How To Build a Project and Then Use It To Land a Job
You’ve probably heard that completing side projects helps you learn how to code. This is good advice to follow. Coding projects help you apply what you learned in the classroom and give you an opportunity to create something real and tangible.
But there’s more to it.
Side projects aren’t simply about driving the learning process or building something cool. They also show the rest of the world that you’re willing to go above and beyond the prescribed learning approach and take greater ownership of your skill development.
Side projects provide a bridge to the industry where you’re trying to land a job, and they show employers you have the experience necessary to carry out the job with excellence.
If you want to learn how to code and land a job, complete more side projects! You should do side projects that are relevant to the type of job you’re trying to get so you can showcase your passion for building and problem-solving, convey your knowledge of the domain you want to work in, and demonstrate your ability to get things done. The more side projects you complete, the more likely you’ll learn how to code effectively and land a job.
In this post, I’ll share with you my personal experience with side projects and show you how building these projects helped me get recruiters’ attention. Following a similar path will greatly increase your chances of landing your dream job.
Go For Domain-Specific Projects
You may find this hard to believe, but companies have a hard time finding candidates who are not only competent but also have experience with the company’s specific domain.
It’s hard enough to find a great software engineer or data scientist, but finding talent that is familiar with a specific context can be maddening. Domain-specific side projects tell a company that you’re not only competent at what you do but also familiar with the domain you’d potentially be working in. This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people overlook this dynamic.
During my senior year of college, I started to look for full-time roles. I wanted to stand out from my peers, so I built a web scraper using the Beautiful Soup library in Python. Building the web scraper and listing it on my resume produced two outcomes.
The first outcome was that I got the Applicant Tracking System’s (ATS) attention. I applied cold, but because I listed the web scraper on my resume, the ATS passed my resume on to the recruiter. The second result was that once my resume reached the recruiter, they saw that I worked on something that addressed a high-priority need within the company.
You’ll find that many candidates build some sort of project and list it on their resume. That said, those same people’s projects may not overlap with the domain needs of the company they’re applying to. I highly recommend you build a domain-specific project so you can show companies that you can add immediate value and stand out from the crowd.
Let Your Passion Speak For Itself
The important thing to remember about side projects is that they’re not a part of any official, prescribed curriculum. When you’re taking a college or online coding course, there is a clear syllabus with planned-out lessons and modules. Courses are great because they are direct, straightforward methods to learning how to code.
That said, many people enroll in them because of how defined the learning path is, which makes standing out a challenge. Almost anyone can enroll in a college or online course these days. This is where side projects come in.
During my job search I knew I was passionate about data—I just needed a way to show it. The web scraper project allowed me to do just that. I wrote the code for the web scraper, tested it on various websites, and listed it on my resume.
Later that year, I submitted a cold application to a top entertainment company in Los Angeles. A couple of days later, a recruiter from the entertainment company reached out. The first thing she said was that she saw the web scraper on my resume and that the team I applied to really needed that skill. At the end of the interview, she told me my passion for data was one of the first things she noticed in my resume and that she would recommend me for an interview with the hiring manager.
Another great thing about side projects is that they also make for great talking points during an interview and create opportunities to go deeper into why you’d be good for the role. A week later, I interviewed with the hiring manager, and he also said he noticed my passion for data.
Instead of letting those words pass by like I did with the recruiter, I took advantage of the opportunity to go into greater depth about why I was passionate about data. I ended up taking another minute to talk about how I could help the team. This solidified my good standing with the hiring manager, and I felt like I closed out the interview well.
At the end of the interview, the hiring manager said I’d be a great addition to the team and that he’d recommend that the company hire me.
Side Projects Prove You Can Deliver Results
Side projects demonstrate you have grit and initiative. Passion and competency aren’t worth very much if you can’t follow through with results. Fortunately, side projects show that you can do just that. Companies want people who can deliver results, and side projects provide a mechanism to convey tangible, measurable results.
After I built the web scraper, I could present companies with something they could see, read, and test out. They could go right to my GitHub and run the code themselves.
Most hiring managers looking for technical talent know the hard work that goes into building and completing a project. They also most likely know which projects anyone could do and which require a little more perseverance and hard work.
If you can complete a domain-specific project, you’ll show companies that you not only put a lot of thought into the project but overcame obstacles to complete it. They’ll recognize your ability to deliver results and incorporate that into the evaluation process.
Side Projects Can Pave Your Way
Side projects are good for your development as a programmer, as you likely knew already before reading this post. But, as I showed you, there’s far more to side projects than simple coding practice.
Although side projects drive the learning process and allow you to retain what you’re learning in the classroom, they are also the perfect vehicle for landing jobs. If you complete a few domain-specific projects, you’ll show companies you are passionate about the role you’re trying to land, are well-versed in their domain, and can deliver tangible results.
If you’re not already building a domain-specific project, it’s not too late. Find a domain, start building, and move closer to landing a killer job.