We’ve established that developing free and open source software is an excellent way to learn and practice new skills, but before you get to writing any code, you need to think about what it is you’re aiming to practice. Every job will require that you possess a specific set of skills to justify whether or not you will be capable of performing it. These are the skills you should be putting time into practicing, so in order to determine what they are, you’ll need to first visualise the job you’re aiming for.
Without giving yourself any kind of direction to work towards, you’ll end up wasting a lot of time wandering down paths that lead you nowhere. Every piece of code you write to be added to your résumé should be an investment into your future, but what’s more important is that you enjoy doing it. Without an interest in what you’re writing, you will find it agonising to invest time and energy into it, which you will need a fair amount of in order to achieve anything worth showing off. This is why you should aim for your dream job, not because it’s the safe option, or because it’ll earn you the most money, but because it will allow you to do what you truly enjoy, and will give you pride in calling it your own.
Imagine now that you’re in your dream job. As you visualise it, try to write down as many key characteristics you envision the job to have. What type of company do you work for? Where is the company geographically based? What is your job title? What kind of projects do you work on? Which parts of those projects are you responsible for? How big is the team you’re in? Who do you report to? Does anyone report to you? It’s ok if you can’t answer all of these right now, the aim here is to try and paint a picture of the type of job you’re looking for. Even if that picture is still somewhat blurry after this exercise, at least you will have a canvas on which to start filling in the gaps.
Remember, don’t be afraid to aim high. The bigger and scarier the goal, the more your heart gets involved in the decision making, and that is exactly where your ambitions should come from.