12 Ideas for Computer Science Graduates
By Allan Hoffman
March 12, 2009
Explore these 12 ideas for computer science graduates.
When J. Scott Johnson, a technology entrepreneur and blogger from Newton Center, Massachusetts, got an email from a forlorn info-tech wannabe, he zipped off 12 tips for post-boom job searching, publishing them on his blog, the FuzzyBlog.
Johnson’s “12 Recommendations for the New CS Graduate” took off and traveled the globe. Other bloggers reposted them, as have visitors to the Monster Networking Tech Jobs message board. Countless comp-sci grads — and other IT job hunters — have consulted the piece for advice.
Don’t Make Me Work at the Mall
The posting was inspired by a recent grad who pointed out “just how hard it is to launch a career when you just graduated — and the economy basically stinks.” Hence the subtitle, “I Just Graduated with a Computer Science Degree and Please, Please Don’t Make Me Work at the Mall.”
Johnson, coauthor of Essential Blogging advises graduates to think beyond resume blasting and take other, less traditional steps to grab the attention of employers. Under “Required Stuff,” for instance, he includes “blog” — the freewheeling, journal-like publications focusing on everything from the author’s daily routine to his quirky obsessions.
“Start writing a blog about what you know or want to know,” Johnson advises. “Don’t tell me that you just graduated and you don’t know anything. If that’s true, then why would I hire you?”
Johnson believes job seekers need to take a can-do approach toward job hunting. Others concur, suggesting IT grads take novel steps in order to stand out from the pack during tough economic times.
No More Fruit Basket
Burton Nadler, director of the College Career Center at the University of Rochester, emphasizes the importance of being proactive rather than reactive. During the boom, he notes, IT grads were able to “just upload their resume and wait for the fruit basket.” No longer.
Students shouldn’t try to be different for different’s sake, says Nadler, author of The Everything Resume Book, but should try to do whatever they can to show their passion for their field. In many ways, Johnson’s tips focus on demonstrating that passion:
• Email lists/discussion groups: Get involved as a participant. “It doesn’t take long to build up a track record with this kind of stuff — just a few weeks on an active list like can give you quite a rep,” he says.
• Hot methodology: Knowing a trendy software development methodology, such as extreme programming, can help set your resume apart.
• Open source: Pitch in. “Don’t be afraid to pick something that interests you and just start helping out,” he writes. “If you want real-world experience, you need to put yourself in a real-world project, and the way to do that is to take part in some open-source project.”
Options for contributing to open-source projects, he notes, include creating an install program, writing documentation or an FAQ, or just helping out with a developer’s Web site. Johnson recommends recent grads latch onto an existing project rather than start something new.
Such projects, Nadler notes, should be incorporated into a graduate’s resume and cover letter. His other resume recommendations include:
• A section labeled “Selected Projects” or “Courses and Projects” used to highlight achievements and expertise with open-source work or other projects that demonstrate passion and commitment to IT.
• If you’re not an expert in particular technologies such as .NET or PHP but have some understanding, Nadler suggests using phrases like “familiarity with” so keywords searched by employers will be included.
Google You Too
Johnson recommends new graduates gain experience, make contacts and prove themselves. Another factor to consider is knowledgeable IT managers are likely to “Google” candidates — that is, enter names in the search engine to learn more about them. If a Google search turns up thoughtful posts at programming-oriented email lists, a blog demonstrating curiosity and intelligence, as well as contributions to open-source projects, that candidate may be better positioned in the applicant pool.
“Actually do something,” Johnson advises. “Don’t just talk about it.”
Get more information on technology schools and career advice at ComputerSchools.com.
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