Press "Enter" to skip to content

Don’t be Invisible

We programmers tend to be quiet introverts. This usually hurts us when searching for jobs.

When you’re applying for a job, it helps to be visible.

Think about this from a manager’s point-if-view. You post a job opening on the job websites and get 100 resumes. You don’t have time to interview 100 people. You don’t even have time to do 100 phone screens.

You want to quickly narrow down the candidates to the 5-10 people who look like the best choices.

However, all the resumes look the same. They all have a list of previous jobs, each with 3-4 short bullet point items like “Created C# REST API micro-services for the Accounting Department”.

As a manager, you have no idea what the applicant actually did for that bullet point. Did they design the micro-services architecture? Did they work with the Accounting Department to define the services needed? Or, did they copy-paste code from an existing API project, changing it to call SQL stored procedures that someone else wrote?

How can you quickly decide which resumes to discard, and which to follow up on?

Over the years, I’ve helped several managers review resumes and decide which candidates to interview. These are the things I look for.

NOTE: This is the criteria I’ve used. Everyone is different. The things I consider positives, someone else may consider negatives. But, for most managers and team leads I know, the items below will improve your chances of being interviewed.

Have visible code
If you work on personal projects, consider putting them on GitHub.

These don’t need to be big projects. They can be simple a “to do” list app, a recipe app, or small command line utilities. The important things about having publicly-visible code are that an interviewer will probably think: this person actually has written code, and they’re willing to show it, and it might give me something to talk about at an interview.

Having public code may also improve the quality of your coding, since you know other people can look at it. Some of my small personal projects have been “quick-and-dirty” apps I wanted to create. Knowing that someone else may see this code, I’m more likely to be disciplined when I write it.

Be careful with public code. There are things you don’t want in the code you put on GitHub:

  • Never post code from your jobs. That code almost-always is the property of your company.
  • Don’t commit any passwords, API keys, or other private information to your repositories. Learn about git “ignore” files, user secrets, etc., to keep your private information private. If your project has private information, and you’re not sure how to keep it private, don’t upload that project to GitHub. This is where it’s “better to be safe, than to be sorry”.

Write a technical blog
It’s cheap and easy to register a domain, install WordPress, and start writing posts for your own technical blog. If that is too much, you can setup your own site on websites like Medium.com – although it’s better to build your own site that you control completely.

Even if you’re starting out, you can post about what you’re learning. As you go through a course, or build personal projects, you can document what you’re doing, what problems you’ve encountered, how you solve them, etc.

I suggest not posting controversial topics on your site. If you’re passionate about religion, politics, etc., and want to write about those topics, then create a separate blog. Remember that your technical blog is your public “face” that people will look at when considering hiring you.

The same goes for Twitter and other social media. If you want to tweet about politics, great. Just do it from a different account.

I once worked with someone whose politics I agreed with. But, he wanted to spend more time talking about politics than coding. That became tiring. It’s the same with the few people I follow on Twitter. There are people with great technical insight. But I unfollow them once they start tweeting about religion, politics, etc. That’s not what I’m looking for from them.

Attend developer meetups/conferences
This might be difficult, depending on where you live. And many in-person meetups have been canceled during the pandemic. But, if you can, attend local programming meetups and conferences.

Besides learning something new, you’ll meet other developers and start building a network. Even if you’re an introvert, the odds are good someone will come up to you and start talking.

When you’re looking for a new job, you may have contacts from these meetups who know of open positions.

Plus, many times they have free pizza!

A little secret: Most of the time, managers won’t review your GitHub code or dig deeply into the posts on your blog. They don’t have time. But, the fact you have something publicly-visible will make you stand out as a better candidate.

Return to “Life as a programmer outside Silicon Valley” index

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published.