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3 Tips to Maximize the Value of Your GIS Internship

Andres Abeyta, the Executive Director of Bootcamp GIS, discusses three ways to get the most of your GIS internship.

What GIS interns typically do

Typically GIS interns will shadow senior workers to get a feel of a real world job. They may also get experience with typical tasks like: performing administrative tasks, producing digital content, collecting field data and surveys, and analyzing data. When interns are working they are typically performing basic tasks and learning from those they are shadowing to see how tasks are performed. Internships allow you to develop and improve the skills you have learned in classes in order to best prepare you for a job in the future. But you need to take an active rather than a passive role so that you mature your skills and professional thinking.

1. Ask your mentor to let you do technical processes

You might be surprised at how much responsibility you will be given if you ask to try stuff. Your goal is to build real-world skills used by professionals in the field. Most students and professionals will tell you that school gives you a base of knowledge, but the real learning takes place on the job. This is where you figure out how to solve problems, create products, and inform decisions. 

It’s usually very eye opening for college students to see the actual skills required to be successful before applying for a job. You’ll likely need several internship experiences because each entry level job helps you to build a resume with better skills. Internships will give you insight into the business world that you will utilize for your time in the industry. Future employers will have more confidence in your real world skills that will elevate you as a job candidate.

Python Data Science Script. Source: Andres Abeyta
Python Data Science Script. Source: Andres Abeyta

2. Build your professional network

While working at an internship you are likely to build connections within the company that can make great references. In 2019, a NACE study showed 66.4% of people who participated in a paid internship received a job offer. This statistic is proof that your best opportunity is your nearest.

You are already building relationships with those who you are interning for. Ask for LinkedIn connections and recommendations. Go a step further and join the LinkedIn groups they follow and share an interesting post to give yourself visibility.  Finally, set up the expectation that they might be a reference for a future job. Lots of interns that do a good job, passively let the internship end. Don’t be one of these.

GIS group post on LikedIn from Andres Abeyta.
GIS group post on LikedIn from Andres Abeyta.

3. Document your experience with proof

Have you wondered what should be on your resume or LinkedIn page? You have it right in front of you when you are working on internships or any projects. Each internship, presentation, conference, volunteer activity should be documented.

Capture screenshots and photos because it’s evidence of what you HAVE done rather than what you would list in a bullet. You will now have the ability to make it easier for the next hiring manager to quickly see your skills within 30 seconds.

COVID-19 Dashboard Layout. Source: Andres Abeyta
COVID-19 Dashboard Layout. Source: Andres Abeyta

How to find a GIS internship

When prepping for your career, find opportunities that challenge you with new skills. GIS internships can be found through websites that compile jobs such as Indeed,  Glassdoor, internships.com. If you are a college student, then your school might be on a great career resource like Handshake. Networking with professors at your school and nearby community professionals are also great resources to find an internship.

Although someone you meet in the industry might not be offering an internship, they may know someone else who is. If you are having trouble finding an internship that fits your schedule, an alternative might be to take a project-based bootcamp class taught by a subject matter expert.

A class taught by industry experts that allows you to build real applications can be the quickest way to pick and choose the skills you are after. The last tip: don’t stop at one internship. There are lots of people who admire ambition, so keep asking people for your next opportunity.

About the Author

Andres Abeyta is the Executive Director of Bootcamp GIS, https://bootcampgis.com. He has been travelling the world presenting new ideas as part of selective EdTech innovation programs:

  • Plug n Play – Beijing
  • NYU – StartEd – New York City
  • UCSD – Connect – San Diego
  • Amazon – EdStart – San Francisco
  • Harvard – Goldman Sachs EdTech Conference – Boston
  • ASU/GSV – International EdTech Conference – San Diego

He has a Master’s degree from the San Diego State Geography Department and a Master’s in Education from University of New Mexico. He has been an innovative educator delivering custom onsite and online geospatial education to many government agencies around the country: BLM, USFS, USFWS, NPS, NOAA, US Navy, US Army, US Marine Corps, US Air Force.  He has co-authored a new upper tier course list, https://platform.bootcampgis.com/courses, that represents an array of technical geospatial thought leadership from around the world.

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