As a self-taught developer looking for your first job, your GitHub profile is one of your most valuable resources. Without the backing of a degree or bootcamp, employers will look to your GitHub page to determine your ability. You can showcase your knowledge, code quality, ability to collaborate with others, problem solving skills and much more.
After working on a project, make it easy for people to view the final product. If it is a website, deploy it to a cloud provider (such as GitHub pages, Heroku or AWS) and put the link in the repository description. You could also screen record yourself using the application and provide a link to a YouTube video (you can upload it privately so only people with the link can see it if you would prefer), or take screenshots of the project and place them in the readme.
It is much easier and quicker to look at the actual product of the code to get a gauge of your skills and the complexity of what you’ve done than looking at the code itself.
Clearly set out the skills you’ve developed in building this project in the readme of the repository. List the technologies you learnt or developed, languages you’ve used, major concepts, how you’ve deployed it, API’s you’ve used — anything that is relevant to your project! Employers are looking for what skills you have and that you have the ability to learn new things. Make it easy for them to see this!
Pin your best repositories to your homepage. Give them a succinct description, including the main languages and technologies you used.
Think about what sort of jobs you’re applying for. If you’re looking for more general positions such as a full-stack web developer, show your ability to learn all areas of the development process by doing projects that use different languages and tools. If you know that you’re applying for a more specific role, for example a React developer, focus your projects on showing growth in that area.
Each project you do, challenge yourself to try a new language, framework, library, deployment method or similar. This shows that you’re willing and able to learn new things.
Have an eye-catching profile picture. One way to do this is having a bright background colour such as orange, pink or blue.
Have a short and simple bio. One idea if you’re self-taught and moving from another career is stating your previous career ‘to developer’ (such as ‘Lawyer to Developer’). It’s catchy and immediately gives people an idea about who you are.
Commit often. GitHub profiles include a chart that shows when and how often you’ve committed. By committing often, employers can quickly see that you are consistent and disciplined in teaching yourself to code.
Comment on your code. If employers want to have a look, having comments will help them understand what’s going on and makes it easier for them.
Work on projects with others. This shows your ability to collaborate, as well as your ability to understand more complex Git processes like merging.
Contribute to open source projects. This is a great way to get better at looking at code, understanding what other people have written and work out how to improve it. This is similar to what you would do when you’re working in a company, so if you can show that you can do that employers will be impressed.
Write documentation in the readme for how to set up your application on another computer. This is great if it is something like a command-line tool or a project that others are also working on. This means an employer can also try it out to see what you’ve made. It also shows you understand the importance of writing documentation.
Summarise the major challenges you encountered and how you solved them in the readme. Problem solving is one of the most important skills as a software developer, so emphasising this skill will help you in your job search.
For problem solving strategies to use and include in your readme, see https://annie-f.medium.com/4-problem-solving-strategies-from-a-self-taught-software-developer-c521271c977e
Add a profile readme to your page. This will be the first page people see when they click on your GitHub account. You can include whatever you like in it. It’s a great way to quickly get important information across to employers.
For advice on how to set one up and ideas on what you could include in it, see: https://medium.com/better-programming/how-to-stand-out-on-github-with-profile-readmes-dfd2102a3490