Who would you hire?
If you’re using open source as a portfolio to make yourself a more competitive job candidate, it can feel like you have to start your own project to show off your skills.
In the words of one job seeker I chatted with recently, “I feel like most of my contributions [to other peoples’ projects] aren’t that significant or noteworthy”. Here’s a thought experiment to justify including projects to which you contribute, even without a leadership role, on your resume:
Imagine you want to hire a coder.
Candidate A always works alone and refuses to contribute to a project if it doesn’t make her look like a rockstar.
Candidate B triages the unglamorous issues that affect multiple users, and steadily produces small, self-contained fixes that avoid introducing new bugs.
When the situation is framed in these terms, I hope that it’s obvious which coder you’d want on your team.
When writing your resume, there’s only space to include a few of the many activities in which you invest your time. It’s tempting to only include your biggest, highest-profile solo projects, while disregarding those projects to which you’ve made a small but steady stream of useful contributions.
Reread your resume from the perspective of someone who hasn’t met you yet and has only the information in that document available to form a first impression of your character. Which of the 2 hypothetical coders does it make you sound like? Is that how you really are?