interested to hear how you are currently applying your GIS? Short answer from me and placing the onus of talking back on them.

Have some interview questions ready to ask. A couple of my favourites are; With the GIS landscape ever changing, how do you make sure that staff are kept abreast of best practices and have access to learning new methods and techniques as the industry evolves?, this indicates that you want somewhere where you can evolve and learn as you progress; You have painted this role in a glorified manner, but tell me one negative thing about working at this office location?, this will show confidence and that you are not afraid to ask difficult questions.

Be confident even if you have to fake it. It’s a horrible feeling leaving an interview knowing that nerves have cost you. Sit up straight, make eye contact, speak slow and clear as this will make you seem more relaxed and eventually you will be. The interviewer is not there to catch you out, they have your CV/resume and can see what you have to offer, you wouldn’t have made it this far if they didn’t consider you a potential candidate for the position. Smile, smile, smile, always be smiling, you will stand out a mile from other candidates that may have interviewed better, a constant smile will work wonders.

And remember, you’re interviewing them too, you need to find out if you really want to work there so ask the right questions to get the information you need.

Note: I slightly updated the above, but here is something that you might need to hear, especially if you are a graduate or have 0-2 years work experience. Do not lie on your CV, do not over-embellish, be modest and have humility. I’ve lost count of the amount of times someone has put Python on their CV. I’m obviously going to ask you about it, your floundering answer and backtracking is going to cost you. Pressing the run button for Python scripts someone else wrote does not entitle you to put Python down on your CV. Do not fill your CV just for the sake of it. I don’t know who is giving you this advise but you are leaving yourself exposed to questions that you simply cannot answer and you’re sitting in an interview based on deceit. It’s never going to work out.

One of the questions I always ask is ‘What would you rate yourself with using ArcGIS Pro?’ I don’t even provide a scale. I’m looking for a few things here; humility, we all want to put our best foot forward and say we’re the best; self-awareness about where you are in your career; a little thinking outside the box, be different, be unique, be you not the interview robot reading from a script. Most have called themselves ‘experts’ or rated themselves 8+. Most of these have less than 2 years experience. The answer to this question is really only a tie-breaker. I once advised someone going to an interview that this question would be asked by the interviewer, I gave them advice on how their answer should be shaped and not to score themselves high no matter how much they wanted to, something like this; ArcGIS Pro has vast capabilities. I am early in my career and while I know my way around the software I am only confident with the capabilities that I have been exposed to so far, but I also know what it can do, and I’m sure it can do far more than what I know, so I’ll score myself a 4, and then laugh slightly and say, that might even be generous. None of this advise was taken and they scored themselves an 8.

If someone gave me inside advice on an interview question I would take it, no matter how against the grain it went, they’ve told me for a reason, they know what the interviewer wants to hear. I had also advised another candidate who took the advice, and guess what? they got the job (I’m sure there are other reasons why the got the job too, but they thanked me for my advice anyway).

Are you looking for career advice or a GIS coach/mentor?

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5 thoughts on “GIS Career Suggestions; my experiences & opinions”

  1. ‘I just won’t waste my time in a non-progressive environment were mediocrity is celebrated and the clique rules’… 100%

  2. I recently encountered the question, ‘What would you rate yourself using ArcGIS Pro?’ The scale ranged from 0 as a learner to 10 as a Guru. My response was, ‘Considering the robust capabilities of ArcGIS Pro, I would rate myself a 5. However, I am a Guru within that 5. 🙂

  3. Abdillahi Hasssan

    Interested why you choose to focus on python than FME, was it because your employer did not have a FME license and that made you focus on being more proficient in python. Excellent article. fyi I am one of the rare people who did not start their career digitizing lol

    1. I had worked for a company that was a SAFE partner and was proficient with FME. When I moved to another company, many of my colleagues were excellent with FME and the company saw the value of FME. It wasn’t a license issue. This was 8 years ago, FME was amazing but we still needed to add extra functionality here and there with Python (FME has added more and more functionality over the years and you can still add your own with Python). I saw it as an opportunity to add more value. I could probably use Python in any company, but getting FME was always been a harder sell. Anytime I needed to use FME I was able to dive straight back in. Python skills seemed more transferrable to me. I am still a huge advocate for FME.

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