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Hack Your Job Search

Section I: Getting Tactical About Your Job Search

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Section II: Standing Out From the Crowd

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8. Building in Public
Written by Jenn Bailey

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Now that you’ve started building a professional network, it’s time to show the world what you’ve got! In this chapter, you’ll learn about building in public: using your coding skills in ways that other people can see and use. This will give the world a sample of what you have to offer while helping you build your portfolio, your network and your confidence.

If you don’t feel ready to take this step, don’t worry! Showing off your skills can be intimidating, especially when you’re just starting out. Skip ahead to the section on “Conquering Impostor Syndrome” for advice on getting past that feeling, then come back here and read on.

What You’ll Learn

  • How to find and participate in hackathons.
  • How to contribute to open-source projects.
  • Why to build a personal app, including some ideas to get you started.
  • How to let potential employers know about your building-in-public experience.
  • Tips for overcoming hesitation or imposter syndrome.

You’ll start with a fun way to show off your skills and build your professional network at the same time!

Entering Hackathons and Coding Competitions

Hackathons and coding competitions offer excellent opportunities for new developers to make a name for themselves while meeting other devs in their area.

Participating in Hackathons

Many individuals are intimidated by the thought of participating in a hackathon. However, even people with no professional code experience can participate. Regardless of your background and level of expertise, you have something you can bring to a team.

Locating Hackathons

Some great websites to locate hackathons include:

Coding Competitions

Similar to hackathons, coding competitions give you the chance to build in public and make a name for yourself. A hackathon centers around proposing an idea and providing the proof of concept. A coding competition differs in that many teams are given specific code challenges that showcase logic and syntax skills.

Succeeding at Coding Competitions

It takes a lot of practice to become a competitive coder. Don’t be discouraged if you aren’t winning right off the bat. Not only will you need a good understanding of your chosen language, but another good area of focus is data structures and algorithms, sometimes shortened as DSA. Studying DSA serves a dual purpose: This knowledge will help you ace coding interviews while also teaching you to be a fast and efficient problem solver.

Finding Coding Competitions

So now that you know how to approach coding competitions, the next question you probably have is where to find them. Luckily, a quick Google search will show you a wealth of coding competitions. Some of my favorites come from Google itself. Here are some well-known competitions to enter:

Coding for the Community

The competitive spirit is great, but there are other ways to build your profile and code publicly. When you code for your community, you volunteer your skills to help someone you know or something you believe in — while simultaneously showcasing your work.

Contributing to Open-Source Projects

Open-source projects contain source code that’s openly available in a repository — a repo for short — typically hosted on GitHub or sometimes GitLab. Open-source project licenses let you copy and modify this code, sometimes with a requirement to credit the original project.

Finding Open-Source Projects

One way to find an open-source project is to think about the code libraries and products you use. Contributing to a project you value is motivating — not to mention, you’ll have more insight into how to improve the project if you’ve used it before.

Choosing an Open-Source Project

Once you’ve identified some projects you’d like to work on, here are some things to check:

What to look for in a GitHub repo.
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Shipping Your Own App

A very clear way to show the world that you’re an app developer is to build and publish your own app. This helps you polish your skills while giving you a concrete piece for your portfolio.

Sharing Your Accomplishments

Just as you’d market an app to make it sell better, you’ll need to market your skills if you want people to hear about them. So remember, whenever you accomplish something, be sure to share it with the community and document it in your portfolio.

Conquering Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome is when a person underestimates their own skills, leaving them afraid of being exposed as a fraud. In fast-paced fields like tech, imposter syndrome is especially common, so don’t worry if you feel this way. You’re certainly not alone.

Identifying Imposter Syndrome

One of the most difficult things about imposter syndrome is that it’s sneaky. It’s likely to come up when learning something new, starting a new job or exposing your work to a public forum. If you’re feeling hesitant or overwhelmed at the prospect, start questioning why.

Managing Imposter Syndrome

If you are having these feelings, here are some tips to help you:

1. Realize What You’re Feeling Is Common

A lot of developers struggle to feel smart or qualified enough because tech is a high-pressure, ever-changing environment. The job descriptions and demands of each new project are often unpredictable. The pressure of always needing to learn the latest changes in your platform can make you feel like you’re always behind the curve.

2. Look for Support

Many people experience imposter syndrome, but they don’t always talk about it. Find individuals you trust in your network and ask for support. With a solid professional network, you’re sure to find people who can help you overcome your challenges and empathize because they’ve been there themselves.

3. Inventory Your Accomplishments

It’s good to acknowledge shortcomings and to keep an objective view, but be sure to acknowledge accomplishments too. Recall times you’ve been consistent, dependable, trustworthy and helpful. Make a list of your strongest attributes.

4. Ask for Feedback

Many times, we write stories in our heads about our skills or perceived failures. Don’t assume these stories are true; instead, ask mentors, managers or peers for objective feedback. You might be surprised that they have a more positive view of your aptitude and performance. I’m often surprised that feedback from others is more positive than I anticipated.

5. Let Go of Expectations

Unrealistic expectations feed imposter syndrome. Sometimes these come from outside, but often they’re from inside. Know you’re exactly where you need to be. Remind yourself that outcomes are often unpredictable, so don’t get too attached to the end result you visualized. One of my favorite sayings in college was “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst and take what comes”.

6. Let Go of Perfectionism

Learning often happens through mistakes, and code projects are rarely straightforward from beginning to end. Unforeseen difficulties arise, and you must adapt. Focus on moving forward. Remember that it’s easy to get caught up in feeling like you need to be an expert in everything. Instead, focus on making progress and building new skills.

7. Cultivate a Spirit of Play

Placing high stakes on tasks makes them scarier to accomplish. Instead, take some of the pressure off by finding ways to make your work more fun. For example, you could think of learning as a quest or use your sense of humor to put your goals into perspective.

8. Do It Anyway

Fear is just an emotion. Think of a picture of a tiger — imposter syndrome can’t tear off the page and attack you, although your body might feel like it’s under that kind of threat. Take a few deep breaths, do what you fear, then walk away and find a distraction.

Key Takeaways

  • Building in public is a great way to learn while expanding your portfolio and network.
  • Showcasing your skills is key to getting great opportunities.
  • You can demonstrate your skills by participating in hackathons, working on open-source projects, building your own apps and more.
  • If you’re nervous about showing off your skills, don’t let imposter syndrome stop you from reaching for your aspirations.


  • Take up Coding Challenges to build your skills rounds up major international coding competitions. HackerEarth, mentioned earlier in “Locating Hackathons”, also lists upcoming coding competitions for a wide variety of languages and tech stacks.
  • What it means to contribute from the Open Source Guides curated by GitHub. This guide, which itself is open source, provides detailed guidelines on all aspects of creating, maintaining and contributing to open-source projects.
  • Art of README. This guide to writing a great README links to examples and references. It also includes a checklist to help you cover all the bases when creating your own repository or improving the README in an existing project, which can be a great way to make an initial contribution!

Action Plan

  • Find and participate in a hackathon.
  • Try out three code problems from one of the code competition sites.
  • Brainstorm a simple app that you could write for an individual, club, small business or organization in your community. Draw a rough mock-up.
  • Find an open-source project you’d like to contribute to and join the community.
  • Look for one open-source issue you can resolve.
  • Brainstorm a simple app that you can build and publish yourself.
  • Add a project you’ve done in school or as a hobby to GitHub and include a great README.
  • Write down at least three accomplishments in the tech field that you’re proud of.
Have a technical question? Want to report a bug? You can ask questions and report bugs to the book authors in our official book forum here.
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