Updated: Mar 20
Creating a portfolio to showcase your work in GIS should be at the top of your list for 2022-- even if you don’t want to change jobs. In this article I will walk you through THREE different ways that you can use a portfolio to help you navigate your career—a document for promotion, shaping your career narrative, and networking.
A portfolio is incorrectly thought of as only a job seekers tool or something that you use if you want to get out of your job. My portfolio journey actually started when I was working for the US Department of Defense, and I wanted a way to be able to really express the value that I had both to my team and to other teams as I wanted to get on other projects and I wanted to really try and forge my career.
For starters, let me explain what a GIS Portfolio is. A GIS Portfolio is simply a collection of your work. It can take many forms- PowerPoint, Word Doc, PDF, Website, or even an Instagram Account.
Serves as a Document for Promotion
A GIS Portfolio can document for promotion. So, this may seem pretty obvious, but a portfolio is helpful documentation of the work that you have done. This is handy when it comes time for promotion, it can showcase things like both the technical work that you’ve done as well as leadership work. When I went up for promotion in the DOD there was a very particular process that was based on points and some essays we had to write. I could not submit my portfolio per se, but I gave a copy of my portfolio to those who were helping me review my documents and they were able to provide better feedback to me on how to frame my experience.
Shape Your Narrative
As you create a portfolio, you can then begin to see if there are any gaps in your portfolio. For example, you may have a goal of getting to a certain position by the time that you retire. Perhaps you are working in the county government and you are a GIS analyst right now, but you really want would love to have your career as a director of IT. Working on a portfolio can actually help you recognize what gaps you currently have. What are the things that you need to do to fill the gaps in your experience? Can you frame the experiences that you have had in a different manner? Putting together that portfolio can help you identify the gaps within your career narrative.
Use it to Network
Your portfolio is a great networking tool! You may have even done this without really thinking about it. For example, you’re meeting with someone from another department. You might bring a map that you made or some data analysis that you’ve done in the past. You bring these because you think they shed light on the current conversation that you’re having and help explain what your team does. At the most basic level– that’s a portfolio. You are bringing a visual representation of your work.
In some of those internal conversations, I have sent my portfolio in advance of the conversation. I wouldn’t send my portfolio for every conversation, but for some conversations where I wanted to say, “Hey, these are some of the things that I have done in the past. I’m really curious what synergies, you see between my work and the work that you’re doing.”
As you consider your goals for the coming year, I encourage you to add creating a portfolio to your list of career goals. You’ll be amazed at what a portfolio can do for you!
Juliana McMillan-Wilhoit is a Principal at Tabulae Spatial Services. At Tabulae Spatial, we are cartographers of change. We aid organizations in bringing their visions for their communities to life by augmenting their workforces with geospatial data services. Juliana is also active in career coaching and career development.