Many non-devs in tech call GitHub the new resume for developers.
As a developer, you know that is not true since a lot of the work we do is behind the walls, i.e., closed source. We cannot even share snippets of that work.
Many experienced developers don't even have a GitHub profile either.
But recruiters don't care about that since GitHub is their best metric of vetting developers. So they check your GitHub.
Therefore, if you don't have a GitHub, you are missing out on some opportunities. The only exception is if you have FAAMG(or similar) work experience, in which case, you don't need GitHub. :-p
But if you are a beginner or don't have outstanding work experience yet, you will get ignored by recruiters and other people interested in hiring you. So you should focus on your GitHub profile.
Regarding what to have on your GitHub profile, what about creating personal projects? You can even share it online and get people interested in it. I wrote about it in a previous email.
You can also contribute to other open-source projects. That is a great way to get into open-source. Chances are, your open-source project won't get super popular so you can leverage the impact of other open-source projects by contributing to them.
I did all this unknowingly and it has helped me a ton in my career.
It helped me land my Google Summer of Code internships, then a contract work at appbase.io while still in college, and I think it played a role in getting selected in Toptal as well.
Interestingly, I got the appbase.io offer when someone from their team used GitHub Awards, a website that lists top GitHub users based on stars on their work. I was #1 for their city(Gandhinagar) so they had to reach out to me.
Why does a good GitHub profile help you?
The only reason someone doesn't hire you for a position is that they think you are not up to par. They are not going to interview you to find out since then they will have to interview everyone. So a resume or a GitHub profile helps you get past this hurdle.
If you think FAAMG on a resume makes a profile unfairly attractive, a GitHub profile can do that too. So don't worry and build your unfair advantage.
Also, it might be a good idea to get some stars. Stars make your open-source product look credible. Most people looking to hire you won't read your code so they use stars to judge. I know this is unfair, but this is the reality.
How to get stars? Get in front of more people. I talked about it in my marketing side-projects email.
The conclusion is - GitHub is your resume unless you have popular industry experience. Don’t sleep on it.