The appendix covers how your résumé is primarily a marketing tool to get you job interviews. This assumes, of course, that you have marketable skills to offer a prospective employer. You can only stretch the truth so far, and if even you exaggerate or outright lie about your skills and what you’ve accomplished in the past, you probably won’t make it through technical interviews designed specifically to weed out the liars and exaggerators of this world. What you need to do, then, is develop skills and accomplishments that will make you stand out from the crowd both on paper and in the interviews, especially if you’re entering the job market for the first time. Here are some approaches you can take:
Upgrade your credentials - Companies such as Google are well known for favoring job applicants with graduate degrees. Getting a master’s or doctorate degree is one way to upgrade your credentials. Although pursuing a graduate degree is a large commitment on your part, you can upgrade your credentials in other ways, such as taking university or professional development courses or participating in programming contests.
Get certified - Certification is a touchy issue in the software development profession, but there’s no doubt that some jobs either prefer or require candidates to be certified in specific technologies, especially IT jobs.
Work on a side project - A great way to expand your skill set is to work on a project that is not directly related to your primary work or study focus. Starting or joining an open-source development project is one way to go. Or if you’re working at a company, see if they’ll let you spend time on an ancillary project.
Do well in school - Although grades aren’t everything, they are one measure that companies use in order to rank new graduates with little job experience. The better your grades, especially in computer science and mathematics courses, the more you’ll impress a potential employer.
Keep learning - The end of formal education doesn’t mean you should stop learning, especially when there’s so much information about programming available from a wide variety of sources. Whether it’s books or blogs, there’s always a way to keep yourself current, no matter what type of programming you do. It’s also a great way to expand your horizons and discover other areas of interest.
Be an intern - New graduates who’ve managed to secure employment during their nonschool terms - especially those that participate in cooperative education programs - have a huge leg up over their peers who haven’t yet ventured into the real world. Software development in the field is often very different from software development in an academic setting, and potential employers are very cognizant of this.
The key is to keep learning, no matter what stage of your career you’re at. Marketable skills don’t develop overnight; they take some effort and initiative on your part, but they’ll have long-lasting effects on your career.
Note that one of the best ways to develop marketable skills is to accomplish something, whether it’s in your current job, something you did as a side project, or something you worked on as an intern or for a class project. Being able to talk intelligently and confidently about a project for which you played a primary role in its success is incredibly important. Make sure you can describe the problem clearly and succinctly and how your project solved the problem, even to a nontechnical person. Displaying a passion for programming is always positive and one way to make yourself stand out from the other candidates.