The 3 steps to finding employment as a junior developer
Step 1. Applying:
Proving yourself is like the Horizon — it never ends
If like me you need to get and pass interviews as a junior developer with (almost) 0 real-world experience.
Here I give out a few quick tips on how to proceed while searching for a new job as a know-nothing junior developer. The thing is, you are more than just what you know.
Start by setting a realistic time frame for getting a new job as a junior developer—3 to 6 months is a good start.
It won’t happen overnight and not at least for a few weeks before you start to hear from the vacancies you are applying.
There is strength in numbers — aim for at least 5 solicitations a week.
Build up momentum when you are still fresh to the job market, and apply for jobs like your life depended on it.
Write a passionate cover letter — and use it for every single job application, until you have a better one.
This has proven to be a little controversial advice, but keeping in mind the point above, writing cover-letters can be a very time consuming and intimidating process if you aren’t used to it, so as a way to not lose motivation at this critical first step, just go ahead and use the same cover for every single application.
Once you are more confident about what you want to convey as a developer, be it an intro to your skills, and the many reasons you would love to work there, then you can spare the thought and time to tailor each cover for every specific vacancy.
But do not use a scripted one from the internet, and update the name of the company/addressee and position you are applying to while sending them out. Be authentic and open, write on your own words to convey a little bit of how enthusiastic you are, and your passion for the path you just started as a new developer, and let your CV illustrate those facts.
Bet on yourself at every chance — It is a gamble, not only for you.
But for those who are eventually hiring you as well, and nobody is losing yet. To demonstrate that, if not given anything else, your will to learn which got you here, and the eagerness you have to start doing the work will always assure that you keep adding value to the company as a team member, and that intention alone might get you hired.
Have a support system — Be around something non-tech that you love.
Go to nature, have a great hobby, take a bath and make friends whenever you can, be it at the boot-camp, school or the bus station, and look for support whenever you can get it. Be it at the grocery store, in church or within yourself, when you find someone willing to offer you any kindness, while you are out there getting drained by the recruiting process, accept it.
Step 2. The Interview:
it is like Therapy — build trust quickly and set your standards high
It’s okay to be a coward at first — we all get embarrassed by failure.
So that’s why I interviewed for non-programming posts, having just finished a programming boot-camp.
With time I realized, given the help of some very kind recruiters as well, who questioned me about what I wanted to accomplish in the long-term with software development, and nudged me into knowing what I truly wanted at the end of the interviewing saga, was to become a proper developer.
There will be people who will dismiss your realization journey as foolish by saying ‘you are talking nonsense, you are a programmer and you should know it by now’ But don’t miss the big picture, which is what they think has nothing to do with you.
So make up your mind, on your terms, and on your time, because after all, we did set a realistic time-frame, and you don’t need to rush and will feel better for it.
Once I overcame my fears of actually getting hired as a legit developer, I became picky and applied to companies that used exclusively the programming language I wanted to work with and above all had the mindset I wanted to take part.
Sometimes it is personal, but don’t take it personally.
Most interviewers are not making their interviews only about the job prospect and credentials or the work to be done, and maybe neither are you. —and that is fine.
For the company, it could be about choosing the candidate that can start the earliest or someone the team liked best (and call it culture), those people would then come ahead and get the job even if they were not the most qualified one on offer.
For the candidate it might be something as straightforward as the position being about that great monthly pay-check or because this company is closer to home than that other company, and reasons like these alone would make a job trump among other opportunities, even if it were to join their dream start-up.
Those are the daily dynamics of decision making when it comes to hiring new employees or applying for jobs and going to interviews, so don’t beat yourself up, if you miss out on opportunities while you are out there just because of corporate politics or personal needs.
These are good interviews, as there are always ways that you could flip those needs in your favor. For example: offer to live closer, or find somewhere where they will like your personality, and if not, you still could know the outcome within a few minutes talk and not lose a lot of time in the process with a mismatched company.
Be heart-wrenching, painfully, unabashedly, foolishly and radically honest.
That’s how as a then 9-week-old junior programmer, I managed to avoid getting assignments such as coding projects, white-board equations, pair programming and overtly technical questions from interviewers and still got 3 job offers. How, do you ask? I was embarrassingly honest.
I gathered all my courage and went into every single one of my interviews and said plainly and straight away:
— I don’t know anything, but you should hire me.
From there I made a conversation about how me being there interviewing, was the beginning of moving away from not knowing anything. Sure I attended a great boot-camp and all, but in truth that was only the stepping stone into getting invited for interviews, the more significant chunk of my developer skills was still dormant and not sculpted to anything resembling a masterpiece yet, and I just rolled with it, and it apparently works, you could give it a try.
Speak as if you are always seeking to discover what drives you (because you are).
Remember, it’s not your job to be attractive to everyone, and that is OK.
If you are sure about what you want in development, you will have a more focused effort into actually getting with the right company that will enable that to become a reality for you. In your talks always try to illustrate the process of how you got there or the outcome that you are working towards in your career, and keep at it.
Step 3. The Job:
it is like cooking, always improve your recipe first
Once you landed that job, be interactive and friendly with your co-workers.
I never recommend talking too much (I talk a lot), but do tell a lot while interacting with colleagues in your new workplace for a while. What if I don’t know enough about code to say anything? Then talk about yourself, your passions or about your cats. It is one of those shortly lived time-frames where people will be interested.
Save everyone's time and therefore yours too.
Amateur-Talking Sportive Category, aside, there will be official talks, meetings, conferences, stand-ups, calls, seminars, congresses, and inevitably you will be the main perpetrator and offender making sure that everyone else valuable time goes to waste.
Try to learn from the first few times when it happens, and stop doing it. A few ways for redemption, are:
- Start by being on time and prepared for meetings.
- Having well thought out questions.
- Make sure you are giving an opinion whenever your team asks for one.
- Actively ask for help or reassign the issue to someone else on time.
- Participate in how time is being divided and managed.
- Be more outspoken about things that matter.
- Stay vocal about wastes of time.
And last but not least.
Be committed to seeing the work you took on through.
I know you are junior that just got hired, but you are already being counted on as a force for good in the team by a lot of people from the beginning.
Cherish the responsibility you have, and know that even if you don’t feel yet so, you are already one of them, so don’t be afraid of messing things up if you stay long enough to clean it up.