code lines written by software developers on a dark screen

Code is the next resume

According to the Linux Foundation’s Jim Zemlin, “Code is the next resume.”

But what happens when your current role is on the mundane end of the sexy spectrum? Or your company prefers to keep its code and development projects under wraps? How can you show prospective employers what you’re really capable of?

Contribute to an open source project. Whether you’re starting out or much further along in your development career, nothing gives you the opportunity to shine like working on an open source project. Here’s why…

Show and tell

Good work speaks for itself. Because all the work you contribute to an open source project is publicly available, it’s like a portable portfolio. Give a hiring manager your GitHub name and you’re giving them answers to any questions they may have about your CV/resume: Can you work well in dispersed teams? How proficient are you in the languages you claim skills for? Are you more than *just* a DBM – what kinds of projects are you good with when given free rein?

Look and learn

On open source projects, the code is open for all to see. Watch how the more experienced contributors work and learn from them. As Github puts it, you get to ‘browse interesting projects, solving all types of interesting problems.’ Flex your brain a little, challenge yourself to try something new or learn new tools – and expand your career horizons.

Can you fight your corner or take constructive criticism without starting a flame war?

It’s not just about the code, either – working with strangers from all over the world gives you real-world experience in the softer, managerial skills many companies like to see in their developers.

Can you fight your corner or take constructive criticism without starting a flame war? Do you communicate ideas and suggestions effectively? Is your work tidy and easy for others to re-use or build from?

Start small and grow

This is especially true for early-career developers or anyone new to open source. Trying to dive in at the deep end of high-profile projects like MySQL can be daunting; small contributions, made consistently, will earn you the respect and assistance of more experienced contributors. Even just filing regular bug reports and smaller, manageable fixes can help you find your feet. Once you’ve got a good handful of them under your belt, you’ll be able to say you’ve contributed code to XXXX project on your CV – and prove it.

Do your homework

Find out what, if any, projects or tools are significant for a company you’d like to work for and jump in. Again, GitHib is a great place to see who’s using what – and how. Make a contribution or improvement to a piece of codebase a company you’d like to work for is using and you never know who’s watching.

Work smarter

If you’d like to move up the ladder at your existing company, dig around for a project that aligns with something important at work. Whether it’s something to do with Amazon Cloud Services or Apache, by learning and contributing to a tool your organisation already values, you can increase your own value.

Finally…

*Passion* is a much over-used word. But one cliché that continues to hold water is: If you want something done, ask a busy person.

Even non-developers working in the technology sector can make a valuable contribution in ways that will impress employers.

Personal time spent contributing to open source projects not only demonstrates genuine interest in what you do for a living, it shows the kind of self-motivation and commitment to ongoing learning that characterises a good bet from a hiring point of view. Even non-developers working in the technology sector can make a valuable contribution in ways that will impress employers, from documentation to localisation.

What are you waiting for? Open source your CV. Try GitHub’s Repo Exlorer for a low barrier to entry list of small projects you can cut your teeth on. If you’re looking to hone new language skills, Apache lists projects according to language and Mozilla is famous for its welcoming approach to contributors. And if you really don’t know where to start, there’s always OpenHatch – where prospective contributors can have their skills matched with communities and tools.

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