This month I embarked on a new journey as a mentor at The Mentoring Club and ADPList, online platforms that connect experienced professionals with individuals seeking mentorship. Both platforms are based on the idea of giving back to the community and helping professionals navigate the challenges they face in their careers.
In a recent mentoring session, a young graduate asked my advice for his preparation for entry-level software engineering roles. He finished his Bachelor’s degree in Information Technology last year and has no professional experience. Below I summarize the advice I shared with him.
Invest in your LinkedIn profile and resume
You may not have professional experience, and that is ok. It is an entry-level position, after all. But that is no reason to have an empty LinkedIn profile or resume. Provide details of the following:
- Education and Skills: Outline your educational background and the technical and soft skills you’ve acquired. Don’t just list them; provide context. For example, instead of saying “Python programming,” consider “Developed a Python-based application for event management as a semester project.”
- Projects and Initiatives: Make your practical exposure explicit. Detail your role, the challenges faced, and the outcome, be it a semester project, a hackathon you’ve participated in, or a personal passion project.
- Extracurricular Activities: Your pursuits outside of academics can also paint a picture of your abilities and soft skills. Membership in university clubs or organizations like Junior Achievement can indicate leadership, teamwork, and effective communication.
- Hobbies: They might seem unrelated, but your hobbies can reveal a lot about you: An interest in puzzle-solving might indicate analytical thinking; completing a marathon can illustrate discipline and resilience.
Practice Coding Challenges
Those platforms offer a simulated environment that mirrors the type of problems commonly posed during technical interviews. This way, you can strengthen your coding and problem-solving skills and deepen your familiarity with algorithms, data structures, and design patterns.
Expectations for entry-level software engineering positions
When you’re entering the tech industry, it’s crucial to understand what recruiters and companies seek in entry-level candidates. While each company might have its own criteria, the following skills are universally valued.
This includes understanding programming languages, data structures, and algorithms. You can develop these skills through formal education, self-study, or hands-on experiences like coding challenges, hackathons, and personal projects.
You might also want to specialize based on the company or role you’re seeking. For example, if a company is heavily invested in web applications, knowledge of popular web frameworks would be a plus. If you want to pursue a career as a data scientist, you may consider learning Python, database query languages such as SQL, visualization techniques, etc.
Software development process
Real-world software development goes beyond just coding. You don’t need to be a professional to familiarize yourself with version control systems (e.g., Git), understand the basics of DevOps, learn about design patterns, and delve into unit testing.
Companies value candidates who approach challenges with a solution-oriented mindset. This means not just identifying issues but also thinking critically to solve them. Invoke your projects or experiences, demonstrating how you tackled challenges head-on and derived innovative solutions.
Being at the start of your career means there’s so much ahead. Companies value candidates who show potential for growth. This doesn’t just mean technical evolution but also the potential to lead, innovate, and adapt to the evolving tech landscape. Highlight any experiences that demonstrate your hunger for learning, leadership roles you’ve taken on, or ways you’ve gone above and beyond in your projects.