Finding a job as a self taught developer, or as a fresher looks daunting. Almost all the companies are only looking for experienced people, and how will you get any experience if you don’t get a job?
This catch-22 has been catching people’s imagination for long time now. It has even become a meme of its own.
So how do you as a person with no experience get a job?
There are usually two scenarios when you are faced with this kind of dilemma. One, when you are in college and are looking for a job in your fourth year, or two when you are a self taught developer without formal computer science education who wants to work as a professional developer.
Finding jobs as a fresher
There are basically three ways a fresher can get a job.
One way is to sit in the college placements, apply to visiting companies, get your resume shortlisted, give interviews and get selected.
You typically don’t get to negotiate the salary or terms of employment, and if you are not in a “good enough” college, the opportunities you get will be limited.
People with the brightest academic records will get the best opportunities, as the judgement criteria will involve less amount of information and interviewers will have to rely on your academic record to get a sense of your work ethic. You can get offers from big corporation rather easily with this method, if you have good marks.
Second way is to work as interns during holidays and impress the fuck out of people you’re working for so they offer you a job. This has slightly better terms as compared to college placements as you have a lot more power here.
You already know the company likes you and wants to have you, so you have the power to negotiate your salary. Unfortunately, this ship has sailed if you’re in your final year without an internship experience. (Unless you can keep your ego aside and take an internship after college.)
(For the lack of a better word) Off-campus
Third and the best way is to get in touch with companies, or get them to contact you and offer a job. This gives you the highest amount of leverage in negotiations and dictating the terms of your employment. People who join a company via this route also tend do better than their peers in the industry. These are the people with the fastest climbing careers you’ll see. These are the kinds of jobs you really really want.
How to find a job like this? Act like a self taught developer, and you’ll get better jobs than self-taught developers (coz you have the degree too).
Wait, what does that even mean, act like a self-taught developer?
Well, what I mean by that is do the things a self-taught developer has to do to get jobs.
Finding jobs as a self taught developer
So how does a self taught developer get a job? After all, a person who has studied computer science has a degree to show for it, what do we as self taught developers have?
Nothing. And that is the problem we need to fix.
You can’t show a degree, but you can show real world work. Work you did for yourself, for your clients, for your school, for your friends, for open source, or even just for fun whacky stuff.
Just demonstrate that you have the skills required to complete a project and ship it. This will put you miles ahead of anyone else applying for the job with nothing to show, because this is experience. Granted it’s not the kind of experience old traditional companies look for when hiring in bulk, but that is, generally speaking, not the kind of jobs you really want to have.
If you have more than one shipped projects, put them together on a website and call it your portfolio. The more impressive of a portfolio you have, the better your chances of getting a job. Multiply the chances by 10 if you have written a story behind these projects, things like how did you come about the idea, what did you use to make it, what it achieved, stuff like that.
The complexity of these projects don’t matter. What matters is that they were shipped. I can bet you if you’re a developer worth his or her salt, you can create a project like Bingo Card Creator or even my habit tracking app in a weekend or so, but 99% of you won’t have the confidence to ship the damn thing. Just the confidence to ship and doing basic marketing on these things are worth 1000s of dollars in direct revenue. And a lot more in indirect revenue.
Remember, real artists ship. A work has no value unless it is seen. Unfound masterpieces are worthless.
Now, I am not asking you to have a huge AdWords or Facebook Ads budget to blow through, but doing just the basics right won’t hurt you.
You should have a decent looking website providing details about your project. Even a small section in your personal website would be good, like this dude.
Providing a link to your project’s website helps recruiters understand what the heck is this thing that you’ve made.
This also helps any potential users to actually go ahead and use your project. Your site should answer all the questions a potential user has about your project, and you’re basically good to go. This will be crucial if you want your users to help spread it.
There is another thing which is us geeks tend to not do, is just going out and letting people know that you’ve released something. Post it to your college email lists and boards. Post it in your facebook groups. Heck, go ahead and post it to hacker news as well. You never know what clicks.
So, after shipping a bunch of projects, and trying the tiniest bit to market them, will your inbox be flooded with job offers?
Oh hell no.
This is just the beginning. I mean yes, you can certainly get some interest from people but that will be because they are already connected to you and were able to see what you made.
To repeatedly connect to people who can do something for you, you need to do something which sounds very boring but is really rewarding. NETWORKING.
And I am not talking about the superficial kind of networking where you try to exchange as many business cards as possible.
The real networking is reaching out to people and helping them. When you help someone in whatever capacity you can, they remember it. If someone needs some help and you can’t help them, connect them to someone who can. This way you get the blessings from both of them.
Just Ask for It
Another thing you will need to develop is the ability to just ask for what you want. Most of the times, we developers are not confident enough to simply go ahead and ask for what we want. This is why developers don’t negotiate salaries. (I too am guilty of this behaviour.)
Not sure if you could get a job in a startup you like? Just go ahead and ask for an interview.
Draft a nice email which has links to your work, and confidently explains that you are a hardworking person who would like to join the company because you like $THINGS_THEY_WORK_ON. Don’t forget to highlight how you can add value to the team and give them your story.
You might feel like this is bragging but it’s really not. It’s confident professionalism. People will love your for taking this initiative. Heck just write in the email that contacting them is a sign of a person who takes initiative. 😉
I have already written 1500 words but I’ve only scratched the surface of it all. I could probably expand on the all the points I’ve mentioned above and write full posts about them. Who knows, maybe I will. 🙂
If you have more questions, feel free to leave them in the comment, or just shoot me a mail. You can get my mail ID by sending out a tweet to me. 🙂
All the best!