I know, I know. It’s kind of ironic to create content about not needing to create content to get noticed. In recent years, there’s been a big push to have new developers create content to “get noticed.” But here’s the thing, creating content might feel daunting and discouraging for those who don't have the time or resources to create content regularly or it might take away from making progress in deepening your coding skills. The good news is that there are other ways to get noticed without relying solely on content creation, and in today’s post we’re going to talk about using open source to get noticed.
What if instead of spending hours a week creating content, you spent that time working on contributing to open source? It doesn't have to be an issue that majorly impacts a code base. Start where you’re comfortable; get an understanding of open source, working with other teams, communicating, looking at larger code bases, and understanding how code works.
- Visibility. At the very least, you're going to be noticed by the people who are on that team and you’ll be building in public. There will be a public record of how you communicate with others, approach the issue, and of how you contributed.
- Mentorship. During that process, you might find that you’re able to receive mentorship from the maintainers as you work through the issue. There are also many communities out there that provide support for new contributors.
- Experience. You’ll grow as you work through the issue, likely receive feedback that you’ll need to implement before your PR is merged in, and you’ll demonstrate your ability to communicate with a team.
People will remember the way you communicate your code and how you communicate with the team. In some instances, these interactions have led to people being shortlisted as potential hires or even being invited to interview.
I once worked with a woman who told me that she really wanted to work for a particular company that had a really rigorous interview process that she knew she couldn’t pass. Instead, she put her time into making contributions to their codebase, betting that if she could prove herself that they’d let her bypass the interview process. That bet paid off. And she's not the only one it's paid off for.
According to Indeed.com, hiring managers look at resumes for 6-7 seconds on average. How does your resume compare to other candidates who have pursued similar learning experiences? Do you all have the same bootcamp projects? Have you all listed the same classes? Something that you can include on your resume that no one else can is your open source experience.
People often ask, “How do I get experience as a software engineer if no one will hire me?” That’s a valid and frustrating question. Open source contributions are one way to get experience. I recently talked to a hiring manager who said, because of the competition for early career roles, the best way to get a job is to become a mid-level developer. There are projects out there that will challenge you to learn and grow as part of the process. It is doable to hit that next career level through contributing.
There are more developers who are off social media than are on social media for tech. So if you’re following Tech Twitter, for example, you’re only seeing a small percentage of those people working in tech. By participating in open source, you’ll find a broader community of people in the industry who you can learn from, participate with, and ultimately grow with. It doesn’t have to start with a PR, either. You can answer questions in the discussion, open an issue, or direct people to resources in the community Discord/Slack/forum.
In the global market for tech talent, open source provides credibility and an opportunity to showcase real-world work that you’ve done.
Now here’s a little choose-your-own adventure to close out this post. If you want to…
- learn about how to find a good first issue, I recommend you read Brian Douglas’ Good First Issues Don’t Exist.
- find a project that’s looking for contributors, check out our Friday posts, Who's looking for open source contributors? Week 38 and Week 39.
- talk more about open source, we’ve got our Weekly Chat on Discord on Tuesdays at 12p EDT, and our open mic Twitter Space on May 3, 11am EDT—as well as every Wednesday for the next four weeks.
- show off the open source contributions you’ve already made, add them to our highlight feed, and maybe they’ll even be featured in our next newsletter.