I went to college, and then I got a job. If only it was that simple!
RIT does a great job preparing its students for the job search, but some things are left to be learned through experience. After obtaining two co-ops and a full time job, I’ve learned a thing or two about landing a job as an aspiring software engineer*.
* In this post, “software engineer” means “person who develops software for a living.”
Take Classwork Seriously. Undoubtedly you’ll be assigned labs or projects, applied examples of the lessons taught in class. You may be tempted to blow them off, but don’t. If you’re anything like me, hands-on experience is the best way to learn and retain something. If the project allows, take the extra step to make it your own: add a new feature, polish it up, etc.
Do Personal Projects. Perfecting all of your in-class labs isn’t enough; on a resume, it’ll look the same as everyone else in your class. Working on personal projects gives you more to put on paper and talk about in an interview. More importantly, personal projects give you the opportunity to refine your existing skills, or learn something new to expand your skill set.
Make It Look Good. Don’t let it get over one page in length. Make sure key information - graduation date, relevant experience, etc - are easy to find. Do what you can to practice good design, or at least find a template that looks nice. Recruiters will remember a stand-out resume.
Don’t Be Shy. If you’ve used a language or done some kind of work, write it down! It doesn’t matter if you think you “don’t know it well enough” or if it’s “not your best work.” Any experience is better than none, and being open about your skills can lead to more opportunities.
Be Concise. The “elevator pitch” isn’t a joke. Coupled with a good resume, a clear and concise introduction can speed along the conversation with recruiters. Either they’ll know you’re not a good fit for their company sooner than later (saving you precious time), or you’ll have made a great first impression and land an interview.
Think Out Loud. When you make it to the interview, you may be asked technical questions or be given coding challenges. Whether or not you know the answer, think out loud to give the interviewer a chance to see your thought process. Demonstrating how you approach a problem is more important than being able to reach the solution on the spot.
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