I have always believed that resumes are not sufficient documentation to understand a potential employee or volunteer. In order to truly understand a potential recruit, you need to see examples of what they did and how. As a hiring manager and on hiring panels, I’ve seen so many people who looked good on their resume but either couldn’t deliver or weren’t able to communicate their suitability despite the fact that they were highly qualified for the job. Resumes don’t tell the whole story. Professional portfolios give a fuller picture of a candidate and can help highlight skills beyond the norm. Wallets are much more mainstream than they were when I started in GIS nearly 30 years ago (and much more portable!), and I think we’re building a better, more robust community as we go. that we build more.
What is a Wallet?
A portfolio is a collection of examples of your professional and/or academic work that showcases what you have accomplished, what you are capable of, and your creativity. If you’ve been around long enough, you’ll remember the days when portfolios were made of fabric, leather, or other similar materials and had a three-ring binder with page protectors for hard copies of your recent and relevant work. These days, you’re more likely to find a portfolio on GitHub or on a website.
Why should you have a wallet
1) Get out!
If you’re looking for a job in GIS, geography, cartography, or any field, it’s important to show potential employers what you can do. When I started working in GIS in the 1990s, all it took was a recommendation or two and a well-crafted resume. Now there are many more analysts vying for the same positions, and GIS degrees are now much more commonly earned. It is important to show your potential employer(s) that you not only know the concepts of geography, but also how to apply them. Use your portfolio to show off your skills in the real world!
2) Show off your technical AND soft skills.
Sure, you want to display your GIS and related skills in your portfolio, but a portfolio should be more than just maps. Many recruiters are looking for technicians who can communicate beyond technology. A portfolio lets you show off the maps and apps you’ve created, as well as demonstrate your writing and speaking skills.
Code Academy recommends that you include descriptions of the projects in your portfolio and suggests that bullet points are sufficient. My philosophy regarding project descriptions is somewhat different. Start with bullet points, but as you develop your portfolio, use these descriptions as opportunities to show off your documentation and synthesis skills, and show that you are able to communicate with others in a professional manner. Take the time to show off your critical skills (aka “soft skills”) and show how well-rounded you are.
3) Build your community!
Juliana McMillan-Wilhoit is a geospatial analyst and educator, and a strong proponent of the portfolio as a tool for career development. She encourages people to use their portfolios as a networking or community building medium. Ms McMillan-Wilhoit recommends using a portfolio as a “visual representation of your work” that you can share with people you want to connect with. While working in research and development, Ms. McMillan-Wilhoit would use her portfolio as an opportunity to introduce herself to someone before she met, so that the other person had a sense of who they were as a technical colleague and professional.
What should I include?
Contact details are essential. Don’t assume people know how to find you. Make sure you have an up-to-date email (or phone number) that you check frequently on your wallet. You can create a special one for the portfolio or use the version that suits you best. Include any other social media contact information you deem appropriate. I usually include my twitter account because there are lots of other geofolks on Twitter and it’s a great way to connect, build your community and show off what you’re up to!
Introduce the basics, including examples of your maps and applications and descriptions for each project. Descriptions should include at least a brief summary of your methodology, as well as the tools and programming languages used. If a process you’ve used in a project is new or particularly interesting for a specific area, you might consider adding a section to your portfolio that details that process, in addition to the basic project section.
Include a section for any writing or speech you have made regarding your projects or GIS in general. Where possible, link to the article or video, or provide an example embedded in your portfolio. A brief explanation of what each link leads to is a good idea.
If you have a side hustle or enjoy creating GIS projects for fun, include that too. Kate Berg does a great job of including personal card projects in her portfolio. The more you can show who you are and why you’re awesome, the better!
What tool should I use?
There is no right way to build your portfolio. The format and tool you use will depend on what makes sense to you. I’ve seen website tools (Squarespace, WordPress, etc.) and GitHub
used to great effect. I’ve also seen portfolios built using ArcGIS StoryMaps, which has the added benefit of showing off the creator’s StoryMap skills. I’ve also seen GIS portfolios built in PowerPoint and saved as PDFs that can be emailed. You are only limited by your imagination.
Start by searching the internet for “GIS wallet” and see what comes up. Which portfolios speak to you? Which are not your cup of tea? Collect your projects and start building your own portfolio. It’s never too late to show off your talents!
Berg, Kate. (February 18, 2022) Build your professional GIS portfolio. [MP4] Retrieved from https://youtu.be/wBP-s4fP5uQ.
GitHub, Inc. (Accessed June 30, 2022) Where the World Builds Software Ware. https://github.com/
McMillan-Wilhoit, Juliana. (Accessed June 30, 2022) Portfolio Challenge. Spatial table. http://tabulaespatial.com/portfolio-challenge/
Limited node space technologies. (Accessed June 30, 2022) Discover the best geospatial professionals in the world. https://www.spatialnode.net/ Author’s Note: By a GIS professional, for GIS professionals, Spatialnode is an emerging platform to host your GIS portfolio and connect with other members of the GIS community.
Tjukanov, Topi. (Accessed July 5, 2022) #30DayMapChallenge. https://30daymapchallenge.com/ Author’s note: Use challenges from previous years to create maps and charts to build your portfolio. You can join the next challenge in November. It’s also a social project that helps you build your community!