Getting to the Top of the Stack

Everyone is going to the same school.

Everyone is taking the same classes at school.

Everyone is doing the same projects at school.

Everyone is getting the same marks at school.

So how do I differentiate myself when it comes time to apply for a job?

This was the question posed to me by a Coop student who was finishing their Computer Science program and was about to enter their third-year of a four year program.

Kudos to them, for realizing what they were going up against — about a few 100,000+ new job applicants who will graduate in a little over a year and be looking to start their careers at EXACTLY the same time.

How do you get to the Top of the Stack?

Doesn’t matter what school you are going to, no need to quote me all the projects you’ve done in school (I’ve heard them all before and most schools are doing similar projects to validate similar concepts). Yes each school has their own take on different programs so if this point is bothering you, imagine this as competing against everyone in your graduating class who went to the same classes and did exactly the same projects. I’ve never asked someone for their grades but I know there are some that do which is why I added them in here.

So how do you get to the top of the email and/or paper file stack?

You differentiate yourself in the space that no one else can beat you in — your own.

You start attending user groups and meetups to network with already established individuals.

You start a blog on medium or wordpress that shows your take on the industry, coding, the world and everything in it from your viewpoint.

You write on a focused topic on SlideShare.

You get a subscription to Pluralsight and learn technologies that you are not learning at school (or in your current employ).

You create a LinkedIn account and start networking through groups and reaching out to people who are in your field for advice. Better yet, start your own group on a subject that matters and invite your friends.

Engage with the Quora community, ask, ask, ask.

Give back to your community and volunteer in a public school, talking about software development and all the cool things you can do with it.

And this is only a sampling.

The only way to get to the Top of the Stack is to differentiate your abilities from everyone else around you. Schools et al will teach you Software Development, but all those other activities listed above? Those activities will teach you about communications, networking, community, writing, leadership, initiative, drive and showcase your abilities as a leader, self-starter and team player to all.

And those activities they don’t teach in school.

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