Landing your first job can be hard. Whether you’re fresh out of high school, recently graduated from college or shifting into a new industry, that first job is usually the most difficult to find. The most important thing to keep in mind, though, is that it’s not impossible and with some hard work, it can (and will) happen.
At The Iron Yard, I primarily work with people who are seeking their first job in tech. Previously, I worked as a tech recruiter. Here are a few pieces of advice I have learned over the years that I hope can help you get to where you want to be:
Set Your Expectations
It’s important to take chances, believe in yourself and push for the best opportunity. However, it’s just as important to remember that most people don’t land their dream job on the first go. Setting realistic expectations can be especially hard for people who have left an unfulfilling career in search of greener pastures. As a brand new developer, you might not be ready for that dream position. But you are absolutely ready to contribute to a team where you’ll gain invaluable experience that can help prepare you for that dream job. Every job is a learning opportunity — don’t miss out on something great by applying blinders during your job search.
You’ve heard it a million times, but it bears repeating: you will find a job through your network. What you may not have heard, though, is how to build and leverage a network. Networking that works is not sleazy or slimy or even painful (it’s a mild discomfort at most). Who do you know who is a developer, works at a place with developers, or knows someone else who is a developer? Start there. Take that person to coffee and ask lots of questions. Offer to help them with something. Be interested, not interesting. Networking isn’t about selling yourself, but about finding ways to connect with – and help – other people. Those kinds of relationships will pay dividends. Don’t believe me? Ask Ryder Timberlake, an Iron Yard grad and living example of this.
Update Your Portfolio
Would you hire a photographer without seeing photos he’s taken in the past? Would you contract an architect without seeing what else she’s built? Would you buy anything on Amazon without reading a few reviews?
The same principle applies to developers. As a coder, you build things. You’ll get hired by showing proof of being able to build. You’ll provide that by having a portfolio of your work that allows you to walk an employer through what you’ve built and why you built it that way. Your portfolio will get you in the door so that you can win them over in the interview. Which leads me to…
Practice Talking Tech
One of the most difficult things for new developers to do is explain how and why code works the way it does. “Talking tech” is a skill that takes time to develop. I’ve talked to several employers whose main critique of new developers after an interview is their struggle to talk about what they’re doing. So … practice. Find some problems to work through, talk to other developers, teach someone else, tell your mom about what you’ve learned — whatever method works best for you, practice talking about what you’ve done.
With these tips, a heavy dose of self-confidence and a persistent work ethic, you will find that first coding job.
Want to talk further about these tips (or get other tidbits)? Shoot me an email and we’ll grab coffee while we chat: firstname.lastname@example.org