There’s no reason you have to graduate school without a job lined up. A sweet job at that. You don’t have to accept the fact that unemployment is so high and that there is a good chance you won’t find a job in the next 6 months. Nope. That doesn’t apply to you at all.

You want to know why? Because you’re spending your time creating and building cool things of value.

It doesn’t matter what career path you’re taking. It doesn’t matter what you want to do. You just need to build value. For programmers, build some tools that simplify your life. Release it open source on github. Get people using it. You can build things no matter what career path you’re going down.

If you don’t know what to build, start a blog. Write about topics relevant to your interests and career. Gain popularity. Promote, promote, promote.

Keep active with the community you build. Reach out to strangers. Use Twitter, Facebook, and any other social network that applies to you. Meet people, make friends, and do it just because you want to. Do it in your free time well before you’re looking to apply for jobs.

You’ll have built up a reputation, impressed people, and have a network you can leverage to find yourself that job that is looking for YOU.

Okay, but does this actually work? You betcha. In fact, it sometimes works well. You might end up getting overwhelmed by offers.

I started working on Keryx as a freshman in college. My goal was to create a tool to make it easy for offline Linux users to easily update offline machines. I didn’t create it with the intention of people knowing my name. I created it because I wanted to give back something of value back to the Ubuntu community. It worked. 4 years and a lot of versions later, I’ve clocked nearly 60,000 downloads and that’s for a tool whose users have no internet.

Marketing for Keryx was suggesting it on forums, blogs, and communities. For the first couple months. Nothing more. I stopped promoting it to work on improving it. Things just snowballed. Sure it still needs a LOT of work, but I created it to learn and give back to the community. I achieved both of those goals 1000 times over.

This takes time, and you may get burnt out working on the same thing, so create side projects as well. I have a whole slew of things on my github account. Keep pushing yourself and before you know it, you’ll have some awesome contributions to talk about during interviews.

As if the sincere, heartfelt thank you letters for building something so dear to a person’s problem of helping to spread Linux wasn’t motivating enough, you’ll have lots of people contacting you for help. Every time you can help someone, do so. It is great to become the go-to guy for your domain’s questions, but an even greater feeling to have actually made a difference in someone’s life.

After all that hard work, guess what you have? Amazing topics to discuss during interviews. You can show them your passion for not only your career, but that you will be someone that they don’t even need to interview to determine your skills. Why? Because they already admire you.

Now go. Go stack that cheddar.

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