Portfolio and Resume Advice from Experience

One thing I’ve noticed interacting with people on LinkedIn is that portfolios are kind of the darkside of programming. They’re absolutely essential for landing an internship or even a job, but assembling one let alone representing one can be daunting, and keep you up after midnight. Much like a first date it can be easy to overthink the structure, the content, and representation. In fact, I remember my first internship interview the manager asked me if I had a portfolio, and I told him “no.” He spent a solid hour lecturing me on how to interview, represent myself, and it kind of felt like an excuse to tear into someone. His advice was not very helpful, and at times put me at ends with my university’s career center. Here are some things you can do to avoid the pitfalls I experienced.

I have my Github link next to “Project Experience,” and not at the top of my resume. Beneath “Project Experience” I list every project of mine that I can fit on the resume on a single line if possible. Sometimes I use two lines, but I do not use a typical job structure for projects. For me the idea is to summarize what I did, how I did it, and its impact with metrics. The reason why is that recruiters on average spend very little time looking at your resume. If you have large entries for projects that will look like you have not done a whole lot of work, and you are padding your resume. Also if you do this correctly you can pad your resume with a ton of relevant keywords very quickly.

This is how I handle my projects on my resume

You can also set up a site like this to help display your project. Github offers free webhosting, and I think Azure and AWS do too. Your options can be limited, but if you are completely broke they are better than nothing. After all, your goal is to stand out against your competition. A lot of people will also tell you to network on LinkedIn, but I have never had a recruiter care about my LinkedIn profile. My nearly 1,200 connections have never amounted to much more than ideas, very simple but supportive comments, or reactions. That’s because LinkedIn is a deceptively competitive environment. Since moving away from LinkedIn I have gotten more unadvertised job offers in programming, and interest across the board.

Lastly, remember that your portfolio is a living document just like your resume. You can update your portfolio as your skills improve and you pull off larger projects. Life is too short to overthink this stuff from the start, so just improve as you go. Eventually you’ll start getting experience somewhere and you can start removing projects altogether. Also, if you’re like me and have plenty of certifications it may be a better idea to list each individual certification instead of their stacked versions. For example, I once listed “CompTIA Secure Infrastructure Specialist,” and my hiring manager had no idea that encompassed A+, Network+, and Security+. It takes up more real estate, but always write your resume for a general audience.

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