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I am currently interested in job prospects outside of my own area of programming. Specifically, I'm a web developer but want to make the transition to desktop application programming. How should I tailor my resume to show that I am capable of this type of software development when I have had no prior experience with it? This question can also be generalized for any other programmer making a leap to a different area (for example a programmer mostly experienced in finance software that wants to go into embedded systems programming).

In short, I've used HTML, CSS, PHP, MySQL and Javascript at work. For a short while I also used ColdFusion. I'm very familiar with OOP concepts and frameworks. In the meantime I've moonlighted for over 3 years on my personal hobby projects in C# and C++.

I know it's bad focusing too much on the tools than their application as a metric to measure your abilities, but for making a transition in my career, would emphasizing knowledge in these tools be good idea to put on your resume? Problem is that a lot of jobs put programming languages as strict job requirements (see here). My resume currently shows 5 years of web development experience. I know general programming concepts well enough, and at this point my experience counts much more than my degree.

I want to know how I can make a potential employer of a software company look at my resume with cautious optimism, and not instantly reject it when it shows I have 5 years web experience with PHP and zero desktop software experience.

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post your c# and C++ code on the web where you can refer a potential employer. Make sure that there is a fairly effortless source code browser or a way to allow them to execute the code. –  MatthewMartin Nov 3 '11 at 21:12
    
résumé help questions are off topic, check the faq –  Yannis Rizos Nov 3 '11 at 21:18
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@YannisRizos It looks like we lost part of what the FAQ used to say about resumes in a recent edit. :) Resume questions that are specifically related to programming are supposed to still be accepted and stuff like general "how do I format my resume" stuff is off-topic. Tailoring a resume to a job in a different tech stack than one normally works with sounds like a relevant enough problem to me to stay open. –  Anna Lear Nov 3 '11 at 22:27

3 Answers 3

List your personal project done in C# and C++. If the code that you've written is something that you're proud of, then stick it up on github or bitbucket. If you're not overly proud of it, refactor it 'til you are and then put it up. The intent is to showcase the fact that you're "not just another PHP hack" ;)

If you have a CS degree, that can help you jump borders.

I'd also try to get involved with a larger OS project in a team-based environment. Fix some bugs.. Try to get onto the actual dev team (as an approved committer). That'll go leaps and bounds from separating you out from the rest of the pack.

Also make sure that you're at least familiar with current desktop technologies (WPF, etc) and design patterns and algos commonly employed by desktop applications.

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I do not have a CS degree, but a BFA in Electronic Media, but I do have personal project available in Github. I have seen first hand how some people tend to look down on "PHP people" as compared to programmers experienced in other languages. –  Chris C Nov 7 '11 at 18:58

Definitely focus on the technologies you want to be working with and make those the emphasis, rather than languages you have worked with in the past. The biggest mistake I see when I look at resumes is what I call "alphabet soup" - that is, the candidate lists all the languages he or she ever heard of regardless of skill, hoping to impress someone with a shotgun approach.

Instead, put the languages you are applying to work with front and centre, highlight the best parts of your hobby projects, and indicate that you have 5 years of additional web-centric experience. The nice part about programming is you can easily apply the skills you learn in one language to another, so the key thing to my mind would be showing you have interest in the job you are applying for and have been educating yourself outside of work.

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The advice I've been given for these sort of things before is to generalize your previous jobs.

Instead of writing:

  • I used JavaScript to create the website for company X

you could write:

  • I was instrumental in developing company x's product.

The general idea here is that you present responsibilities and achievements that you made in a way that shows they can be adapted to the new environment. Your experiences at your previous companies are then seen as assets instead of irrelevant footnotes to your history.

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Got any advice to list accomplishments when you don't have any concrete stats/metrics for the success of the product? I mostly worked for companies that produce work for other clients, and these clients don't keep us up to date on how X product has helped them increase their profits or productivity. All I could say is "I met the specs within the deadline". –  Chris C Nov 7 '11 at 21:47
    
Depends on what sort of things you worked on. But one thing I put in my resume was stuff like, "Helped Company X increase visibility within the market." or "Enabled company X to engage users during important event Y": That is focus on what the end product was rather than your small roll in it. –  Bob Nov 7 '11 at 22:28

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