Some background

I'm currently entering my second year at university and I'm a computer science major. I did 4 years of FIRST Robotics FRC in high school, where I learned how to program robots using a visual based language called LabVIEW. Through my university classes, I've had about 9 months education/experience with C++ and 5 or so months with UNIX and shell scripting concepts.

In February or so I was invited by a fellow classmate to join a research project he was a part of, and I've taught myself some basic electrical stuff (working within the Raspberry Pi ecosystem) and also have been teaching myself python through online courses to be able to program electronics and a desktop GUI for the project. In the future I will also teach myself mobile programming and the relevant "communications w/ a Raspberry Pi" stuff for that.

My concerns

I'm wanting to write a resume, not necessarily for a specific job coming up but just since that's something that's nice to create and continue updating so you have it when the need arises.

I want to add these research experiences to my resume, but I don't know how to word it positively. Obviously it reflects well that I took and continue to take initiative to learn things (especially in the field of programming), but a lot of times in the research project I feel like "I don't know what I'm doing, but I can probably figure it out if you give me some time" and I feel like that is concerning for an employer to hear. Like, wouldn't it reflect poorly for me to emphasize that I am/was unqualified for certain things, even if I'm usually able to google until I sort it out? Is it concerning that all my python and electronics knowledge is "self-taught," meaning it might not be of some standardized quality? How do I emphasize my growth out of incompetence without coming off as still incompetent? Am I worried about something that's a non-issue?

  • You are surely "worried about something that's a non-issue". It sounds like as a student you're a mile ahead of the pack. Nobody ever reads resumes, they are just glanced at. Nothing to worry about here!
    – Fattie
    Jul 18, 2020 at 17:32

5 Answers 5


No one expects you to know everything as a new student. That's what school is for. To gain skills.

However, phrasing things in a positive light is a great skill, especially when discussing your talents. A few phrases you can consider:

  • Self-taught [skill]
  • Self-motivated learner
  • Quick learner

These are basic statements. You should come up with your own, descriptive phrasing.

For projects that you have worked on, keep to the facts about what you did and what you accomplished.


It's all about what you've done.

If you have worked on a Raspberry Pi project, then you have done it. Nobody cares whether you learned it in school or online or yourself.

Everyone has "grown out of incompetence" - the first stuff on their resume is being an untutored bozo, and then they have maybe some school, and then they have maybe some jobs or projects, and now they are where they are. So you're overthinking it.

What you want is to show accomplishments. Projects you can list are good, ones you can point to on github or whatnot are better, but that's the deal. If you have a lot of those per unit time people will see you're a fast learner.


You want to demonstrate on your resume that your a problem solver and self-motived learner.

When you start out it is worthwhile to mention all related experience that can demonstrate above.

So, by all means, say I learned python. If you can back it up with the completion certifications, or at least a link to the course. Or a GitHub (others are available) link to your project demonstrating your skills

Mention how you used your problem-solving skills. Think of becoming active in online communities and use that as a reference. Or volunteering, especially Rasberry PI in teaching others.


That is subject matter for the interview.

Most employers or recruiters have to screen many CVs and many will discard one if they get bored while reading it or it doesn't meet the job spec - bulking it out won't help.

A common interview question is 'what sort of things do you work on in your free time?'. You've got a list of good answers in your question.


"I don't know what I'm doing, but I can probably figure it out if you give me some time"

That's EXACTLY what many employers are looking for.

Sure, you are going to learn some technical skills at your university and you are expected to be able to use these proficiently, but technical skills get stale quickly and the field moves fast. The ability to learn efficiently and adapt quickly is quite valuable.

The more you progress in your career the more you will be faced new challenges that will become larger and larger and the less you can rely on existing knowledge.

Many CEOs today are face with "How do I make my company survive in a global pandemic". There is no playback or existing literature: the one's that can learn and adapt quickly will be the companies to survive.

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