If you are a tech professional who is seriously involved in open source, you may have something far more valuable than a resume. Especially for developers, the experience with open source projects and communities is a powerful tool for job-hunting. What you have is a successful history of contributions and an established reputation – something that recent graduates and those who work in teams for specific companies do not.
You also work collaboratively with other developers and your contributions are in the open; your ability to work with others is clear and your skill level is easily understood. This is what recruiters and employment managers like to see – it is more proof than any embellished resumes and opens many doors for a technology career.
Skills you need
As you work in open source, you will have the opportunity to develop hard and soft skills that will make you amazingly attractive to potential permanent employers. Here are the ones that will serve you well.
Open source is often related to Linux operating system. The Linux kernel, originally crafted by Linus Torvalds, was given to the world for free. He then asked others to add to his kernel, so long as they kept their contributions free for others. Programmers and hard-core developers flocked to this opportunity. The Linux community is dedicated, and you will need to show our dedication with solid contributions.
Getting skill in a debugger is pretty critical too, along with distributed source control – this means Git and GitHub.
You must be able to write and speak clearly. English writing is as important as any coding language you know or are learning. Once your open source work lands you a career position, there will be some business letter writing tasks — not to mention in-house memos, reports and more.
Speaking is just as important as writing. Learning to organise your thoughts and then to express them clearly is critical for any IT or development work you may be doing. Participating in and contributing to meetings requires oral communication skills and that implies listening as well as speaking.
Be open to communication from others online and participate in discussions, forums and niche groups. Find opportunities within open source communities, on LinkedIn and niche forums.
Become a trusted helper and problem-solver
Your reputation as an effective communicator must be firmly established within the open source community. And remember that what you communicate is out there for all to see. Be diplomatic — more than one open source contributor has been “blackballed” by others for snarky, derisive comments.
Relationships with peers
The reason why open source works are that peers form a community that work together and support one another.
As you begin to establish relationships within an open source community, first look to local peers, joining groups and networking. Then, expand remotely. Do some research and find what projects are in progress and where your skills can be of benefit.
Also, find conferences and other events you can attend –- you will benefit from the networking of meeting and communicating with others face-to-face. And you will become privy to technology careers that are currently available.
If you want to always be working on open source projects, sign up for notifications on an open source job board or two.
Absolutely, get on Stack Overflow, it is one of the best ways to find open source work and collaborate with others. Begin by answering some of the questions that relate to skills you have and to which you can provide great responses and suggestions. Read about bugs occurring in projects and start fixing them. Ultimately, you want to add a feature request and begin coding that feature.
Working in open source before you actively seek paid technology careers means you are building skills and solid credibility that could mean that dream job.
Leave your ego in your back pocket and collaborate genuinely. Also, consider some partner programming – as the saying goes, “two heads are better than one.” The better code will be the result. Find open source licenses that pique your interest and need your skills, and then find others within that community to collaborate with.
You want others to know the work you do. One of the best ways to do this is to maintain a portfolio of your work, the commits, the messages you have received from others, and all contributions you have made. As you look at both offline and online careers, you can showcase items from your portfolio that relate to the differentiated resumes you will be crafting.
In many instances, potential employers may be far more interested in your portfolio items than in your resume. Those items are definitive proof of your skills.
Other elements of your reputation maintenance include your LinkedIn and other social media profiles.
Finding that job
Here’s the thing about many open source projects: they have companies or individuals from companies attached. “Attached” individuals may have online careers as freelancers, working for more than one company at a time. They are good sources for opportunities once they are convinced of your skills.
As you attend conferences and events, nurture relationships not just with peers but with representatives of companies that do hire. Search every open source job board you can find.
Keep yourself relevant
New open source licenses are appearing regularly. And there will always be updates in languages and in Linux. Keep learning new languages; stay involved in open source projects during off-work hours; keep your collaborations intact and make new ones. You never know when a new opportunity and a newer “dream job” may appear.