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“Statistics is impossible to understand, I hate it so much. The worst part is I won’t ever use it in the real world.”
“Then why are you taking it?”
“For some reason it’s a required course for my major.”
I can’t tell you how many times I had this exact conversation with dozens of people in college. It was during my sophomore year that I had an important realization:
A ton of people in college have to take an introductory course on statistics, no matter what field they’re majoring in.
Virtually everyone I knew, from psych majors to history majors had to take one stats course. And they all dreaded it.
That’s when I had an idea:
Hey, I know a lot about stats. I should build a website to teach people what I know and charge a fee for it.
I set up the site so the first lesson was free and people had to pay a small fee to access the rest. I went on a personal campaign to share my site, emailing everyone I knew. But when it was all said and done I had a grand total of zero people sign up for the site and earned a total of zero dollars from it.
I became so discouraged that I eventually just made it free to use. I had already bought the domain name for five years (I’m a long-term thinker) so I essentially left it out in the internet wasteland to rot, completely forgetting that I even built it at all.
That is, until graduation rolled around.
A Lackluster Resume
One major mistake I made during my undergraduate years was not pursuing an internship. I had no idea how important internships actually were. I was fortunate to have a quantitative degree, which proved that I could work with numbers, but I had virtually no real world experience.
My resume looked pretty pathetic upon graduation. Outside of a research assistant position, my only work experience was retail jobs. Surely that wouldn’t make an employer eager to hire me.
That’s when I remembered Statology.
Although it wasn’t a site that a company paid me to make, I still put a lot of work into it. I decided to place it on my resume as a “side project”.
Fast forward a couple months, I finally landed an interview with a local insurance company. One of the first things the interviewer mentioned during our meeting was “We were intrigued by this educational website you built.”
The site I had abandoned and left for dead in the wild wild west of the internet had been my golden ticket to getting my foot in the door of a real company.
Fast forward another month. I landed the job.
The Rarity of Side Projects
At the time I couldn’t believe my educational website had helped me get the attention of an employer, but now it makes sense to me: very few college students actually take the initiative to work on a side project. In fact, I personally didn’t know anyone who worked on any type of project outside of classes.
By working on a side project and building something tangible, it proves that you’re a person who takes initiative, who is curious about a topic and willing to take action based on that curiosity.
You can certainly tell an employer in an interview that you’re a driven person who takes initiative, but showing them something you built is indisputable. It proves your drive.
I have also come to realize that the end result of the side project doesn’t really matter. All that matters is the fact that you even attempted to build something.
Statology is clunky, information-dense, and unappealing.
Exhibit A: Information overkill. No wonder people didn’t want to read it.
And despite the information-dense, ugly layout of the site, it was still something that I built all by myself. It proved I was willing to put in the work to build something.
Side Projects Are the Secret to Resume Hacking
It can be hard to land your first real job after college when your work experience is limited to retail and babysitting. It can even be tough to earn an internship. But nobody on earth is stopping your from starting your own side-project. The internet has destroyed all barriers preventing the average person from starting a project and sharing it online.
Also, the benefits can’t be overstated. When you work on your own side project, you’ll inevitably learn skills which you can place on your resume and your finished project (no matter how good it is) counts as a type of work experience.
There’s a huge pool of young people out there who have a degree and nothing else. If you have some type of side project on your resume, you have a leg up on the competition.
Anybody can start a small business, build a site, and showcase their work online. But few people do. Working on a side project is the easiest way to resume hack and stand out from the crowd.
It personally helped me land my first corporate job.
If you’re looking to stand out from the crowd, I encourage you to build something. Anything. A side project can help you get your foot in the door at a company. At the very least, it can help you learn new skills and gain experience.
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