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I am currently working on a project on github that I think would be a good demonstration of my initiative, creativity and enthusiasm. It is an educational game I am developing in pygame that enables the user to learn to improve their development productivity by using vim, specifically with python, though learning to code faster with vim should be transferable to any language. I think this is something that might have a mass appeal and benefit to a lot of people in a measurable way.

-However-

I am graduating from college in a month (my degree is computer science with a minor in English), with no experience that is relevant to helping me get any kind of job in the field, and a gpa that doesn't tout my merits. I could pursue a career in game development, but it's not necessarily what I'm most interested in, and see myself applying to startups around the country. To the places I am looking at applying, showing that I have experience with pygame is going to be largely irrelevant, except in demonstration of my ability to code, period. A lot of skills that ARE more marketable, such a data modeling, GIS, mobile application, development, javascript, .net framework, and various web development technologies, are not going to be showcased by this project (on the upside, employers do like to see familiarity with git and python).

I'm wondering if I should sink all my free time in the next couple of months into this project, since I'm motivated and interested in it, and if the value of being able to demonstrate ambition and 'good ideas' (for lack of a better term, and in my own opinion) will compensate for the absence of demonstrating more sought-after skills. I am probably at a point where I should either commit fully to this project now, or put it on the backburner in favor of something else, and I am leaning towards continuing with what I am already working on, because I think it's a great idea, and something achievable to me with enough dedication over the next couple months. But the most important thing to me is being able to get a job out of college, which I am exceedingly concerned about as the professional landscape which I am navigating for the first time is a lot more intimidating than I could have anticipated, with almost every job (even short-term contract positions) requiring years of experience which I lack.

So in brief,

the common denominator to answering the question "How can I overcome experience requirements for a job" seems to be "Show off your own project."

I want to know WHICH project I should work on to best increase my chances of getting a job out of college, keeping in mind that I have no experience. I believe this question is applicable to any new grad that lacks demonstrable experience.

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Just do what you want to do. That you're interested in things enough to do them independently (and learn outside of a classroom setting) are big things that employers look for; not just in new graduates. –  Telastyn Nov 13 '12 at 3:46
    
my example: there're two projects I want to work on. One project I've known about for years but never had that willpower to do it. But my new interest is much stronger and programming this new project is coincidentally useful since I can use part of the skeleton and with minor altercations I can expand on it. So I would say, do what you are willing to do. If you want to showcase any of the other characteristics you wanted to do, work those in at the end. You said you wanted to make an edu game, I am sure if you find joy in this you can expand on it and find ways to data modeling and mobile dev –  Mallow Nov 13 '12 at 5:22
    
It depends on what your GPA is and where your school is. In Indonesia, you will definitely want to start your own business because salary is lower. Where are you? Will that game produce money? If so, to hell with jobs. You can make simple applications and sell that at appstore. VIM is archaic. Who codes in VIM? It's hard enough to use that to type simple texts. –  Jim Thio Nov 13 '12 at 8:18
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Please take a look at the faq. Questions like "what project should I work on next" are specifically off topic, as are questions seeking career advice. Also, this question is very specific to your own situation and seems unlikely to be useful to others in the future. I don't doubt the sincerity of your question one bit, but I don't think it's a good fit for this site. –  Caleb Nov 13 '12 at 9:43
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Since you have no experience, I would focus on showing your passion, creativity, and understanding of the logic used in programming by continuing your pet project. Just be sure to try and keep your clean code and use best-practices where possible. Employers are understandable towards recent collage grads, and are likely more interested in seeing passion and creativity mixed with a strong desire to learn, instead of seeing an example of the boring code they have to work with everyday. –  Rachel Nov 13 '12 at 20:36
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closed as off topic by Caleb, gnat, Walter, maple_shaft Nov 13 '12 at 17:27

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4 Answers

But the most important thing to me is being able to get a job out of college...

If the above is true, you should be acquiring the skills that will be necessary to qualify for the jobs you are interested in. It's only a bonus if this happens to coincide with the project you want to work on in your free time. Be realistic about your goals and expectations and work towards achieving them.

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I agree, my time could be better spent teaching myself the "more marketable" skills, but it seems that the most common answer to the question of how to overcome lack of experience in its permutations is the develop something on one's own that shows off one's abilities. So are you suggesting that I work on something else? Or that I don't work on a project at all, in favor of teaching myself the skills that will be necessary to qualify for the jobs that I am interested in? –  Hart Simha Nov 13 '12 at 14:30
    
I am suggesting you work on something that you can reference during an interview for a job that you want as relevant experience that the employer is looking for. If this happens to be the project you are currently working on now, then just continue working on it. –  Bernard Nov 13 '12 at 14:38
    
Not just skills but a reasonable GPA... –  Rig Nov 13 '12 at 15:58
    
In my job experience, GPA does not matter. –  Bernard Nov 13 '12 at 16:01
    
@Bernard: Once you have experience, GPA doesn't matter. On your first job, it's one of the few metrics hiring managers have, so it's more heavily weighted. –  TMN Nov 13 '12 at 16:05
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What we look for where I work, especially for college grads is a decent GPA (we had some duds recently for internships, so GPA is important) and a strong interest in programming.

Your project sounds like you are already at the top of most of the people we see (and I work for a top company).

We love to see candidates who are well rounded and have interests outside of work. Your project shows you have something you are passionate about and it gives us the ability take a peak at your programming skills.

There is a lot of interest in VIM among startups and forward thinking companies.

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Absolutely. By working on your own, you demonstrate the dedication to your craft and a pursuit to "get better". One of the very first questions in my technical interview was if I do any outside reading or knowledge pursuit and if I've ever worked on a project outside of school and work. The poster that referred to OLPC gave me another idea. Using your skills to give back to the community/world look very impressive when you're just trying to stand out from the other resumes. Find an open source project you like and contribute or find a way your personal project can be used for good. Good luck and go for it.

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I assume you are applying to OLPC and MathWorks, no? These places are all about learning. OLPC's "sugar" environment is written in Python. Seems like a perfect fit. If you already have experience with a few popular technologies, I don't see why you can't work on what you want. A friend of mine got a new programming job based on a computer checkers game he wrote that played fairly well.

In terms of your github project, I think you need some kind of demo. A more detailed description of the fun part of the game-play, the learning goals for the user, and/or picture of what a screen might look like would make me want to dig deeper.

P.S. I don't know if edubuntu has a paid staff, but it's certainly something to be aware of.

PPS: It looks like you have a (potentially copyrighted) true-type font checked into your repository for some reason.

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I am familiar with OLPC and think it's a great idea. Unfortunately, their website shows that they currently have no opportunities. Mathworks requires at least being in a masters program for their internships. I just browsed all their jobs and the ones that they will hire candidates with just a bachelors require 3+ years of experience. I appreciate the suggestions though. Truth is, I'm not necessarily looking to work in an educational field, just as long as what I'm doing is productive (hence my choice of personal project). That's why I'm seriously looking at startups. –  Hart Simha Nov 13 '12 at 16:53
    
Also, the font included is a GNU GPL version of fixedsys‌​, I'm going to include it's license with my next commit. I believe I am allowed to bundle it with my project, since it's a noncommercial project, right? –  Hart Simha Nov 13 '12 at 16:57
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