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Applying for First Job as a Self-Taught Developer?

Ryan Doyle
Developing developer
・1 min read

The Question

I am completely self-taught. I went to school for Music and Education and have been a middle school teacher for the last 9 years.

Any time I go online I see the obvious things like:

  • Have a portfolio
  • Be involved with the community
  • Make sure your code is online (like on GitHub) so potential employers can see it.

My question is, what types of thing do you put on your cover letter? What types of jobs should you even look for? (It seems as though every job wants 3+ years of professional experience). In teaching land there are very ridged things that employers look for, so if I were to change positions, it would be fairly straight forward what I should be doing.

So, if you've been in my shoes, what's worked for you?

If you are someone who's interviewing and doing recruitment, if someone had no CS degree, bootcamp, or something similar, what would you be looking for at first glance to consider them as a legit candidate?

Discussion (14)

mkrl profile image
Mikhail Korolev

Position yourself as "willing to learn" junior developer. Have a strong fundamental knowledge of skills that are required. In general, you might want to look for a position like this in large companies: they tend to hire more of this kind since they have the power and resources to teach a beginner and consider the risk of them leaving the job for better opportunities in 1-2 years (or growing within the company).

Be prepared to get a lot of possibly boring things done, in addition to the experience you'll be getting. Be prepared to not getting paid a top dollar at the beginning.

GitHub serves as a great portfolio as well, having something to show off earns you big bonus points. Open-source contributions are often being looked at, plus, it's a great way to show your work and it does not require you being hired anywhere. Sometimes even the commit history can at least tell that you are constantly coding and doing something. Good luck!

doylecodes profile image
Ryan Doyle Author

Thanks! Makes me happy my GitHub profile shows I've been doing things for a while now.

irina_scurtu profile image
Irina Scurtu

I'm always looking to see if the person in front of me is sincere, not adding stuff in their CVs just to fill out more rows.

I seek basic technical knowledge in the field they are applying, but in the end for me it really matters if the person is eager to learn, if she/he would make a good team member, and if she/he is smart and has the right mindset

doylecodes profile image
Ryan Doyle Author

Thanks for the feedback!

ahmaddeel profile image
AhmadDeel • Edited

I was self taught and did some freelance and personal projects. When I went to interview they just ask me the very basics and fundamentals which I worked hard to learn. They said I can learn any tools, new languages or frameworks by practice them. And I landed my first job.

ahmaddeel profile image

To be honest, I learned and used to code in c++ and c# (Asp.Net Core). Now I'm a full stack typescript.

doylecodes profile image
Ryan Doyle Author

Thanks! Yeah, I have the feeling I may end up doing something other than what I have spent most of my time learning. I've done most everything with React so far but I know a lot of companies around me are really into Vue as well, so who knows!

embiem profile image
Martin Beierling-Mutz

My advise:

Your application should be concise and relevant to the position you apply to.

Don't have any typos.

Put experiences first and list 3 points for each job/project/experience to tell what you achieved. Do it in a way that can be understood immediately. Like "Fixed 45 issues in 4 months which decreased user drop-off by 10%".

Finally, give the application to family and friends, take it away after 20 seconds and ask them what they remembered.

These are some of the things that I did and it served me well so far.

doylecodes profile image
Ryan Doyle Author

Love the idea of sharing with people for a few seconds and asking what they remembered. Thanks!

mrdunk profile image

look for jobs with purely technical interviews.
I am currently working as a SW Engineer for the first time. The interview process where I am started with an online test (HackerRank) then 3 onsite technical interviews (coding challenges). Every one who passes the online test gets an interview (by phone if distances make onsite impractical). The interviewers were supportive and helpful during the course of the interviews, trying to give me opportunities to prove I can complete the task.
Try and find some similar interviews. If you pass then you have found somewhere with a culture of helping you succeed. If you fail you have got the chance to discuss coding challenges with people working in the industry.
I'd say interviews are a good way to judge a company; If the intiviewers are supportive and happy to explain things when you get stuck then there is a good chance the job will be a good place to learn the trade.

adam_cyclones profile image
Adam Crockett

Be keen. I got my job by asking... a few times. I worked in a corner shop before Dyson. I was studying and commercially developing for a few years on the side.

I used to put it down to luck, but thanks to the magic of linked in you can ask direct.

doylecodes profile image
Ryan Doyle Author

Thanks! I've been meeting a few people around the area I know that are in the field. Hopefully, I will be able to make a lot more connections in person and find out who to direct communication towards.

100watts profile image
Jon Watts

The above points are very true, I'd also include examples of side projects you have worked on or hackathons or clubs you have attended to bolster your self taught skills, your resume should outline the languages you are proficient in and what you are also learning. Also highlight your soft skills such as teamwork, communications, adaptability, work ethic, etc..

Employers also look for finer details like in this post
"Make sure your code in online..."

A rounded well balanced CV with a demonstrabale record of 'wanting it's is always advisable, also ask if there is an opportunity for you to spend some of your free time at the office shows commitment.

Good luck in your search.

nilomiranda profile image
Danilo Miranda

I'm definitely interested in this topic as I'm in the same spot at the moment