William Blankenship

I have been getting asked for resume advice quite a bit recently, so I figured I would sum up my thoughts here. First and foremost, I’m not going to claim that I know anything at all about hiring processes. I've only ever looked through a stack of resumes once, for a student organization, and everybody passed screening. I have no magical insight into what companies want, or why they prefer one thing over the other. In fact, I have no idea why you want my advice in the first place. With that being said, I have been told that my advice is a pretty good at motivating people to put their best into their resumes. So, with that in mind, you should not expect me to tell you how to write your resume in this blog post. What I’m going to do is give you a little pep-talk and perspective that will push you in the right direction so you can decide how you want to write your resume.

The question I get most frequently is:

"I don’t have any experience, so what should I put on my resume?"

I can guarantee this is false. Your life has been a series of events that have lead you to this moment right now. If you are looking for an internship where you want to write code, which if you are reading this article I assume you are, you can point to a handful of events and say “this is why.” Those belong on your resume.

"But do recruiters really care about _____ ?"

Recruiters care about what you care about, and your resume is an opportunity to showcase what you care about. When you look at your resume, it should be an opportunity for you to reminisce about all the cool and impressive things you have done so far in your life. Whether it be the Lego Mindstorms kit you built in an after school program or the Debian server you setup and maintained in your parents basement in high school, if you are proud of it, it belongs on your resume.

"I want opportunities to build my resume, but I don’t have any experience."

You get experience by doing things. You get opportunities to do things by volunteering. 2/3rds of my resume consists of me doing things I did not get paid for. We are talking about thousands of hours worth of doing things for free. Working for free isn’t bad if it is for a cause you believe in and gives you an opportunity to learn. Volunteer for an student organization relevant to your major (insert plug for ACM here), start hanging out at your local hackerspace (insert plug for OpenSpace here), hop online and contribute to some 0pen source software, etc. etc. There are plenty of opportunities for you to gain experience, you just have to DO SOMETHING.
That last statement is important, DO SOMETHING. Seriously, just do something. A vast majority of students don’t do anything. It isn’t hard to distinguish yourself if you simply do something. Volunteer for something. If you want to write code for a living, write code as a hobby.

"I want to write more code, but I can never come up with any projects."

This is a common problem, with a simple solution. Every week, pick a new technology or language you want to learn. Build a bunch of projects for the sole purpose of learning that technology or language. Here is the most important part of this: Create a GitHub account and make sure you put all of your code up there as you work. This GitHub account will become your codefolio. You will send it to employers along with your resume. You will put it in the footer of your email. It will slowly grow to define you. Your GitHub account doesn’t have to be clean or organized to be impressive, it just has to exist and be contributed to regularly.

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