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I've only worked on commercial projects, and I'm having a hard time trying to find a project that interests me.

I'm looking at a new job soon, and I'm thinking about contributing to a few open source projects in the short term so that I can add them to my résumé.

Is having open source projects on a résumé important? If so, would trying to contribute to several in a few months look too much like trying to boost my résumé?

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8 Answers 8

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Many good programmers do have only commercial projects but no contributions to open source. They do get hired! Having open source project doesn't automatically put many stars. However, there are advantages. Read on:

The quality of your project counts
I would evaluate your Open source project just like any other commercial project. So if you have done a good job here, it definitely counts.

It allows you to showcase your skills
For example, I may have found a good candidate. He was stuck with maintenance job; he wasn't enjoying and more importantly he couldn't demonstrate well that he has design skills which are very good. In such a situation, an open source project allows you to demonstrate your skills which matters most to you -it provides the freedom to show.

It shows you are self driven
Having contribution to Open Source, tells you one more critical thing: It tells you the recruiter are naturally self driven (assuming that you do good job at your open source project) proactively. And if the project has taken off quite well, you must have had good skills to co-ordinate with other people and followed software development processes to keep code fit.

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plus one for practical examples –  Shaheer Feb 11 '12 at 21:15

I think the best reason for working on an open source project is because it's interesting to you, and you want to contribute. Not so you can get a job.

But to answer your question, unless your prospective employer can gauge the quality of your contributions; I don't think making lots of open source contributions would make a lot of difference to your employability.

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I'll have to disagree, contributing to open source projects will give them impression to prospective employers that you enjoy coding as part of your lifestyle. This is a positive reason for contributing and shows you are not simply doing it for the money. –  stuartmclark Feb 11 '12 at 8:19
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Yes you're right. But this person IS only doing it for the money (or at least, in the hope of some money). So he/she would be painting a false picture, which isn't always the best idea - deception tends to catch up to one eventually. –  David Wallace Feb 11 '12 at 8:24
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Agreed, also I don't think the people on the project would appreciate someone dropping in on them without spending some time to understand the project before contributing. But yeah deception will catch up and will make work much less enjoyable. –  stuartmclark Feb 11 '12 at 8:31
    
yes but where else will i get experience programming with other people? –  javalearner Feb 11 '12 at 10:08
    
@DavidWallace it looks like that you have a problem with the people who code for money, should they not think about the family? he at least have a good reason to contribute even if he has no big experience -- we all want open source don't we? –  Shaheer Feb 11 '12 at 21:13

An open source project is only beneficial to the point you have good reasons behind it. In general, wanting to boost your résumé won't gain you any benefits over a commercial project, unless it's to pick up a language or technology proficiency that wasn't available to your day job, but which your new job requires.

It's hard to fake enthusiasm for open source, and usually if you truly have it, you don't have a problem finding a project that interests you. There will be a bug or performance issue that annoys you about a program you use, but that isn't a high priority for the current developers.

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Can't be sure about it, but you don't look like "opensource guy" material.

With that kind of attitude (no commitment, just looking for a boost in my resume) your contributions are at risk of being a waste of time both for you and for the maintainer of your target project.

Writing an obscure feature that may prove to be buggy later on and then disappear completely, not being able to help maintaining it, doesn't sound much like the kind of thing that skyrockets a resume into resume heaven.

Project comes first. Side effects, later

And sorry if I state the obvious, but you don't walk the opensource path looking for money: that's like enrolling in CS for the chicks. You'd better like the thing per se, or you'll end up feeling pretty miserable anyway.

Continuous, active contributions are those that count

Think Alan Cox, not what-was-his-name-he-kind-of-dumped-some-stuff-there-and-then-he-left.

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In terms of getting a job my impression is that the effect of contributing to OSS is mainly indirect: For many (maybe even most) jobs I don't think having OSS contributions on your resume makes much difference, but you might gain a wider and stronger network through such contributions. That network could come in handy when looking to change jobs.

In short: Don't contribute for the sake of resume items. Do it for fun and do it to participate in the community.

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This is my personal experience, and its only advice.

Having open source projects on your resume is a positive thing however it is not guaranteed to get you a job (not everyone will care ). I would not go putting projects on your resume you have worked on for 2 months just as I would not put a job on my CV that I had for two months (unless it was contracted).

If you having problems finding a project that interests you it may be better you do not start contributing - take your time wait to find one you really enjoy and then start working on it. I have always believed that passion for a project shows through in the quality of your work.

Do one at a time and spend quality time with the project and make valuable contributions. Sometimes commenting ambiguous code can be just as helpful as coding.

Also do spend time on other topics when trying to find jobs such as : formatting your cv, researching companies you wish to work for and their interview process, general programming concepts (brush up).

I hope this helps and good luck with the job hunt!

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I think contributing to open source projects can help a potential employer distinguish you from other candidates because it shows you love to develop software and are willing to do it on your own free time and accept the criticism of your peers.

However, as others here have mentioned, you should not simply contribute to existing projects for a few weeks/months for the sole purpose of mentioning it on your resume. Choose one open source project that you would love to work on and focus on that. Try to choose a project you would actually use yourself.

I would also suggest for you to consider starting your own open source project if you have an idea of what you would like to develop. Not only would it show you can start and maintain a project yourself, you could actually be contributing something useful to the community by doing so.

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I think that having an open source project on your resume in and of itself isn't very important. I do think, however, that having a history of giving back to the community is important. A short term stint on a project you aren't interested in relly doesn't do anyone any favors.

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