Why It’s Time to Create Your First Online GIS Portfolio
We all know the standard procedure of what to “hand in” when applying for jobs, but not all of us have considered online portfolios to be a part of our homework. As the world continues to become increasingly digital-focused, online portfolios have become more and more common in a variety of specialties.
For GIS folks, online portfolios may not have been what we were taught to create, but having one can give you a competitive edge when looking for your dream job. Not only will you be able to show off the maps you’ve made, but you’ll also be able to demonstrate your communication skills, ability to organize information, and of course, give potential employers a better understanding of your personality.
Get “Facetime” With Potential Employers
It can be difficult to portray who you are and why you’re a good fit for any role with just a couple of pieces of paper. Typically your resume would communicate the logistics and timeline of your career and your cover letter would expand upon that slightly. However, we’ve all been in that boat where we feel like there’s just not enough space to really sell yourself. That’s where an online portfolio comes in.
So Much of GIS is Visual
Even if your experience is limited to a few courses or a short internship, there’s a good chance you have some visual examples of GIS work you’ve done that can’t be shown on a cover letter. It can be as simple as one map with a paragraph describing its purpose or a link to web applications you’ve contributed to. Nothing is too small. Of course, don’t share anything that’s confidential and isn’t already public (and definitely don’t share data files), but don’t feel like you can’t highlight your achievements either. The point isn’t to be making big claims but to emphasize the value you’ve been able to bring in the past and that you’ll continue to bring into the role you want. After all, a picture (or a map) says a thousand words.
Show Off Your Web Skills
Just like you’re using the internet to share your work, organizations are increasingly doing the same. It’s likely to be quite an asset to have experience with the web in any shape or form, especially if there’s any web-based mapping in the roles you’re applying to. Having to put together an online portfolio will also likely involve a bit of coding and design – other skills that GIS technicians and analysts may find themselves needing.
Practicing your HTML, no matter how basic, and UX/UI (aka. user experience and user interface) skills by building a portfolio is case in point that you have them. If you see any job postings looking for experience with ArcGIS Web AppBuilder, Mapbox, or Leaftlet, then you can be sure that having an online portfolio will speak volumes.
Get A Head Start on Future Portfolios
If you plan to go after certifications like the GISP, creating your portfolio online can help you prepare for future applications. These portfolios are similar in that they require you to submit a variety of information about yourself so they can understand your background better. Knowing what information you have at your fingertips and communicating it clearly now can help take the pressure off in the future when it’s crunch time.
Creating Your First Online GIS Portfolio
While you may agree that an online portfolio makes sense to help you grow in your GIS career path, putting one together can take some work.
First, find a platform to build a website for your GIS portfolio.
There are plenty of platforms you can use to build your own portfolio on your very own website and you can easily do it for free. Simply search “online portfolio builder” for a roster of platforms to choose from. After all, the main objective is to communicate your skillsets and who you are, so anything beyond that is up to personal preference.
Second, consider what background and project information to include.
What did you study in school? Where have you worked? Have you created anything GIS related in your free time? Ask yourself these questions to start identifying what you want to highlight in your portfolio. The best part about building a portfolio online is that it’s easy to change and update. If you forget about something or you want to add more context or projects down the road, it’s easy to do.
While an online portfolio isn’t as restrictive as a resume or CV in terms of space or formatting, you should aim to be as concise as you can. The goal of an online portfolio is to give a potential employer reason to talk to you, not to read your life story.
Third, think about how to organize this information.
Depending on the amount of information you have, you may want to consider having specific types of pages on your portfolio website. Not only will this help save anyone from experiencing endless scrolling or walls of text, but it can also help potential employers get to the specific information they want easily.
Having a page dedicated to your education, experience, projects, and a short bio can help a future employer get to know a lot more about you without feeling overwhelmed with details. This way it’s simple for them to refer back to certain information if needed.
Voila! You’ve got yourself your first online GIS portfolio!
Additional Online GIS Portfolio Tips
You now know the basics for getting started, but there are a few more things you can do to help your GIS portfolio stand out.
Purchase a custom domain for your website
Whether it’s your first and last name or something quirky like “first name”+“maps”, your link will be nicer to share and more memorable for future employers.
Add your portfolio link to the header of your resume and CV.
A line under your contact information is the perfect spot for your URL.
Add your portfolio link to your LinkedIn profile
To do this, go to Settings & Privacy > Account preferences > Name, location, and industry > Edit contact info (at the bottom of the window) and enter your URL under Website.