If you go into your first few interviews with the mindset that your computer science degree guarantees you a job, you are about to be served your first dose of reality. Having a computer science degree in today’s world may get you the interview but it’s experience and soft skills that will land you the job.
Despite what your see about the shortage of tech workers, companies are still very demanding in what they expect from candidates. Employers want to see more than just a degree, they want to see that you have demonstrated what you learned and applied it to the real world, beyond the classroom. To do this, you need to acquire relevant experience while you’re still a student or you will lose out to more qualified candidates who did get real world experience. You may be thinking “But I had two internships” or “I was TA for one of my professors”. Unfortunately that may not be enough to separate you from the crowd. It’s a catch-22, though, because you need experience in order to get your first break. So what can you do?
Score a couple of freelance projects. It doesn’t matter if they are paid or unpaid. You need to start building a portfolio now. Look for small projects you can get done with your current skill set. Try volunteering or helping a professor with a pet project. When looking for summer work, make sure it’s relevant to your major, even if it’s only part time.
Build your own website. Take that passion you have for playing The Legend of Zelda or Mario Odyssey and build a website centered on it. Buy the domain, make a thoughtful decision about where to host it, select a content management tool, tag your site with Google Analytics. Even if the only people that visit the site are related to you, go through the process, build it, analyze it, and practice talking about it. It doesn’t matter if the site doesn’t generate much traffic. What matters is that you built it yourself and now you have hands on, “real world” experience to discuss during your interviews.
Hone your “soft skills”. Soft skills mean different things to different companies but the bottom line is the better you are at communicating the more likely you will be hired. Most interviewers say they make a decision on a candidate within the first five minutes of an interview. That means creating a connection with the interviewer and instilling confidence that you can do the job is a MAJOR factor in landing that first job. What can you do? Sign up for Toastmasters to work on your public speaking skills. Get out of your speaking comfort zone. Find people you don’t feel super relaxed with and engage in a conversation. Ask professors and other leaders to help you with mock interviews, especially if they can ask technical questions.
Build a Project. Produce a real enterprise-type project such as an inventory management system or gym scheduling app. These are available on RevaturePro. Sign up now and complete a few projects. You’ll have plenty to talk about in your interview.
While the road may not be easy, we’ve laid out clear directions to get you to that dream job in technology. So don’t count on your CS degree being all you need. Take matters into your own hands and come ready to show employers you HAVE DONE not just talked about it.