I’ve been working with a friend lately trying to help them with their job hunt as they enter the workforce, and here’s a bunch of tips which I’ve come up with which should help.

This is all aimed at getting a programming or design job in Sydney in particular, since those two fields are related to me and my friend, but I guess the principles are probably universal these days. If you were trendy, you could call most of this ‘self-marketing’ I guess.

Be good, working towards great

I guess this is obvious, but you have to be worth hiring to get hired. So – get busy! Do what you love, and ship lots of it.

For a programmer, this means start a few open source projects, complete them, and put them on github. Or make a few small iPhone apps and get them onto the app store. For a designer, start a blog and design something small every couple days and put it up there. Get involved in deviantart and other websites of that ilk.

The important thing here is to make it obvious to anyone that you know how to take initiative, start something, and complete it. So start with small projects, so that you have a better chance of completing them. Don’t bite off more than you can chew at this stage.

Don’t be concerned if your quality of your work isn’t great. Perfectionists never complete anything. Your aim is to complete as much as possible, because the more you complete the more you will improve.

An added bonus is that completing lots of small projects will help you find which type of project you enjoy working on best.

Forget Seek

Don’t bother applying for jobs that you see on sites like Seek etc. These days, employers advertising on those sites will get spammed by hundreds of underqualified job seekers. The numbers game is stacked against you when it comes to their HR person looking through the massive pile of all those resumes, there’s better ways to get your foot in the door.

These days, as patio11 says: “job offers travel at the speed of beer”. You’re far better off finding jobs through your friends, networking events, and by directly approaching interesting companies.

Friends

I’m assuming you have friends who are programmers/designers? Or some of your friends are in related fields, and they work at companies that would employ a designer/developer like you? Get them to ask around at work to see if they’re looking for someone like you. If there’s an opening, you can be guaranteed to at least get past first base with an inside contact putting in a good word.

Networking events

This is probably the most important part of this article, so if nothing else, do this! In Sydney, if you’re a developer you should check out the following meetups:

Ideally you’ll be a developer who can program well in two languages, so go to two of these meetups. At RORO make sure to get to know Steve Gilles if you’re looking for a job too, he’s great.

If you’re a designer, i’m only aware of one applicable meetup:

There’s (i’m sure) a lot more – google around and you’ll find them.

Anyway, go along to these meetups (with a friend, if you’re shy), and say hi to anyone who looks friendly. Go along a few times, make some friends (just for friendship’s sake – don’t be a phony!), and when you feel comfortable give a couple of presentations.

Lots of cool employers' job offers get announced at these meetups, and when they know you already, have seen you present some cool stuff, and have seen some of your artwork on your blog or your apps on your github account, it’ll be simple to ask for a job.

Take initiave

If you’ve been looking for work for a while, don’t lose heart and give up on becoming a developer or designer. Start a really cool project – something you think is important, and do it!

If you’ve got time on your hands, this is a great way to keep your skills sharp, and it’ll look great on your resume to show that you took initiave and created some cool stuff while you were looking for a job.

To be honest, you should be doing this even when you’re employed too. Some ideas off the top of my head:

  • Make a cool web-app that helps people in some niche small business keep their core business organised (eg mechanics keep track of when their customers are due for a service, sending them an SMS telling them they need to drop their car in).
  • Design really cool posters for a local charity.
  • Make a bunch of small, useful iPhone apps and release them free with ads.
  • Redesign the website for the design meetup that you’re into.
  • (Big one!) Start a meetup in your local area, if you’re a bit far from the city.

Best of luck!

Thanks for reading! And if you want to get in touch, I'd love to hear from you: chris.hulbert at gmail.