Job Hunting Stories

By Richard Serby

Richard B.writes, "I have relocated to Florida and interviewed with three companies for GIS positions. They are all 'on hold'. They may not hire anybody. I may have to change careers."

The only problem with changing careers is that most other professions are in the same unemployment situation. The employment reality in GIS is reflective of the job situation across the country.

Missy M.adds, "I have been both excited and a little frustrated with job hunting. I've come to realize that most jobs are on the coasts and larger cities. I may have to give relocation a try."

Relocation is often necessary to find a good job. This is the single most important issue as a recruiter. The commercial company employer typically pays relocation expenses, at least in part. This is not the case with most public agencies. Relocating prior to getting a job, as Richard B.did, is usually not a good idea unless you have resources to tide you over for several months. Florida, however, remains one of the stronger employment States. Spouse employment is often the reason people are not willing or able to consider relocating. The decision to relocate should be made before you apply for a job. Not after you have been offered an interview.

Jennifer C., a Canadian, says, "I have sent a total of 25 to 30 resumes and have had only one interview. I find it difficult being a Canadian because employers automatically assume that you need to be sponsored to work in the United States."

Actually, getting an interview from only 25-30 resumes is pretty good! I talk to people who have sent hundreds without an interview offer. My guideline is to send no fewer than ten cover letters and / or resumes each day. Then, follow-up on each letter and resume sent a few days later. If you send more than ten it will be more difficult to do the follow-up calls. If you send fewer than ten you may not build the momentum you need to find a job in a reasonable amount of time.

Citizens of Canada and Mexico can enter the U.S.on a TN Visa. This is a program through the North American Trade Agreement (NAFTA).The employer must make an offer of employment in writing and must explain what attempts were made to hire a U.S.Citizen or U.S.Permanent Resident. People who have at least a Bachelors degree find it easy to obtain a TN Visa for U.S.employment. The visa is renewable each year. GIS and related geosciences are unique enough to warrant the visa in most cases.

Hunter G.sums it up by writing, "My search for a job has been a nightmare. I have two college degrees and certification in GIS and cannot find anything! I have probably applied more than 1000 times online and I never get a reply."

These stories and hundreds of others are sent to me daily. With the unemployment rate at 6% or higher in many areas of the country there are many highly qualified people finding themselves without a job. This means that persistence, creativity, and thoroughness are more important than ever.

Persistence: If you are unemployed then your job is to find a job. Your workday should be well organized and you should spend eight hours each day in an effort to find job leads.

Creativity: If you are using the internet as the only tool to find employment then you need to use other approaches. When I get a paper resume delivered to me by mail do you know what I do? I read it! It is so uncommon to receive hard copy resumes and cover letters that they have become 'new' again. Add hard copy resumes and cover letters to your tool bag. Just think of the impact you can make if you deliver your resume in person to employers in your area. You will be the only person who actually took the time and made the effort to meet a potential employer face-to-face.

Thoroughness: Be sure to tailor your resume to the specific position. Too many people use a 'one size fits all' resume for every job. That approach greatly reduces the effectiveness of your resume and cover letter. Research the company or public agency when you are offered a telephone or personal interview. People who have taken the time to learn something about them impress employers.

David W.advises, "Take advantage of co-op programs ...to gain industry experience and make yourself more marketable." Internships are another avenue to develop skills, experience, and become acquainted with people who can help you find a full-time position. David continues by saying, "Take advantage of trade shows or seminars. This is a great way to make contacts and learn new technology."


Entry-level jobs are out there. Most employers will not use recruiters or pay the costs involved in advertising widely for entry-level openings. But, the same employers who are advertising for senior level positions may also have a need for entry-level workers. You can respond to a job ad with a note in your cover letter explaining that you are available for junior level positions.

I would like to thank all of you who wrote me about your job search experience.


Published Thursday, July 3rd, 2003

Written by Richard Serby



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