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As a new grad, I have nothing in my resume that anyone couldn't do and I feel like I will never go beyond average.

My job and even money are just means to allow for a good life and I will never take it beyond that, but I still really care about programming and being "good" at it.

I make web and android stuff in my spare time and I got one year of internship experience and I expect to graduate from college this year, but so far I have participated in 2 programming contests and I haven't won anything in any of them despite legitimately trying my best.

What makes a new grad, with barely any working experience if at all, a "good" employee that can actually help with a project and teams would want to work with? Certifications? Internships? Hobby projects? Awards?

  • 1
    Hi, I edited your question somewhat significantly to make it more on topic. Questions asking "what should I learn/do?" are off topic but I have focused your question on how as a new graduate to be effective. If this changes your intent too much feel free to edit and clarify. Welcome! – enderland May 18 '15 at 20:13
  • @enderland No problem, you actually made it a lot better, thank you! – CyborgFish May 18 '15 at 20:14
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    "I feel like I will never go beyond average. [...] I still really care about programming [...] I make web and android stuff in my spare time" Error: Does not compute. You're passionate about what you do, you hack on stuff for fun. That's a lot of what is going to distinguish "entry level candidate I give a job to" to "entry level candidate who's CV gets thrown in the bin without an interview". – Philip Kendall May 18 '15 at 22:04
  • @PhilipKendall Thank you for your kind words, I really appreciate that – CyborgFish Jun 6 '15 at 17:42
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Ways to make yourself more marketable, in roughly descending importance:

  1. Demonstrated ability and capability to add value. Companies hire people to reduce costs and increase revenue. Not to be nice, not because they are in the business of job creation. To reduce costs/increase revenue. Did you save money or add value in anything below? Highlight it.
  2. Internship/work experience. Meaningful internship experience is probably the best way a new grad can show their ability to do the above.
  3. Build a portfolio. As a software person, github can be a great asset. If you are in graphic design, examples. This will help provide employers evidence you can create value (see above).
  4. Demonstrated team experience. Almost no one works in vacuum. Some people are terrible at working on teams. Some aren't. No manager wants to find out the new hire is the latter..
  5. Related extracurricular activities/hobby projects. Someone applying for, say, a campaign management position who ran local campaigns during school will be preferred to someone who just took classes. Bonus points if you have leadership roles. This shows your interest in your field/craft outside just the required minimum.
  6. Willingness and ability to learn. You and everyone in the world will be continuously learning. Being able to do so effectively, independently, and well is a very valuable asset for you in any career.
  7. Interest in the career field. If you don't have the above, try to find ways to make your interviewers understand this. If companies have multiple otherwise equal candidates they likely will prefer the one who appears more interested about the field.
  8. Relevant coursework/project work. It's somewhat assumed you did meaningful and related coursework, but make sure this is highlighted.

In many fields certifications are marginally useful at best.

Plenty of average people get jobs. In fact, most people who get jobs are average and about as many that do are below average.

  • Also, when applicable, build up your portfolio. In the case of programming, write and post code samples on github. – Kai May 18 '15 at 20:39
  • @Kai thanks - I added that to the above list, great suggestion! – enderland May 18 '15 at 20:40
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Im still studying, but I recently got hires for a full time position in a multinational company as Junior Security Analyst. I went through 5 interviews both with managers and directors. Competing even with already graduated candidates.

What set me apart, and they told me so, was my, as they called it, "ability to start new things by myself and finishing them". Which they told me that showed willingness to learn and initiative.

You are a recent graduated student. They don't really expect you to be an expert in anything. But they will expect you to progress. And they want to know if you want to do so. They will expect you to be willing to learn everything that they require you to learn.

If you can prove them that you are able of doing that. Then consider yourself in a privileged situation.

Now. How to prove them your eagerness to learn to grow to improve?

In my case I had 2 medium size projects I worked in by myself. - A client and reposition management software which I developed and it's currently being used at my previous retail job. - A working website designed from scratch which I made into a kind of online CV/resume.

You tell us that you are in your last year of college. You have time to start projects by yourself. And remember to finish them.

There is a quote that changed my life.

"better good but achieved than perfect but incomplete"

I used to postpone the projects because I wanted them to be perfect. But I realized they were never going to be. There is going to be something to improve something to wait for.

A book helped me a lot with this change of perspective and I recommend it for you if you haven't read it already.

"Do the work" by Steven Pressfield.

So put on your boots and start your own projects. You tell us that you participated in programming competences. That's great since it proves initiative and confidence. But its necessary that we as professionals should be progressing and growing all the time.

Find a way to prove those points and I'm sure you won't have any problem finding an entry level job in whichever industry you decide to work for!!

Good luck!!

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Enthusiasm for the job, ability to learn new things quickly, attention to detail, general problem solving and determination would be some key things I'd want in a new candidate. Recent grads have the upside of flexibility, enthusiasm and stamina that would be useful.

While you may think you are like a lot of other people, there is the question of how well do you know what motivates you? Can you get things done? Do you ask for help when you need it? These can all be quite important in software development as well as looking for companies where the work environment suits you, e.g. do you want formalized procedures all around or more of a cowboy coding style? Do you want projects that are more figuring things out as you go or where there is a formal plan and most things have already been analyzed and a solution designed? Consider carefully what you think would suit you best as interviews are you interviewing them as much as them interviewing you.

FD: I've done Web Development for the past 17 years, so I do have more than a bit of familiarity here.

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