by Keith Anderson
Recently, I had the opportunity to speak in front of the University of Nevada, Reno Association of Computing Machinery, or ACM club. In preparation for presenting, I was asked to share some tips for getting a job in software development as fast as possible upon graduation. I can’t predict exactly what beyond a degree – besides actual experience – anyone other than I might look for…here’s a few ideas I can suggest.
1. Get a Github Account
A developer should already know how to use version control. Use Github as a central place to store your class projects, organize side projects, set up a basic website for yourself, and even provide version control for written work or presentations. Frequent Github activity is something employers will find appealing.
2. Practice Using the Whiteboard
Developers need to know how to “whiteboard” out, and explain, broad programming concepts in front of a group of people. You might have programming concepts or specific technologies down cold, but explaining them in front of a group of people you don’t know can be really tough, and it is a skill you have to practice. For practical practice lessons, I would recommend the book Cracking the Coding Interview by Gayle Laakmann McDowell.
3. Participate in Projects
There are lots of opportunities to hone your skills outside of school. Hack-a-thons, coding competitions, meetups, and volunteer work for non-profit organizations are all opportunities to work with a team on an application. Be sure to keep the scope of the projects you participate in very narrow, which should greatly increase the chances of your project being completed.
4. Interview Often
Interviewing is also a skill that is not often taught in college, and certainly requires practice. Interviewing at as many companies as possible gives you great practice, as well as exposure to companies and jobs you might not have thought about. Getting out there and interviewing will not only land you a job (eventually,) it’ll open up your mind. After each interview, be sure to contact the hiring team or manager for feedback, most people will provide you valuable information if asked.
What if you can’t get any interviews? Contact companies you think you might be interested in and ask for an informational interview. This is a no-pressure way to get some practice and sometimes get an “in” into a company that you’d otherwise be screened out of based on lack of experience.
5. Contribute to Open Source
Open source projects are great opportunities to get practical experience and work with programmers out in the job market. The community surrounding an open source project can sometimes be an avenue to find a job opportunity, or a mentor.
6. Consider Contract to Hire
When you go to work for a staffing agency you get the benefit of trying out a job without long-term commitment, you get a broad range of job experience without the stigma of job hopping, and you get access to jobs that are not generally advertised to the greater public.
7. Complete Your LinkedIn Profile
Make sure your profile is complete, a good photo is especially important. If you feel like the only thing you have to put on your LinkedIn profile is your experience as a camp counselor, see item #8.
8. Track Your Accomplishments
As you go through college (and the rest of your life) track accomplishments in a brief journal. The accomplishments can be everything from projects completed during coursework, to extra- curricular milestones or volunteer work. Track the date, and a brief description of what you did or what was involved. These entries can be used as real world examples in a job interview or information to put on a resume or bio. Trust me, things move quickly and unless you write it down, you won’t remember the specifics of projects you worked on in your CS 350 class.
9. Keep In Touch
The next time you are in class, look around the room. The people you are with right then are the ones who will help you get jobs in the future, whether telling you about an opportunity they heard of, or in a couple years actually being the one who hires you. Make sure you get to know them and that you keep in touch with them. As time goes on, they become a hugely valuable asset in your job search.