Contribute to open source to get your first job

Instead of side projects, contributing to open-source can do more for your CV


When reviewing CV’s candidates want to stand out. A typical pattern I see in CV’s is people adding personal side projects.
The most common side projects I have seen.

  • Instagram clone/Twitter clone/tinder clone/<insert popular app>
  • A Travel app of some kind(this was before Covid kicked in)
  • A Covid 19 tracker (replaced the travel apps)
  • Add on functionality for an existing product, e.g. make a map of tweets

Managers are not always going to spend much time looking at your portfolio project. The reasons why? , They don’t have lots of time. They might need to review dozens of CV’s and split their attention between other priorities and reviewing CV’s. The side projects tend to need better documentation. The side projects sometimes do not work. They do not have the same polish as the original product, and they also do not tell the manager very much about the skills they are searching for.

Most hiring managers, using a combination of CVs and interviews, are looking for the following

  • Can you program?
  • When the requirements are not your own, how well do you react?
  • How well do you respond to feedback?
  • How well do you collaborate with colleagues?

Personal projects do not answer these questions very well.
So what could you do? Here is my recommendation.

Contribute to open-source projects.

There are lots of open-source projects out there. There are many advantages to contributing to open source

  • Adding to open source makes the product better, which is excellent for everyone who uses it.
  • You get to work on real problems that may be non-trivial.
  • You get to make new connections with the other people who are contributing to the open-source project.

How to get started contributing to open source?

It is straightforward, go to Github and look for projects that have lots of stars and a decent amount of engagement. A good example would be Middy.js. Navigate to their issues section in the github repository. Filter the issues on the “good first issue” or “help wanted” label. Find one you like and leave a comment that you would like to do the work on this ticket.

The people in the community are super helpful and will give you direction. There are other projects you can help out as well. I choose middy as it was started by my friend Luciano Mammino

What do you get out of it?

Besides the advantages I mentioned above, you get one more major benefit: add the contributions you make to your CV. In my opinion, a hiring manager will spend their precious time looking at an approved pull request from a popular open source project to see what they can learn from you over your side project.