Build Something That Matters


Two weeks ago I spent some time helping code academy graduates with their resumes. 

The most common question I got was, “How can my resume show what I’m capable of?”

Typically, a resume does this by summarizing what you’ve accomplished in the past. But what if you’re just starting out or your past experience isn’t relevant? 

That’s the predicament everyone faces when they’re starting their career or transitioning to a new one. 

So what can you do?

My best advice is to build something that matters. 

What do I mean? Well, you can tell someone you can do a job or you can show them.

For instance, I was talking with a hiring manager recently who is hiring a marketing/content person. A big part of this role’s responsibilities is to manage a weekly newsletter. One enterprising candidate saw that and created a custom newsletter about the role and sent it as part of their application. The candidate got the interview. 

In this example, the candidate didn’t have much relevant experience. BUT they built something that mattered to the hiring manager.

When I’m reviewing resumes from code academy graduates, I often see projects listed as part of their work experience. One thing I’ve noticed is that most of these projects are geared toward a student learning and connecting fundamentals rather than solving a specific problem. I see a lot of projects that are general in nature, Build a Chart, Build a Storefront, Client-side data validation, etc. 

Seeing these projects on a resume tells me you’ve put together some fundamentals to make a thing once. What I don’t know is whether you can apply this knowledge to solving real, specific problems. 

When a recruiter and hiring manager is reviewing a resume they are looking for evidence that you have the knowledge, experience, and skills to do the job. What better way to demonstrate this than solving a real problem by building something that matters?

If you’re applying for a job where you build or make stuff -- whether it’s code, copy, designs, strategy, whatever -- see if you can’t identify a small problem you can solve that’s relevant to the job you’re applying for.

Remember the candidate who made a newsletter? That person overcame the disadvantage of not having specific qualifications by demonstrating they could do the work. 

Even if what you make is small, showing a company that you can identify and solve a problem for them not only demonstrates that you can do the job but that you have the right attitude. Personally, I find it impressive when a candidate goes beyond making a generic application to demonstrate their capabilities. 

So, to the question that started this post, “How can my resume show what I’m capable of?”

"My advice is simple: Build something that matters."

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