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How Much Familiarity/Experience Do I Need For My Resume?

 3:54 pm on Jul 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

Short story ---
I'm a web and graphic designer, dealing primarily with HTML, CSS and Photoshop. However, I'm updating my resume and I'm curious as to how much experience I need with things like PHP and Javascript before I can put them on my resume.

A slightly longer story ---
A few years ago I had designed a website for somebody, and a few months later they decided to update it, choosing to go with a different designer. The new designer and I knew each other, and I received an email from this person one day tearing me completely to shreds. One thing that really stuck out for me was a comment made regarding my PHP skills: "Unless you are absolutely fluent in a particular in programming language, you might want to remove that boast from your resume." So of course I interpreted that to mean "If you don't every little tiny thing about PHP, and if you can't write it in your sleep, don't bother even mentioning it to clients at all."

I don't know if that's how they meant it or if that's just how I interpreted what was said, but that one line has always loomed over my head. Over the past few years though, I have worked with PHP more, and though I would not consider myself an expert by any means, I would, on a scale of 1-10, give my PHP skills a 6 or 7. I can't write my own code, but I can certainly work through pre-written code and edit it to suit my needs. I know how to use PHP includes (I use them all the time), and I know how combine variables with form fields to create submission forms, and I know how to stylize those forms so that it looks nice when the recipient receives it, my contact forms also mails a copy to the sender for their records. I'm currently working through a series of video tutorials to learn about PHP more in depth.

As for Javascript, my experience is even more limited than my PHP experience, but like with PHP, I can work through pre-written code and edit it to suit my needs.

So yeah, sorry for the novel, but I just wanted to give some background because I know just asking "How much experience do I need?" would warrant responses like, "Well, it all depends". I want to be able to add these two things to my resume because that would open up a whole new world of clients and job opportunities for me. But I worry that if I mention these things, I might get a client who needs something totally original that I'm just not capable of creating, and I don't want them saying something to me like, "You say you know PHP and you can't write this code for my site?". Basically, I don't take criticism very well because I always take it so personally- I feel like it's an attack on me as a person rather than just on my skills (or potential lack thereof).



 4:37 pm on Jul 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

If you cannot write your own PHP code from scratch, you should not be giving yourself that 6 or 7. More like 3 or 4, and perhaps even that is generous, but it's hard to put this on a scale. Writing your own code is, however, a basic skill, and if you're going to put PHP on your resume without any further comment, you will at least have to get a grip on that. If all you can do is work with pre-written code, and alter a few things here and there, then I would either specify that or not put it up at all. What would be even better is if you would simply spend a day or two on learning those basics. You'll be surprised how quickly you can get a grip on PHP and begin writing your own code. It's one of the easier programming languages. Get a book if that helps you. Trust me, it'll be worth the investment, and boost your confidence in your resume.

The same goes for Javascript. You'll want to make sure you get the security essentials of both languages. Bad coding is one thing, bad security is quite another...

Even when you do understand the basics, do specify that on your resume, as you would with any ordinary language.

I imagine it's rough receiving that kind of feedback from a "colleague", but don't let that get you down, and don't look at PHP as some insurmountable obstacle -- you really can learn all the basics in mere hours. As for Javascript, you could give [codecademy.com...] a try, it's actually a lot of fun.


 11:21 pm on Jul 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

Of course if you send your resume to an agency whatever you say about your skills will be ignored and you will be put forward as an expert in anything that gets even a passing mention.

Frankly I know very few people who would write code from scratch. All the way back to mainframe days people would have personal libraries of basic routines picked up along the way which they would adapt to a particular job.


 1:27 am on Jul 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

You can't write a "one size fits all" resume. You have to take a specific job listing, read it very very carefully, figure out if you can do the job, and then make up a resume that makes it sound as if you are the single most qualified person on the planet. You are expected to lie. (I have actually been told this in classes. It's creepy.) Just don't get caught-- either directly or indirectly. Did your PHP wizard find severe and potentially lethal problems, or just a generic clunkiness?

A few weeks back, I posted a ten-year-old job listing
:: shuffling papers ::
here [webmasterworld.com]. It says, among other things, that the person writing the ad has no idea what the job actually requires, and neither does anyone else, so you will be free to make things up as you go along.

That's the worst-case scenario. But really all you have to do is know more than the person doing the hiring. Ask some questions that they don't know the answer to.

Over in that other thread, one person said
"required skill inflation" where they want all the skills of the previous post holder

... whether the employer really needs those skills or not. Setting up a new system involves different skills from maintaining an existing system. Some overlap of course-- you have to speak the language-- but not a whole lot. It also requires a completely different personality type, but there's no slot for that in the resume.

Or, in personal terms: "I don't speak a word of Apache. Tell me what you're trying to do and I'll figure out if it can be done." Won't work on a resume, but works just fine in real life ;)


 2:35 am on Jul 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

Thanks for all the input everyone :-)

I do know the basics of PHP- that's why/how I know to edit it to suit my needs. And I guess that's what I should have asked- is knowing the basics enough, or should I not say anything at all unless I can write it in my sleep?

I definitely take job listings that I apply to on a case by case basis. What I'm wondering all this for is for listing it on my portfolio/site under my list of skills.

What I'm gathering is that there's nothing wrong with listing PHP and Javascript under my list of skills, I just need to be prepared to explain that I'm not an expert but I do have a basic understanding.


 6:16 am on Jul 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

I just need to be prepared to explain that I'm not an expert

Yes, but I would do so on my resume. You don't want to waste an employer's time and create expectations that you cannot live up to in an interview.

I believe knowing the basics of PHP includes being able to write PHP from scratch; not necessarily (though preferably) all from the top of your head, but really just those basic ideas like how to open/close a script, write functions, loops, variables, interact with MySQL, etc.

is knowing the basics enough, or should I not say anything at all unless I can write it in my sleep?

I'd say there's a lot of middle ground there. Unless you are programming with high frequency, you cannot be expected to know it all by heart. You're a designer.


 4:34 pm on Jul 31, 2012 (gmt 0)

Unless you are programming with high frequency, you cannot be expected to know it all by heart.

In my old mainframe days my core skill was that I knew where in the IBM manuals (a set rather larger than the complete works of Shakespear) to look things up. Of course I had to make management believe that I knew already.

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