Want a job in tech? Here's what you must, must, must have

Whether you’re looking for a job in technology or trying to upgrade your current role, there’s one thing that you must absolutely positively unequivocally have.

It’s something I’ve seen a lot of resumes come in without. It’s something promising but unsuccessful candidates often miss. And it easily and obviously distinguishes winners from losers.

That thing is simple: side projects.


The hardest thing to do when hiring is to differentiate between candidates who seem good and those who are good. It’s easy to distinguish between complete zeroes and heroes. But what about the knights in shining tin? They’re hard to tell from true paladins.

Side projects will show the difference.

Side projects can be anything:

  • For a marketing person: a blog
  • For a developer: code snippets, an open source project
  • For a writer: an ebook
  • For an organizer/manager: a nonprofit club or organization

What it is doesn’t really matter, but it’s critical that somehow, in at least one key way, it’s related to your field – related to the job you want.

What a side project does is demonstrate initiative. It demonstrates passion. It demonstrates that you care beyond the paycheck. It shows rather than tells. A side project provides independently verifiable history. It gives backstory to your story, adding depth and color and dimension … all of which contribute to believability and persuasiveness.

Critical factors of a great side-project:

  1. Longevity
    15 side projects all started and none finished is a horrible backstory. Have one or two side projects (at least until they are complete) and ensure they are in a good stage of completeness or presentability.

  2. Originality
    The already-existing 40,000 code snippets on lightbox effects are enough. Unless yours is unbelievably incredibly better, make the forty-thousand-and-first is not cool.

  3. Quality
    More than anything else in your professional life, you can control the quality of your side project. So this is a direct reflection of your values and … prospective employment value. Make it rock.

  4. Interestingness
    A side project to count the number of stones in the walkway to your current domicile may turn your crank, but it won’t jumpstart anyone else’s engine. Pick something cool. You need to be passionate about it, but others need to be able to appreciate that passion.

My current side-projects are this blog and my iPad app – the Wonderful Colorful House.

What’s yours?