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I'm currently undertaking a Masters course in "Information Technology", with a curriculum focus on programming and software development. My previous education was not in the sciences at all - it was actually in sociolinguistics - so I am what some people might describe a "late starter" in the industry. I'm starting to put together a resume, so it's ready whenever I have an opportunity to give it to someone, but I'm having difficulty (read: obsessing) about how exactly to present my skills, and also how to develop them beyond where I am currently.

The way I see it, I have two options: I can stress the competency I have achieved already, even though I won't be at the level that some other applicants would be at. With this approach, I would focus on my core competencies (currently Java) both in my learning (e.g. do all my personal projects in Java), and on my resume. While a focused approach would obviously allow me to develop faster as a Java programmer, I have two reservations: One, that I am not as yet a 'fervent believer' in Java, and two, that I wouldn't be developing/displaying flexibility.

The alternative approach I feel would be continue down the path I'm currently on - which is learning a lot of different things that interest me. I do all the online courses I can find the time to complete, and read any book that catches my eye - so taking this approach, my resume would describe me as "competent" at Java, plus intermediate-beginner at HTML/CSS, Lua, Python and Javascript, plus an 'enthusiastic beginner' at Scala and Swift. The advantage to this approach, I hope, is that I'd be showing how much I love to code, and also displaying adaptability and ability to learn new skills (quickly and independently). The perceived downside is, I'd be scared of looking like an undisciplined dilettante in an industry that is growing more competitive every day.

If it's relevant, the most popular languages in job advertisements in my city seem to be for Javascript flavours, followed by Java, followed by a few contenders I can't accurately rank (Ruby, Python, Scala). My learning so far has been guided partially by what I perceive to be in demand in the workforce (why I'm learning JS and its extended family), and partly by what I perceive to be popular in the community (why I feel compelled to wrap my head around the functional paradigm). At the end of the day, I really just love to code - my goal is to be able to support myself financially by doing so. If you were hiring a junior developer, would you prefer one who was 'all business', focused on just getting things done in one language that they've concentrated on? Or would you be more interested in someone who might be less 'ready to go', but who has displayed more independence and passion for what they do? I also understand that university is only the beginning of my education, and that I'm going to learn a lot more in the workforce once I've got my foot in the door - so yes, part of me is aware that I might be worrying about this issue prematurely.

Huge thanks to anybody willing to take the time to help me out.

  • Linguistics and computer science are a fairly common combination. The combination can be an advantage in some application areas like speech recognition. – Eric May 31 '15 at 11:36
  • I guess I was using "amateur" as the antonym of "professional", defined as "has professional experience" - which in itself sums up a lot of my anxieties. Everyone's hiring 'professional' developers, but you're not a professional developer until someone hires you... – Toadfish May 31 '15 at 12:58
  • No, you're right I think, and that's why I'm reluctant to pick one and focus on it exclusively right now. This comment is kind of an ideal answer to the (long winded) question I was trying to ask, whether to present as someone who's excited about (and still learning) a variety of things - which I was worried might distract, and I'd be better off emphasising (and developing) more advanced skills in one particular language. – Toadfish May 31 '15 at 13:06
  • @Toadfish i know you've already selected the answer to your question (it's a good answer), but I realized my comments were turning into a sermon and so I deleted them and I turned them into an answer for the possible benefit of anyone else who comes across the question. – Kent A. May 31 '15 at 13:23
  • The previous one was also good, but I feel more enlightened by yours, so I thought I'd make it the accepted one for anyone else curious about the question – Toadfish May 31 '15 at 14:21
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Do not actually use the word "amateur" on your resume. Nobody will even call you back. We cannot afford to hire an amateur. We want competency. You'll be coming in as a new grad with limited experience, and you'll need to show that you were paying attention in class, really understood your projects, and if possible, have some real world experience through an internship, part time job, and/or open source project.

You're in school, training to become a professional. We all understand that. Don't overthink your resume. You'll start off at entry level like any new grad. Skill, hustle and enthusiasm for the work you're given will help you stand out and you'll make quick progress. Just keep learning your whole career.

It's good you're learning multiple languages and paradigms. But don't identify yourself by them. Ultimately, your choices of language, library, operating system, IDE/Editor, paradigm, etc. are just tools used to accomplish the actual job of creating solutions to meet a need that someone is willing to pay you for. Newer needs may require different tools. You don't want to "identify" yourself out of a job because it needs C++ and you're strictly a Java programmer (for example).

I would say that you'll want to be proficient in at least one of the big 5: C/C++, Java, C#/.NET, JavaScript, HTML (and everything that goes with it). A scripting language like Python or Ruby is always a good tool to have in your utility belt, too. Depending on whether you expect to get into mobile development, you might want to add Objective-C/Swift, and make it a Big 6 (Java, ObjC/Swift, and C# are the Big 3 of mobile).

As your career develops, you might find that specializing in a particular domain, tool, etc. is advantageous for your career. When that time comes, you'll have enough experience to be able to make those decisions.

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Understand that an employer is looking at new hires to solve a specific problem they have.

Don't "identify" as anything other than a solution to their problems. Emphasise the skills you have that help them solve their problems. Someone who is looking for a deep expert in one language isn't going to be uninterested in your skills in other areas but they're going to want to see more detail about the area they're trying to recruit in.

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Yes. Enthusiasm and flexibility are highly regarded among employers. You should of course customize your résumé to emphasize the qualities you have that would fit a particular opening. You will need to develop multiple résumés.

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In most instances your resume should be tailored to the job. Resumes are your advertisement, you want it to call the reader to action, we do this by showing how you fill the current need of the organization.

Also remember that you resume is not designed to get you the job, it is designed to get you an interview. Short, sweet, and focused on how you can fill their need.

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