How to Stand Out When Applying for a Full-Time Software Job

Tips to help you get accepted in the software industry even if you don't have a CS degree

Last September I gave a talk at the DSC event (Developer Student Club) which is a program powered by Google Developers, designed to help students learn web and mobile development skills & design thinking skills. They had an event on personal branding and CV writing and technical interviews. I talked about:

  • How to Build a Resume
  • How to Use Linkedin Professionally
  • How I Landed a Full-Time Job Without a CS Degree

Here is the presentation if you want to have a look: career launch

In this blog post, I'm going to emphasize the last point and will try to deliver all the messages I gave at that talk and also elaborate more to help more people who are looking for jobs in the software industry to get their dream jobs efficiently and I hope it'll be easier for them to know these tips beforehand because I've been into this situation before and I consider myself lucky and more importantly was doing some productive stuff that helped me get that opportunity and I'm looking forward to helping as many as possible whether you are a recent grad or someone who is not satisfied with their current position and want a change. Here are my tips:

Treat your job search as a job

Ever felt frustrated after being rejected without even interviewing you?

Well, I've been there. It's not twice, 10s of times, but 100s of times rejected.

Looking for a job is actually a job or maybe more than it looks. I know it's hard to not get rewarded, but the hard work you put in will pay off insha'Allah. What I mean by 'treat it as a job' is that you may spend more than 8 hours (like a full-time job or more) because you're doing two things:

  1. You apply for jobs and polish your resume
  2. You also learn and do projects

Keep learning while applying

Sometimes it's difficult for you to multitask, but it's very important to learn while you apply because you never know when opportunities will be closed and no time for it to be reopened again. You'll never know the psychology of the recruiter and what they like or need in the candidate; maybe your skills at this point in time is needed. So it's better to sharpen your skills and improve your knowledge while applying instead of just waiting for learning ALL the things you want to learn because we always keep learning and no matter how successful we are in the career, the software industry needs a more fulfilling learning curve.

Build a portfolio

Now, you may wonder how you can build a portfolio without having even a single project to demonstrate. Well, try to build one then!

Building a portfolio is a boosting step that can make you better demonstrate your skill set and what you’re doing and what ideas your mind has. This should definitely be in your favor if done right to impress the recruiter and to stand out.

If you have just even one project, talk about it in a blog post and demonstrate in a way that a non-technical person can read and understand. I can’t emphasize enough how you should be able to convince people in the non-technical world to feel your words and your application that you made something.

Here is my portfolio that I made on a GitHub page hosted by Jekyll which is a static site generator and if you think this portfolio is a bit advanced for you to make, I actually was using another simpler one without complicated CSS styles or many structures in there. It was plain simple and I put the link in the resume and it was BOOM 💥 ACCEPTED!

Build an end-to-end project

Many applicants try to improve their skills by just learning and not doing a project. It’s very important to build the big picture of what you’re doing and this is mostly done by demonstrating it through a project.

Try to apply what you’re already learning and do a project with these skills; maybe in an assignment at the end of a course but try to do it in a different way (I mean the data that you’re interested in and the technology that you use often) and what I mean by the end-to-end project is to have a project that demonstrates all lifecycle of software (data collection, analysis, design, testing, deployment). These are real-world skills that companies need. In the end, you’ll have something like a product that you can show to recruiters and maybe they can try it if it’s a web or mobile application for example.

And it will help you learn new skills without the need to get a whole course about it; maybe a tutorial in a blog will help or a youtube video.

Write some content

Writing is a very good way to demonstrate what you’ve learned or convince people to buy something which is what we want here, we want the recruiter to finally buy you (not literally) and know the skills that you learned in well-written documentation. Whether this content is the documentation for your project at GitHub (like I did with Classicle) or at medium (like my story from engineering to data science) or a tutorial you to demonstrate your skills in a popular magazine (like SQL Case Study published at KDnuggets which was converted to a basic course on Udemy which I have a 50% discount btw if you subscribe to my newsletter at the bottom)

You can also publish the same content in another platform like here when the Industry Partnership Director of experfy reached out to me on Linkedin to republish the KDnuggets article on his website.

Focus on jobs in your own country

This tip is especially for fresh grads, I understand the high hope as I was in a similar situation someday; my mistake was that I was targeting companies abroad including FAANG without having experience here. I don't say it's impossible to have that as a fresh grad especially after 14 months of the army, but I'd say it'd be better to target companies in your land at first and finish applying to them all and after that apply for other companies abroad.

Truth be told, I was rejected A LOT. I mean like ~1000 rejections abroad and here in Egypt. Keep trying, you'll gonna find your dream job soon or later.

Conclusion

Wrapping this up, it’s very practical to treat your job hunt as if you’re getting paid for it and don’t regret spending time on it because it usually takes more than 8 hours a day to do your learning and apply for jobs you’re interested in. It’s also important to have a portfolio that demonstrates an end-to-end project or more and better to have other stuff like non-technical blog posts. Writing content in a popular journal will definitely boost your job search and also your skillset. Finally, especially if you’re a recent grad be sure to apply in your own country first and then think about applying abroad.

If you haven’t found your dream job yet, I hope you’ll do, and if you have it and not satisfied I hope you’ll find your way to better be satisfied and more fulfilled.

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