If you look through the latest job and internship postings on Indeed or Glassdoor, you'll notice a recurring theme: experience. Companies that are looking for software developers, app designers, and computer programmers don't really care what classes you've taken or how high your GPA was. (Everyone who applies has a GPA like yours.) What makes a candidate stand out is hands-on experience solving problems, creating products, and working successfully in teams.
Smaller companies, in particular, want you to be able to jump right in and start helping them achieve their goals. They don't want to have to train you or check in on you once an hour to make sure you're not getting lost. Bigger companies have more established onboarding practices that can involve in-house training, but the entry-level jobs at big companies are usually one-dimensional and, well, boring. And you still need to have an amazing resume to get hired by them!
So how can you make your resume stand out from the crowd? How can you show that you have the skill and determination to make a real impact wherever you get hired?
Here are four ways...
1. Start making products
If you want to know how to become a computer programmer, you need to actually become one for yourself. Put your software development skills to work and start designing your own app or a unique website. Dedicate the necessary time to make your code clean and your final product truly impressive. Being able to point to something that you made on your own time that works and is available for public consumption through the App Store or online is a huge boost to any computer programming resume.
Pro tip: Incorporate your passions into your product. If you love playing guitar, make an app that helps songwriters experiment with different chords. If you're really into cooking, make a recipe sharing app. Companies want to see that you have interests and hobbies outside of tech.
2. Contribute to open source projects
If you aren't already, get on GitHub today. Use it to show off your code, organize different versions of your projects, and contribute to other people's projects. All of the biggest open source projects are on GitHub. You can visit the issue pages of these projects, find something that you're able to help with, and send a pull request. If your changes get accepted, you can say that you contributed to a major open source project on your resume, and that looks very impressive.
3. Attend hackathons
Go to hackathons as often as your schedule permits. Put together a trusted team of friends, and try to participate in at least one hackathon per month, ideally more. Every hackathon is a chance to add a new project to your resume. Most of your hackathon projects probably won't be very pretty, but that's ok. Getting a lot of projects started at hackathons will boost your resume, and going back to complete one or two of your projects will boost your resume that much more.
Pro tip: You don't need a team to participate in a hackathon. Be bold and go solo. You'll get picked up by another team or create a new one at the event. It's a great way to make new coding friends (and potential contacts).
4. Learn new programs and languages
Don't limit yourself to what you've been taught in high school or college. Take the initiative to teach yourself new programming languages whenever you have the chance. You can make the process even easier by taking advantage of online courses (many of which are free) or summer programs like the Summer Academy.
If you're really serious about boosting your programming knowledge and creating new products at the same time, consider an intensive two-year program like Make School. At Make School, students are treated as junior developers, creating their own products, working in teams, and securing internships at exciting tech startups. Learn more here.