How to develop your skills

1. Upgrade your credentials — Companies are well known for favoring job applicants with graduate degrees. Getting a master’s or doctorate degree is one way to upgrade your credentials. You can upgrade your credentials in other ways, such as taking university or professional development courses or participating in programming contests.

2. Get certified — Certification is a contentious issue in the software development profession, but some jobs either prefer or require candidates to be certified in specific technologies, especially IT jobs. Consider surveying job listings to see whether certifications are required for the jobs that interest you before you invest time and money in certifications.

3. Work on a side project — A great way to expand your skill set is to work on a project not directly related to your primary work or study focus. Starting or joining an open-source development project is one way to go. Or if you work at a company, see if it will let you spend time on an ancillary project.

4. Do well in school — Although grades aren’t everything, they are one measure that companies use to rank new graduates with little job experience. The better your grades, especially in computer science and mathematics courses, the more you can impress a potential employer.

5. Keep learning — The end of formal education doesn’t mean you should stop learning, especially when so much information about programming is available from a wide variety of sources. Whether it’s books or blogs, there’s always a way to keep current, no matter what type of programming you do. It’s also a great way to expand your horizons and discover other areas of interest. This kind of learning doesn’t show up on your résumé, but it’s something you can highlight in your technical interviews.

6. Be an intern — New graduates who manage to secure employment during their non-school terms — especially those that participate in cooperative education programs — have a huge advantage over their peers who haven’t yet ventured into the real world. Software development in the field is often different from software development in an academic setting, and potential employers are cognizant of this.

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