As I sorted through the applicants for a direct-hire Web Developer opening, Justin's resume looked like all of the others I received. They were all qualified, they all had solid work history, and they all interviewed well. So why did Justin get the job?
Justin had a blog listed on his resume and on his Linked In profile, a site dedicated to programming and technology. The blog features tutorials, stories about his side projects, article reviews/responses, and tips and tricks for web development. Justin's blog showed that he's thinking beyond his day job and focusing on a career.
In today's market, a resume may not be enough to get you into a job; you need to think beyond the bullet points. As any recruiter will tell you, we see hundreds of resumes every day with bullet lists of achievements and skills. Side projects are a great way to show that you are self-driven, passionate, focused, and know your stuff -- and to stand out from your competition.
Side projects can even turn into major business ventures. Twitter, Craigslist, and Gmail all started out as side projects by developers. Even if your side project doesn't become a billion dollar idea, it's still an excellent way to keep up on new technology, get creative, and expand your opportunities. Additionally, having side projects is a good way to create a personal brand for differentiating yourself from your peers. It demonstrates what you are good at and what your mission is.
You don't have to be a developer to have great side project ideas:
- A mechanic can write a blog about retrofitting a vintage car or motorcycle
- A cook can host gourmet dinner parties for local charities
- A photographer can provide training using various lenses or review new camera models
- An electrical engineer might make creative modifications to a home solar power system
- An accountant may blog money saving tips, insights on tax policy, or practical at-home accounting tips
If you're stumped about what kind of side project you could start, do a web search of industry blogs to see what others are writing about. You may get some ideas that can propel you into your next idea, and it may be the key to getting your next job.