The very first step towards breaking into the tech industry and get an internship (or a fellowship or research position) is to write up a resume. However, not just any resume would do. A great resume is easy to read and effectively communicates your qualifications to the reader. Looking back at my freshman year resume, I realized that it did a fairly poor job at that.
So Before You Do Anything Else…
Fix your resume formatting! There are plenty of resume templates floating around on the Internet, and there’s even a website called Creddle where you can quickly build a resume with quality templates.
The next step is to fill out the template. If you’re just starting college, you can put your high school accomplishments to fill some space; but you will want to get rid of this once you run out of room. If you don’t have extracurricular projects, put code that you have written for school. And if you have done personal projects and you don’t think they’re impressive, put them down anyways! Again, you should consider replacing these (or improving upon the actual projects) eventually.
Most good resumes follow a few simple guidelines such as those outlined in Cassidy William’s Guide to Getting a Gig. The rest of that article is worth a read, too.
Here are the five most important guidelines, in my opinion, for writing a resume.
- Put your education section at the top. Include your expected graduation date, if you’re still a student; relevant technical courses you have taken, or will finish this semester; and your GPA.
- Include your GitHub and LinkedIn usernames. If you have a personal website, list it as well. In fact, creating a personal website would be a great project!
- Remove all the fluff. This includes taglines (e.g. “Programmer, Thinker, Creative”), personal statements and objectives (e.g. “CS major looking for an internship”), a list of soft skills, and more. You shouldn’t have to explicitly state these things; they should be implied from the accomplishments you’ve listed on your resume and by the fact that you sent your resume to whatever company is reading it.
- Keep it to a single page. Recruiters don’t want to slog through resumes longer than a page. If Elon Musk can have a one-page resume, you can and should, too.
- Make sure your descriptions stand out. Avoid verbs like “used” and “made” and use punchier verbs like “built” and “developed.” Read through this list of verbs for some inspiration. And when possible, include quantitative metrics and results. For example, writing “deployed website to X daily unique visitors” sounds compelling and lets a recruiter know the scale of your webapp. I recommend Byor.xyz’s resume analysis service to identify bad verbs and drab, number-free descriptions.
I Improved My Resume. What Now?
After writing your resume, the easiest way to improve it is to do a project. If you have no idea what to do, here are four accessible areas for your inspiration:
For beginners, I suggest starting with Flask or Node.js. Write an application that displays “Hello World,” then add a little extra functionality to it, and then explore more! You can deploy your application on services like Heroku (recommended for beginners), Amazon Web Services, or Digital Ocean. After that, you can buy a domain name, configure the DNS records, and voilà! You have created something that anyone can enjoy!
- Mobile app development. Today almost everyone owns a smartphone. And knowing how to create and maintain a mobile app is a valuable skill. You can develop for Android platforms using Java. Or if you have a Mac, you can also develop for iOS platforms using Swift or Objective-C. Mobile app development can also complement back-end development, allowing you to navigate the full stack that prioritizes mobile-friendliness.
Somewhat related to mobile app development is smartwatch app development. As the popularity of smartwatches such as Apple Watch and Pebble increase, the ecosystem around these platforms start to develop. They are definitely worth a look at.
- Machine learning. It’s more than just a buzzword. The amount of data produced has exploded, and valuable patterns can be extracted from the data to do everything from recommending videos to you (e.g. YouTube) to spotting fraud in financial transactions (e.g. Stripe Radar). For a primer on the topic, refer to this article by Toptal.
A popular beginner-friendly ML framework is Scikit-Learn for Python. However, the hottest ML framework in the industry is Google’s Tensorflow. For beginners, I recommend watching Siraj Raval’s tutorials on YouTube and following along with his code samples.
- Chrome extensions. Google Chrome is the most popular browser in the world, and with it comes a flourishing ecosystem of extensions. They are relatively easy to make and a clever extension could become viral.
Where Can I Develop My Projects?
Aside from working of them in your free time, I suggest checking out local hackathons. They are weekend events where you spend 24 or 36 hours developing an idea into code. At hackathons, there usually are prizes, often in the form of new technology like Amazon Echo or Surface Pro tablets. Corporate sponsors also attend hackathons; they usually hand out a lot of swag (e.g. T-shirts and laptop stickers), offer mentorship, and even accept resumes! It’s very common to get interviews by meeting recruiters at hackathons.
In my opinion, hackathons are an awesome way for beginners to explore what they’re interested in to build something cool. Find a hackathon near you; I suggest looking through the hackathons listed on the Major League Hacking website.