Last week, I sent out information about Microsoft and Cyborg Mobile’s new technologist internship program to a number of group-chats, encouraging qualified candidates to apply. I received a TON of messages from potential candidates — freshmen and sophomores. They all presented a common concern: “I don't think I have enough professional experience.”
I am currently a computer science junior and I wish I had applied to internships/programs when I was a freshman. But back then, I had the same mindset the students who reached out to me did - “I have no professional experience, I will not be able to get in.” Years later, thanks to the internet and abundance of resources out there, I now know there are many ways to develop professional experience as a freshman/sophomore without ever having an internship.
So, I decided to compile a list of things I believe can help you build a good résumé for job application. These tips mostly apply to students looking for roles in tech(SWE, PM, Product design, UX/UI design). I for one love free stuff, so most of the resources I mention cost approximately $0.00. The only payments you need to make are time and dedication.
Hackathons are events that bring together programmers and designers from all over the world. Hackathons are really easy to find/join and are FREE (well, most of them). As a freshman/sophomore looking to gain experience, hackathons are a great way to build upon your current skills and create a résumé-worthy experience. Most hackathons allow you to form teams and you could easily join a team with more experienced developers and designers. I know beginners worry a lot about having to code during hackathons since they have just started learning programming languages. But it is perfectly okay to turn in a prototype developed with design tools like Figma, Adobe XD, Sketch, Invision, etc. Hackathons mostly occur during the weekend so you don't have to worry about class conflicts. There are a ton of websites to that help you find hackathons. I personally use two websites:
I really like MLH because of the workshops they offer. You can access these workshops without signing up for a Hackathon. MLH also shows you upcoming hackathons with their dates, so you don’t have to spend a lot of time searching. Devpost is also great as it stores information about all the hackathons you’ve participated in. Devpost displays all your hackathon projects so you don’t have to re-upload them to another website.
After participating in like 2 hackathons, you now have 2 professional experiences! A quick disclaimer however: Hackathons usually last 2–3 days, after which you’re expected to submit a project. Thus, they can be pretty overwhelming. So make sure to space them out. A plus side; hackathons attract a lot of sponsors…usually top tech companies looking for interns /new grads to hire. Even if you are unable to secure an internship, you can still build connections with potential employees.
Overall, I recommend participating in a few hackathons and highlighting the concept of your projects as well as tools used to develop your project on your résumé.
2. DESIGN CHALLENGES AND PROJECTS
Another way to build your résumé is to take part in design challenges or start a personal design project. This might be useful for people considering career paths in web/app development, UX/UI, and product design.
It is important to tell a story. So, for the design challenges, try to design a number of screens for the same app, show the flow between these screens, and talk about your thought process. Otherwise, you can do a design project where you start from scratch(brainstorming, research, data analysis, wire-framing etc) to finish(prototyping, design etc)
- Adobe XD creative challenge: This is a challenge offered by Adobe XD. Each challenge of the day is created to help you make better use of an existing feature on the app. So after the end of the challenge, which is about 9 days, you will have an idea of how certain features in XD work. This is great for building your design portfolio. Plus, they have a discord server where you can upload your designs to get feedback from professional designers.
- Daily UI: This is similar to the XD creative challenge except you get sent something new everyday for 100 days. This is also a bit overwhelming as it gives you something new everyday. You don't have to design every single challenge given, but you could get do a few to help show on your portfolio.
3. PERSONAL CODING PROJECTS
Personal coding projects are really great. Unlike what most people think, you don't have to have completed it to put it on your résumé. Your résumé can just be a summary of what you’ve gotten done so far and a link to an online repo(like GitHub) to show your code.
If you have trouble developing a project, there are a bunch of youtube videos that code projects from scratch to finish. Be careful when doing code-alongs to youtube videos. It is easy to get confused especially if you have no prior knowledge of the coding languages used. It can also make you lazy, since the videos basically code everything with you from scratch to finish. Regardless, I still feel this might be a great resource. Some of my favorite youtube channels that provide coding/design projects to follow along with include:
You can find others by simply typing in the name of the project you want to do or the programming languages you’re looking to develop projects with.
4. FREE ONLINE COURSES AND BOOTCAMPS
There are a few organizations that offer free online classes, bootcamp or fellowships. These programs not only teach you but you get to work on cool project(s).
Some examples include:
- Codepath: Codepath is a non-profit organization that offers a variety of online classes that teach you things like app development, cybersecurity etc. They also offer free mentorship, interview prep, career fairs and so on! They currently have an opening for an introduction to mobile product development course.
- GoCreate: This is a UX/UI program that originally began in my country, Nigeria. I was part of the first set of students for the USA program. You can choose to be part of either the UX/UI design track, or product/project management track. Oh, and it’s also free.
5. TECH ORGANIZATIONS AND VOLUNTEERING OPPORTUNITIES
Another way to build your résumé is to become a part of tech organizations. Tech organizations offer a community of people that help each other navigate through career choices/interests. Organizations like black girls code, and Techgirlz look for volunteers to teach basic coding or design concepts to young students.
Girls who code and Girls In Tech also give you the option of starting a chapter. Starting a chapter means you get to be the president and see that the organization grows on your campus. This would be great for your résumé.
Other programs /organizations to consider include:
- Google Developer student club
- Twitter Diversity Programs
- Microsoft Learn Student Ambassadors.
- Google women tech-makers
- Color stack
- Rewriting the code
- BUILT BY GIRLS
- Product buds
6. ON-CAMPUS JOBS AND ORGANIZATIONS
Most campuses offer a variety of jobs to students. I suggest going to your department and asking for jobs around. You could find yourself working jobs like computer science research assistants, IT technician assistant, graphic designer or web developer.
Another alternative is to join clubs/ organizations on campus. Try to find ones that can offer you technical or leadership roles. This will look good on your résumé.
7. RELATING WITH THE CS SOCIAL COMMUNITY — by Paul Ariri
Besides building your résumé and chipping away at personal projects, relating with the CS community is an underrated means towards landing an internship. I’m a very active member of the CS students’ “Reddit” and “Discord” community. Most students pose inquiries, share their code, and also company employees give referrals on there. Seeing and understanding what your peers are doing can be an eye-opener. I can tell you that the amount of information you gather can change and improve your ideologies/methods.
“Alone we can do close to nothing; together, we can accomplish such a great deal.” — Hellen Keller