How to perfect a resume for a GIS application with entry-level experience?

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01-06-2016 10:00 PM
GarrettPullis
New Contributor II

My name is Garrett and I am a graduating senior finishing up with a bachelors in both Geography and Environmental Geoscience along with a minor in GIS. I have had plenty of jobs throughout my life including retail, landscaping, coaching, and field managing for a nonprofit org, but have no real world experience. I have taken plenty of courses utilizing GIS and imagery programs, but haven't landed a job in GIS quite yet. I have an upcoming part time position as a GIS technician for my final semester as an undergrad but I want to look toward the future for AFTER graduation. I'm trying to hit the ground running and I have already applied to 15 different internships or job positions. Does anyone have any tips that can be added to a resume or toward applying for jobs? I try to elaborate on my skills by referencing results from my experience but with little real world experience, I've had to resort to self-teaching. What else could I do to land that solid first job? Any and all tips and advice are appreciated, thanks!

P.S. Looking for jobs in the greater Pittsburgh, DC, NVA,, Baltimore, and NYC areas at the entry level.

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Accepted Solutions
DarrenWiens2
MVP Honored Contributor
I want to get into the sustainable development, natural resource management, and environmental services industries, companies that work with the government or private sector, and eventually work my way up to a natural sciences manager but it's really hard to know what these big companies want.

I would start finding the website for any small to mid-size environmental consulting companies in your area, see if they offer GIS services, and show up resume-in-hand. This way, you can usually speak to someone (sometimes a manager, not a HR person), and see if they have an opening - if not, they know you're around and they know you're motivated. If no one can see you, no harm done, move onto the next. A lot of these companies may have a need for casual or seasonal help, especially in spring/summer when field work is ramping up/ongoing.

I would still apply for large company postings, but you'll likely get screened out immediately with no direct experience.

Other than that, staying active by volunteering in some GIS capacity, like you're doing, is great.

Unfortunately, the first job is the hardest (obviously) so just prepare for rejection and legwork.

PS - I'm speaking as an environmental consultant, and know that people get hired where there isn't a job posting all the time.

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12 Replies
RickeyFight
MVP Regular Contributor

Garrett,

I was in the same position as you 4 years ago. How do you get experience for a job without first getting a job?

It took me over year to get a GIS job.

My suggestion is to learn Javascript or Python.

With Javascript you can then you can create web applications for your future employers. The world is using the web more and more.Most larger government agencies and companies should have a server set up and be hosting information online.

Python will help you work within Arcgis to run tools.

Here are some links to look at:

ArcGIS API for JavaScript

Learn | Codecademy

Notepad++ Home

Eloquent JavaScript

Web AppBuilder: Build your first widget in 15 minutes | Esri Australia Technical Blog 

Inspect and Tweak Your Pages: the Basics | Web Tools - Google Developers

Esri Training

HTML/CSS/JavaScript for Complete Beginners

http://www.w3schools.com/sql/

Python for ArcGIS | ArcGIS Resource Center

What is Python?—Help | ArcGIS for Desktop

Welcome to Python.org

GarrettPullis
New Contributor II

Rickey thanks for the help! I actually just recently downloaded Python onto my computer to just kind of play around with it and follow the tutorial on their website to better understand how to use it. I'm still getting use to knowing what to use and where to use it but I guess I'm moving in the right direction.

So next to being able to use Arc, programming is where upcoming GIS users should dedicate most of their time? I worked a little bit with QGIS to broaden my GIS experience but I also recently joined the NACIS because they have a lot of resources and like minded individuals as well, along with 'MapLift' where they take wiki maps and help fix them as a way to volunteer my time and skills in exchange for experience.

I want to get into the sustainable development, natural resource management, and environmental services industries, companies that work with the government or private sector, and eventually work my way up to a natural sciences manager but it's really hard to know what these big companies want. I haven't really been lucky enough to get any extensive internships, is there any specific websites or organizations/companies that have been known to give good internships or work opportunities?

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ChadKopplin
Regular Contributor

I agree with Rickey, and I would add make sure that any qualifications or knowledge and skills questions that the employer asks for are mentioned specifically in your resume and application.  For a large government agency, the application is the important thing, but it does not cover everything that an applicant has done, most agency's let you include your resume as an attachment.  Then the applications are screened by computer  (the computer program is searching for key words through the whole application including the attachment).  The more of these key words that are present will qualify the application to be seen by the hiring agency and considered for an interview (this is very efficient when you have 50-multiple hundred's of applicants for any job).  I mention this process to help you see the importance of making sure the application and resume mention the job qualifications and knowledge and skills specifically. 

A highly qualified and skilled applicant can be deemed unqualified, because of an incomplete application, because of the screening process.  If you do not have enough space to add all of your info for a job, finish the question in a word document and add it as an attachment.  Be as complete as possible and send it to a trusted person to review for errors and completeness before sending it.  If a job requires good oral and written communication skills you do not want the first thing the employer to see is a resume full of errors. 

Lastly, do not be afraid to go back to the hiring agency to ask where you fell in the pool, and what you can do differently for the next interview.  This will help you to gain confidence with each interview and make the necessary  changes to separate your self at the next interview.  Good luck there is a job out there for you, just keep pushing forward.

GarrettPullis
New Contributor II

This information is very help! Thank you very much everyone! I will definitely add this to my arsenal. I'm always willing to step out of my comfort zone to learn something new. Do you have any broad examples of what keywords or skills these companies may be looking for? Some of these companies are so large and have different sectors that it's hard to narrow down what to focus on.

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ChadKopplin
Regular Contributor

Usually they are included with the job announcement. Here is a link to a job on the State of Wyoming Job listing page:

Job Opportunities | `

This job is specifically for a Surface Water Hydrologist, it lists Essential Functions and Qualifications, which includes Preference and Knowledge (this section used to be the knowledge and skills questions).  Make sure that you include each of these areas in your application and resume when you submit it.  Also, go to the specific department's web page and include specific things that the agency does in your experience as well.  Think critically and specifically (do not be general when filling out the application, be specific, remember a computer is screening this application) about your skills.

GarrettPullis
New Contributor II

I think I have a solid resume. I have put a lot of time in effort updating my LinkedIn and updating my resume whenever I gain a new skill but is there a preferred format or specific examples that most employers are looking for? You mentioned that a computer is going through the resumes so does it not so much matter on the things you write about but the words that the program is looking for?

Is there anything you wish you knew toward your senior year of your undergraduate that you know now that you would tell your former self? What would your current self tell your younger self about how to get an edge or some foresight on the progression of where GIS is going to be in the next 10 years? Maybe that one transferable skill that can be applied to any interview or application?

I appreciate everyone's input. This has been very helpful.

0 Kudos
DarrenWiens2
MVP Honored Contributor
I want to get into the sustainable development, natural resource management, and environmental services industries, companies that work with the government or private sector, and eventually work my way up to a natural sciences manager but it's really hard to know what these big companies want.

I would start finding the website for any small to mid-size environmental consulting companies in your area, see if they offer GIS services, and show up resume-in-hand. This way, you can usually speak to someone (sometimes a manager, not a HR person), and see if they have an opening - if not, they know you're around and they know you're motivated. If no one can see you, no harm done, move onto the next. A lot of these companies may have a need for casual or seasonal help, especially in spring/summer when field work is ramping up/ongoing.

I would still apply for large company postings, but you'll likely get screened out immediately with no direct experience.

Other than that, staying active by volunteering in some GIS capacity, like you're doing, is great.

Unfortunately, the first job is the hardest (obviously) so just prepare for rejection and legwork.

PS - I'm speaking as an environmental consultant, and know that people get hired where there isn't a job posting all the time.

View solution in original post

RebeccaStrauch__GISP
MVP Esteemed Contributor

Just to add to the conversation for learning Python, if you are wanting to learn python for ArcGIS, it may be worth it to purchase ArcGIS for Home Use Program | ArcGIS for Desktop Advanced for Personal Use  so you get access to arcpy.  It's $100/year, which  may seem like a lot to someone just getting out of school, but a great deal for what you get (unless you can purchase a copy thru school, which may even be cheaper).  But if you do this, to keep from having python conflicts (unless you really understand that various verisons and path), I would uninstall the python you install, and let the ArcGIS software install and set the paths.

Besides those links provided by others, there are also many threads and free resources on the web for learning both Python, ArcPy, javascript, html, etc.    All are good companion skills to have besides just pure GIS skills.

edit: Dan has a good blog post with python resources

The ...py... links

ChrisDonohue__GISP
MVP Frequent Contributor

I would also recommend marketing your past experience besides your GIS background, as you mention you had other jobs.  I found my first job in GIS as the firm that hired me, an Environmental Consulting firm, needed someone who knew some GIS but could also pitch in with Hazardous Materials work (my career prior to GIS).  So see if you can find those firms that do some of what you have done in the past and want GIS.  Having this combination can give you an edge.

Also, networking is important.  Network with other GIS folks.  They often have leads to jobs and if they know you are looking, can contact you if an opening shows up,  As Darren Wiens alluded to, most non-government job openings never get posted.  In the Hiring world, this is referred to as the "Hidden Job Market."  For better or worse, this is how it works.  When an organization has a need, the hiring process often starts out with the folks in the organization brainstorming "who do you know that we could ask to do this job?".  And then those folks ask their connections.  So don't forget to network.

Chris Donohue, GISP