Today, if you want the job then you need more than a resume. I am sorry to say, but if your value is all based on your previous job experience then you are missing a whole area from which to shine.
One of those areas is to build something, anything outside of work. There are multiple stories on the web about building stuff outside of your job for many reasons (here is a current popular one Spotify Design Lead on Why Side Projects Should be Stupid). For me, I love a challenge and working outside of my comfort zone to help me grow.
Here are reasons to build something outside of work:
- Learn: You can learn a new language, platform, API, or if you want to do something outside of programming, you can learn to plan and build something. I have played with Arduino to learn a bit about hardware, woodworking to fix and build stuff for my house, and music to learn just how difficult, yet easy, music is to create.
- Show: If you program something outside of work then you can post it on github and then you have an example of your work to show to a prospective employer. This is a win-win for you since you can show how you write code, how you design your software, how you test, etc.
- Tell: With a project outside of work you can talk about it. Many of the projects I have worked on are NDA which can make it hard to talk about what I did. It gets awkward when you can not talk about what you did for the last year. A self made project outside of work gives you something to talk about, challenges faced, and lets you show an interviewer how you think and deal with problems.
This is one thing I call ongoing interview prep. Not only are these projects fun but they give me a chance to discuss different topics to at an interview.
My current project is to port my 2009 iOS HockeyTweet app to 2014 iOS using Swift. This is letting me learn Swift and see how the changes in iOS over the last 5 years have changed how to write a virtually identical app. So far, a lot less code to do the same thing.
I'll be posting more on this once I complete the project.