There are more software developers today than ever before. At the high end, GitHub reported 73 million developers in 2021. On the lower end, Evans Data reports the number will hit 27 million in 2023, but analyst firm, RedMonk, estimated 35 million in 2017.
Regardless of the true number, it’s growing and the growth can be explained by high demand for software developers. Relative to other jobs, being a developer is well paid wherever you are in the world. Working conditions are good and whether you want to work on tricky mathematical problems, are interested in building web applications, or mobile games, prefer at a small startup just getting started, or like the security in the public sector, there are lots of options.
Since September, we’ve been working with devtools companies to help them hire the best developers through our new developer jobs product. We’ve seen thousands of developers sign up to our emails about interesting jobs for all types of roles, technologies, locations, experience levels, and salaries. Despite these opportunities, we still see developers failing to do basic things to help them stand out.
Even if you’re not looking for a new job, there are some easy steps you can take to attract new opportunities or prepare for when you do start to look for the next thing.
0: Work at well known companies & contribute to open source
If you have worked at a well known organization on a respected product that clearly demonstrates your technical skills, this will have the biggest impact. Creating something that becomes widely used or making major contributions to popular open source projects is equivalent.
The former is more difficult to simply bootstrap, especially early on in your career. However, getting into open source is easier than you think. GitHub has a guide for finding ways to contribute to open source and many big projects use “Good first issue” or “help wanted” tags to help newcomers identify easier tasks to get started with. Start with this GitHub search and then filter by the languages you know.
This is step zero on this list because it allows you to demonstrate your skills without any extra work other than what you might be doing as a hobby anyway. Working on interesting projects is the best way to work on interesting projects.
Unfortunately, it’s also not that helpful a suggestion for most developers. it assumes that you have spare time, want to spend that time coding, and are interested in contributing that time to open source projects. That describes some developers, but I’ve worked with some amazing developers who did none of these things! Indeed, it may only be 1% of developers who are like this.
The rest of this post is for the other 99%.
1: Create a website - even if it’s just a single page
Despite this being at least an order of magnitude better than just relying on a PDF resume, you’d be surprised how many developers have no public internet profile they control!
If you have had your email address for any length of time it’s easy to find artifacts from Git commits, old forum posts, social media mentions or other remnants of an online presence. But these are all out of your control. Creating a simple website, even just a single page, is the easiest way to stand out and take control of the search listings for your name and/or email.
Using plain HTML works, but there are also plenty of minimalist CSS frameworks like Pure.css, Pico.css or Milligram that add a small touch of personalization. TailwindCSS is popular if you want to spend a bit more time, and they have some templated layouts you can buy.
Getting started is free with a subdomain like pages.dev with Cloudflare Pages or GitHub Pages, but it can be made much more personal by buying a domain for only $10-20 a year. Finding a good .com is difficult, but other, newer TLDs like .dev still have lots of options.
Your website should start with some basic information about your work history, what you can do, and what you’ve built. Like a mini-resume, but one that people will read. That’s really all you need to put yourself ahead of most other developers. And if you like writing then creating a couple of long-form blog posts or essays on topics you know a lot about will be surprisingly rewarding. It takes time to rank in search, but you might end up becoming the definitive source for a few key topics that lead to really interesting projects.
Having a website is the most important thing on this list, so if you ignore any of the others below, at least do this one!
2: Set up a custom email domain
This is one of those things that shouldn’t matter, but I’m sure there is a negative bias when looking at a Hotmail or AOL email address for someone who is supposedly applying for a technical role.
If you have set up a website as recommended above then email with your custom domain is an easy next step. It looks much better than any free service, even if it’s just a forwarder to your GMail account. Cloudflare has a free product for that, and we’re an investor in Forward Email - an open source email forwarding service.
Plus it has the side effect of future-proofing your email. If Google eventually does something weird with GMail, it’s not difficult to move elsewhere.
3: List specific contributions
Most work history has a job title, organization name, and the dates for each job. That’s standard, but it doesn’t tell you enough. If it’s a famous company, the hiring manager might use that as an initial filter, but it doesn’t tell you anything useful. Creating an important project and working for years on multiple teams that just get shut down all look the same if you just list the organization name.
This is why the best resumes list what that person actually did. Include numbers if you can, but at least describe how you were involved and what you achieved. Certain details may need to be redacted or left for an interview, but describing the problems you solved and the solutions you implemented will demonstrate you have relevant skills and experience.
Also put these details on your website. Resumes matter for some companies (usually the larger ones) whereas they’re ignored by others. Hiring managers will tend to search for you (or click your personal website) first, so don’t keep the interesting details hidden inside a PDF that might never be read.
4: LinkedIn should match your website
I’ve yet to meet a developer who likes using LinkedIn, but if you don’t have a personal website and don’t control the search results for your name, your LinkedIn profile is what is going to show up when they search for you.
Even if you do have a website, hiring managers are likely to search for you to see a quick summary of your work history and/or find people they know who might be able to provide a reference. This is getting even easier as Outlook (the client of choice at large companies) automatically surfaces LinkedIn profiles.
This means you should make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date. It doesn’t mean you need to look at your LinkedIn Inbox or notifications, but it should at least match what you have on your website! If you have any public talks or media quotes, you can also link them to your profile to make it seem more interesting. However, if it exists, it should be accurate.
Most developers fail to stand out even though it doesn’t take much effort to instantly level up into the top percentile. The best developers rarely look for something new - it finds them through their involvement in open source, experience on respected projects, or their online presence. Yet it’s that last one that is truly open to all. Why not control it?
Creating a simple website and describing how you contributed to the projects you’ve worked on is really all it takes. If you have the time and inclination to contribute to open source, great. But regardless, every developer should have their own space on the internet.