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I've recently read through Joel's guide to finding great developers, and I feel really strongly that I am smart and get things done. The problem is, I didn't learn how to get things done until about halfway through college, so my GPA is less than stellar. Additionally, I've got a few other things going against me: late into the job market (~30), no internship, state college instead of university, and when I graduated, I pretty much had to take the first job that offered.

With all of these things piled together, my resume (the first step to getting a job), is not terribly impressive. What can I do to let people know that I'm a great developer and would complement the best companies in the world?

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I hate to say it, but they are probably going to put more weight on what you wear to the interview and how firm your handshake is than your coding skills. (codeanthem.com/blog/2010/08/…) –  JohnFx Sep 23 '10 at 19:55
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I'm pretty sure thats how I got the job I have now. –  Zoe Sep 23 '10 at 19:55
    
@JohnFx: Not sure if this is the rule. In the place where I work now all candidates had to pass a short programming test (we were given a computer with a C++, a problem, and half an hour to solve it). Also, one colleague did not pass the trial period of six months: after that the company decided he was not good enough and did not confirm his contract. So, cool clothing or a firm handshake would be of little help. –  Giorgio Jul 22 '13 at 16:22
    
GPA probably doesn't matter after 3 years of experience, and whether you were at a state college or not is immaterial. One of the following three demos will impress the hell out of employers: Web service based (JavaScript/AJAX, HTML5/CSS3, SQL Server) brokerage (i.e., used cars, medical equipment, whatever). iPhone or Android app (game or web services interface). Embedded control software for internet enabled thermostat or monitoring equipment. –  Meredith Poor Sep 20 '13 at 20:51

9 Answers 9

up vote 21 down vote accepted

Personal projects.

You can contribute to open source projects or write something on your own. If you can literally point to something and say "I wrote this" it's very impressive. Further, it shows that you're passionate about what you do because you're doing it for free in your spare time. List them on your resume under a projects section. If you have a website that nicely showcases what you've done, all the better.

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I've actually got a few projects in my queue, the first of them being a website (I've been wanting to learn Ruby on Rails for a while now). Does showing off my own projects carry as much weight as open source? –  Zoe Sep 23 '10 at 19:52
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Why the downvotes? If you don't like the answer, it would be nice to hear a reason. –  Matt Olenik Sep 23 '10 at 20:18
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I didn't downvote, but I have always had a problem with this answer. Why does everyone always assume that every good developer is trying to make some kind of sellable product in their spare time? What if you're a tinkerer, who learns a great deal from all of your 'personal projects' but nothing is noteworthy, or particularly useful to anyone else? –  Steve Evers Sep 23 '10 at 22:44
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@SnOrfus, it's not about creating a "sellable product," it's about showing that you're able to get things done. Even if nothing good comes of it, you've learned something. And your projects don't have to be noteworthy at all. Just listing the things you work on in your spare time, talking about lessons learned (more of a blog) can be a great way to say, "hey, I can do things." –  Matt Olenik Sep 23 '10 at 23:25
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+1 Having done a couple of candidate reviews I can't stress enough how important it is to show off what you've done. Your personal projects are what defines you as a programmer, if you have nothing to show off then you're competing with other mediocre programmer candidates. The sad truth is that there is a huge surplus of mediocre programmers. Having projects to show off for a programmer is the equivalent of artists with portfolios. –  Spoike Oct 26 '10 at 14:24

Open Source Projects

Have you worked on any other projects before? Hard work trumps GPA in most all cases. Work on an open source project in your spare time and show off those contributions to potential employers. Even if you don't have any software development experience for a company, the fact that you take the initiative to learn and work on your craft is more valuable to an employer than someone who has experience, has become complacent and is only in it for the paycheck.

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I've found that these things help to show that you're passionate about programming:

  • active on Twitter, given you tweet about technology
  • have a blog
  • be part of local technology P2P groups
  • participate in open-source projects or have your own project that you're actively working on. If you can present it somehow (live or link to a page) is a plus.-
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Do you have an idea for some software to write and sell? Or a website you can support with membership fees or advertising? If so, do it. Nothing proves you can 'get things done' better than actually showing that you have gotten things done. It doesnt have to be massive - just enough to show that you can start from an idea, and actually finish it. That is a highly valued trait.

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Please, don't try to look good by doing things you wouldn't have done otherwise.

As an employer, I'm looking for problem solvers. Employers have something in common:

They have lots of problems.

When they ask you about your past experiences, explain how you solved business problems rather than enumerating all the technologies you master.

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+1 And I disagree with the other answers recommending open source programming. We look for people with outside interests in non-technology areas because it demonstrates a get-out-and-do-something attitude and life experience, which are much more important for problem solving than code writing. –  james Jan 23 '12 at 3:19

When I was interviewing coming out of college, I put together a portfolio of projects I had done similar to what a graphic artist would do. I had some sample database diagrams, documentation, and screenshots. The portfolio provided a good talking point for some of the projects. In some cases, I could answer technical questions by showing how I did it in an actual project.

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Don't worry about a low GPA. That can only count against you if the interviewers find out about it, and most of the time they don't care either way. I don't even list mine on my resume--not because it was low, but because I find it irrelevant--and I've never had any prospective employer ask about it anyway, so apparently they find it irrelevant too.

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I have only seen it asked about in interviews for internships. –  Troggy Oct 22 '10 at 21:20

Try to publish an article in a magazine, Linux Journal or Dr Dobbs for example would be a good choice. Both have a how to write for us on their web page. Come up with a few ideas and email them in. If the editor rejects them follow up with "Is there anything you are looking for at this time?".

Many publishers also are looking for tech reviewers for books, its another thing to put on a CV that shows you have familiarity.

Its a good way to be noticed, oh and it pays!

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Code.

Show the world that you have and know great code and the jobs will be fairly easy to find.

They don't have to be be open source. Personal projects are fine. What is being looked at are things like: method length; line line; variable naming; coupling, duplication, etc.

Write or participate in some good code and then take the best part and put in on github.com for review. The results will please you.

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