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How to Get a Job Using Open Source

June 17, 2021

June 17, 2021

Job recruitment has fundamentally changed. The skills you possess are far more valuable than your degrees. Recently, the CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, revealed that about half of Apple’s US employment last year included people who didn’t have a four-year degree. Cook reasoned that a lot of colleges don’t teach the skills that business leaders need most in their workforce, such as coding.

Instead of focusing on where someone graduated, or whether they graduated at all, employers are now focused on what that candidate is able to do. When measuring the fit of applicants in a job interview, recruiters are looking primarily to:

  1. Problem-solving skills
  2. Variety of backgrounds and industries
  3. Experience

The recruiter needs to know whether your skills and experience match the job description or not. Let’s suppose that you’re currently a Java developer wanting to work with a Google stack. You’ve taken a few courses and have been awarded a certification in the C# language. But now you have to prove your experience and unfortunately, courses and certifications aren’t going to cut it.

Photo by Nicole Woof on Unsplash

Luckily, there are ways to make your profile stand out so that you can get hired, even if you haven’t worked with a specific tech stack. According to GitLab, contributing to projects that are open source is the most effective job-seeking hack that you can take advantage of.

We’ve assembled a few tips to help you use open source as a powerful job hunting tool:

Contribute to an open source project

Contributing to open source will give you the opportunity to work with production code andstabilized projects. By contributing, you are also going to be learning about project and people management as you solve conflicts, organize teams, prioritize work, and much more. An employer will find this valuable. Additionally, the diversity of the open source contribution environment will show the recruiter that you can work in multicultural teams.

Since the leading open source contribution website is GitHub, if you don’t have an account, you’re missing out on a lot. What to do now? Find a project that you engage with, or find interesting, and make a contribution. You may have used the project yourself and noticed a bug or wanted something to be different. Most projects have ‘contributor pages’ with beginner-friendly issues you can start out with.

Use these tools to find repositories looking for maintainers:

  • GitHub Explore
  • Open Source Friday
  • First Timers Only
  • CodeTriage
  • 24 Pull Requests

Contribute to a large-scale project

To land an interview at a big company, you may be required to have worked with large-scale and high-availability projects. If you have no experience in this realm, you can pick a big open source project that you actually use or benefit from. Use the tools from the previous paragraph to find a large-scale project that is looking for contributors.

Start a side project

Software developers, by nature, are curious people. Whether you want to build a robot with Adruino, a new Javascript framework or a new startup: build it! Just don’t forget to make it open source… Technical recruiters can then check your code style, project, and the decisions you have made working on your side job.

As an interviewer, would you rather hear “I’ve been studying blockchain for X months” or “using Python and C++, I’ve built a blockchain from scratch and have developed smart contracts to record the ownership of properties in my neighborhood”? I think it’s pretty clear that you’d rather hear the latter. It says a lot more and will help you show them not only that you know the tools you’re using, but that you can build things from the ground up.

Contribute to a specific company

If you are looking to land a job at Microsoft, for instance, you could contribute to Microsoft projects on GitHub. By contributing, you will grasp knowledge of the product, the stories behind it, and how it works. In doing so, you will earn lots of extra points with the interviewer because it lowers your onboarding time, setting you apart from other candidates.

Develop a personal brand

When you begin contributing to open source, you will start to build an online reputation. Being an active member of the community adds a level of trust for employers.

Having an online presence on Stack Overflow can also help you get that job. It shows that you care for the community and that you are willing to help other developers.

Claim your open source contributions on OpenTeams

OpenTeams is like LinkedIn for open source. If you want to get recognized and potentially hired for your work on open source, you should sign up to OpenTeams and claim your contributions to different projects. Showcase your work to the world and let employers know about the great work you’ve done.

Mention open source in the interview

It is common for recruiters to ask you why you changed your tech stack. Not because the technology you use is that important, but to better understand how you learned a particular language if you haven’t ever worked with it before.

This is where open source contributions come in to save the day. If you have contributed to an open source project using a language before, you won’t need actual work experience to prove that you know Python or the language you want to work with. It doesn’t matter if you learned through an online course, a university, or by contributing to open source software. What matters is that you have a specific skill.

Next steps

It has become more and more accessible for people to contribute to open source software. It’s now time that you give back to the beloved community using the skills that you acquire working in open source.

  1. Create a GitHub account
  2. Find a project to contribute to or start your own
  3. Get your first Pull Request merged. Hooray!
  4. Claim your contributions on OpenTeams to build your reputation

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