Create Your Own Signature Project

Career Blog

Published: December 16, 2016 by Kate M. Spaulding

What is a signature project and why should you make the time? Read on!

Although I did not mention it in my last post – a career to-do list for winter break – today’s suggestion fits right in with those tasks: create your own signature project. If you are now a) staring somewhat blankly at the screen or b) wondering why I would suggest something that sounds suspiciously like volunteer homework, hear (read) me out.

The idea of a signature project is that you – yes, in all your free time – complete a project so that you will have it as an accomplishment to point to when you are job hunting. In addition to the final product(s), doing so will demonstrate that you have good ideas and can take the initiative, organize, execute, and produce results. From a personal perspective, you can feel what it’s like to act as a Project Manager and see if you like that role.

Consider expanding on something you’ve already done as classwork, or approach an upcoming assignment with the intention of using it as a chance to set up your project. For example, INFO 285, a course where you learn to write a research proposal, is an obvious opportunity, but I’ve taken other classes with equally-expandable projects, and your workplace could also be a good source of inspiration.

What your signature project actually is is completely up to you. It could be a paper that you take to the next level and get published or accepted for conference presentation. Or you could create and run a new program at your library, whether as a volunteer or an employee. If you’re tech-savvy, you could make an app or a game or a beautiful and beautifully functional website. If you want to pump up your instructional skills, what about creating an e-course? (Here’s a list of places you can sell it, though you’d want to be able to give future employers a code or link so they can see it without having to register or pay. Alternatively, you could make it freely available on your own website or blog.) Show off your data analysis skills by using data – either with permission from a private entity like your employer or publicly available – to solve a problem; bonus points if it’s tied directly to the industry you’d like to join.

Once you’ve completed your project, add it to your LinkedIn profile and make sure you get a recommendation from an associated professor or supervisor. Use it as a talking point in cover letters and resumes – it will be evidence of both specific skills (like being comfortable with technology or an excellent writer) and the traits I mentioned above (you can take initiative, etc.).

Right now, I’m collaborating with a friend to submit a proposal for an upcoming conference. Fingers crossed! Are you working on anything extracurricular? I’d love to hear about it!

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