I love geographic information systems! The artistic creativity in map making, the science of spatial analysis, and the cross-industry value is amazing.
But there is a HUGE problem… GIS is easy. It is easy like Word Processing and spread sheets are easy (If you are not careful that is)
Anyone can do Word or Excel… but they usually do it poorly. The same goes with GIS. A lot of people can do it… poorly.
But… how will anyone know?
Here is an example from my past with respect to Word processing.
When I was taking GIS at college I was require to do group work with two other students. We created a 100 page document together.
Everyone in the group insisted they knew how to use Word… but they didn’t have the experience I had.
I had already written a 200 page thesis and 4 research papers by this point and used all the “Referencing” tools in Word.
“Insert Caption” – Check
“Cross-reference” – Check
“Insert Citations” – Check
“Table of Contents” – Check
You use these functions because they update each other when pages are moved, figures are deleted, or sections altered. Plus, hyperlinks are made within the document.
One of my partners, an Engineer by training… insisted on removing all my formatting and hand-editing all figure captions, all cross-references, all citations, and all table of contents.
Hand editing… 30 images, 60 references, and three tables…
What a mess.
Here is the kicker… at the end with a printed copy… how would have known the difference between my skillful use of Word and their hand-hammered editing?
How is anyone going to know that you do GIS better than anyone else?
As I wrote about here, people don’t care that you have the skills, they care if you can solve their problem.
So how can you show them you can solve their problem?
It is actually simpler than solving their problem completely, but it does take showing a track record of solving problems.
This is where degrees and certificates matter. This is where training courses and endorsements matter.
This is where SHOWING WHAT YOU CAN DO MATTERS.
Here is something you need to know, because knowing is half the battle.
You will never be perfect for every role… EVER… so don’t try to be.
There is an old saying that says “He who chases two rabbits catches None”. Well same goes for GIS roles.
Focus on a single problem that you can solve, and define it completely.
In marketing terms this is called “Narrowing your Niche”, in career terms I will call this (for now)
You specialize in problems everyone can solve, or one that is not already thoroughly solved.
Google Maps works, don’t do that… unless you have a revolutionary idea… which is unlikely. Google pays thousands of people a lot of money for this specialization.
You find your idea and then….
Define your Problem
Remember people only want their problems solved. Find a problem, and make it yours.
Not all problems are created equal. Not all problems require you to focus your energy on.
Some problems are too easy and everyone will already know it.
If you are just starting out, research what industry needs. Ask industry insiders. Focus on that problem and go.
Define Your Solution
There is an old saying that “A question well asked is half solved”. Try this one, a problem fully solved is owned BY YOU.
You own the problem, you have researched the problem, and now own the solution. If you know the problem inside and out, you can solve the problem inside out.
Even better, people have the problem you KNOW inside and out, and that means they will trust you with the solution.
If no one knows you have the solution to a problem… then you might as well go home. SHOW OFF NOW.
We live in a world where self-promotion is free. You have at your fingertips the advertising power never dreamed of by marketers in the past.
For zero dollars, you can shout to the world that you have the solution to a problem.
By promoting yourself, you own the problem, you own the solution.
You don’t have to be the best… but you may have to be the loudest.
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