3 Things you should have if you are pursuing a career in development.
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A degree from a university or certificate from a programming boot camp is a great start. Here are 3 things you will help you land a position as a developer and make life a little easier once you are in the position. .
There are some specific things you can do if you are seeking, or are in, a career in development: Establish and be active with Github, create an active Stack Overflow account and establish an account and be active with LinkedIn.
1. Get a Github account and be active
Github is the gold standard for version management. It allows developers to simultaneously work on a project while managing and resolving code conflicts and allowing for rollbacks. Setting up a Github account is free. However, the free version does not allow you to post a private repo. When someone looks at your Github profile, they see
- The number of repositories that you contribute to (This can be from three to ten to be acceptable)
- If you have any public repositories. A public repo is where you manage the repo for a project and other people contribute to it. If you can come up with a project that you can put in a public repo, that would be a bonus
- Your level of contribution. Github will color in a block for each day depending on your level of activity. You do NOT need to a solid dark green contribution history. For example, here is the Github activity for David Heinemeier Hansson, a founder of Ruby on Rails. His net worth is over $30 Million dollars. As you can see, you need a presence, not an obsession.
- If you have a private project that you update regularly, it would probably be worth purchasing an account that lets you keep a private repo. The cost should be less than $10/month.
- In addition to Github, there are other online repos such as Bitbucket. It would be worth setting up an account there as well.
- If your skills are strong enough you can find projects on Github and contribute to them. That experience would be invaluable in showing your coding and version management skills.
Some companies will ask you do do a coding exercise and post the results to your Github account as part of the screening process. Having an account and being familiar with Git and Github will put you ahead of the curve.
2. Establish a presence on Stack Overflow.
Stack Overflow is a forum where you can find people who will help you with programming situations. It can be an invaluable resource when you run into tough problems. However, in order to be able to fully participate, you need to build up points or ‘reputation’. This takes some time. As you gain reputation points, you gain privileges. For example, you can’t participate in the chat rooms until you have 75 points. Having a stack overflow account with a reputation of over 100 will impress some employers. Even if it doesn’t help you get a position, it will be an invaluable resource for you. In order to make the most of Stack Overflow:
- Establish an account at Stack Overflow and create a profile.
- Lurk on the forums for a while. Don’t post anything or reply to any questions. There is a very specific etiquette for Stack Overflow. Learn what gets questions and answers downvoted. The last thing you need is to get a bunch of downvotes early on.
- Once you are ready to ask a question, find a real life problem. If you are asking a question about a school exercise or assignment, be up front about that. When you are ready to ask:
- Search to make sure that the question has not been asked and solved previously.
- Ask your question clearly and concisely.
- Include your relevant code properly formatted.
- Reply promptly if anyone asks for clarification on your question.
- Be VERY careful about posting real code from a work project. You might need to sanitize it or convert it to a generic example. NEVER post IP addresses, internal domain names or any other sensitive information.
- When you get to a certain point, you can gain some additional points by joining forums on Stack Exchange. Basically the same rules apply in Stack Exchange as they do in Stack Overflow.
Nurture your Stack Overflow profile carefully. It can be difficult or impossible to recover from a rash of downvotes early on.
3. Set up an account and profile on LinkedIn.
Many employers and recruiters will go to LinkedIn when they are first vetting you. Create a LinkedIn account and make sure your profile is complete. In many cases, having a 1st, 2nd or 3rd level connection to someone will allow you to see more of their LinkedIn profile. To get the most out of your LinkedIn account:
- Follow employers that are related to your anticipated career path.
- Connect with other developers and recruiters. Connecting with recruiters is valuable because they are often connected to management and team members at an organization.
- If a company or recruiter indicates an interest in you, ask for the names and LinkedIn profiles of the interviewers. Ask for the profile because finding the correct “John Smith” at Comcast can be quite a challenge. If it is a startup or small company, check out the profiles of the key players.
- Join groups specific to your career path and participate. This won’t do a whole lot as a lot of the groups are fairly spammy but it will establish your credentials as a serious player.
Put at least as much effort into your LinkedIn profile as you put into your resume and cover letter.
Having these three assets will give you an edge over your competition for positions. It might be a slight edge but it could also be all that you need.
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