Step 4: Put your software where your mouth is

Virtually every job listing you’ll ever come across will require one very important document: A résumé. The impression that this document makes on your prospective employer is crucial. Not only does it stand as a representation of you before you are able to represent yourself, it determines whether or not you will get the opportunity to represent yourself at all. Your résumé should already prove that you are perfect for the position you’re applying for before you even get the interview. How is that achievable? Well, your résumé should obviously mirror as many of the requirements on the listing as possible, but what will truly differentiate you from the others is having hard evidence that proves you meet them.

There is a famous quote by Linus Torvalds that goes: “Talk is cheap. Show me the code”. Simply stating that you possess a skill, or even a good idea, doesn’t mean much until you can actually prove it with something tangible. Enter open source software. What better way is there to prove a skill in coding than with code itself? For each new skill you seek to acquire, and for each pre-existing skill you wish to showcase, you should be writing software to demonstrate it, and making the source freely available online. Not only should you make your code clean and readable for the world to see, it should be user-friendly and fully-functional for the world to use. Knowing that your code can be read and critiqued by anyone across the globe is both an excellent source of motivation for you to do your best work, as well as validation to your employer that this is real software with real users.

The title of this step is a play on the words: “Put your money where your mouth is”, but there is another reason I’ve replaced the word: “money” here. In no way am I proposing that you selfishly abuse open source software as a means of making money. In fact, money shouldn’t even enter into the motivation you have for your dream job. You should be driven by a passion to do what you love in a job you can be proud of. Trust me, the money will follow, but don’t sell yourself short either, you should be paid what you deserve for the position you have earned.

We owe a lot of respect to what free and open source software has done in the world of computing. We should show our appreciation by contributing good free software that is well-written and helpful to ourselves and to others. Good free software that will earn us our dream jobs.

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