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Self-taught devs: what's keeping you from landing your first job?

For all the self-taught developers here that have not been able to get jobs yet, I'm curious: what is your biggest obstacle to landing that first job?

Top comments (19)

krgrs profile image

I remember back when I first started, it was a combination of two things:

  1. I didn't have a clear path to follow, so I was never sure if I was doing the right thing
  2. Nobody would even give me the time of day without experience under my belt
190245 profile image

Re #2, that's exactly why I hired someone. I wanted to be the guy that gave a chance to someone.

If I can't turn things around in the next few months, I'm not liking the conversation I'll have to have, about failing to meet probation criteria.

krgrs profile image

And I think that's the exact situation most hiring managers are trying to avoid with hiring someone with no experience. As a hiring manager, if someone had no experience, would a unique portfolio of projects built to solve real problems, combined with a body of writing on their thought process when building things, and them taking the initiative to reach out to you showing interest in working for you be enough to confidently give them a chance?

Thread Thread
190245 profile image

Strictly personally... I think a portfolio would help, but isn't a requirement.

As for their thought process, I have ways to figure that out in an interview situation. The most important thing someone can do if they don't have industry experience, is make their application stand out.

In my case, I was in a position between candidates A & B. A had some (under 6 months) experience, and B had none, but came across in interview as more enthusiastic (for a number of reasons). I went with enthusiasm over experience, and I'm honestly not sure it's working out.

Though, I'm not done yet, if I can turn it around, we haven't lost anything with the on-boarding process.

codemouse92 profile image
Jason C. McDonald • Edited

Basically, one thing: I don't have eight years experience with Kubernetes. (Hint: Kubernetes hasn't been around for eight years.) Recruiters and resume-reading algorithms don't know a good candidate when they see one; they look for unrealistic numbers, a la "someone aged 24-26 with 30 years experience", without ever knowing they're looking for a candidate who doesn't exist.

Otherwise, they decide to 'move forward' with other candidates instead because of some niche experience that you happen to lack by sheer chance. It's news to most non-programmer hiring staff that a C++ expert is capable of getting up to speed on Java in their first two weeks on the job, or that a React developer is capable of picking up Angular over lunch.

My experience (10 years running my own company) has never been a problem in and of itself. If you can create and ship software, even in open source, you're generally "good" (barring the above).

Please recognize that the applicant screening process is broken beyond the point of usefulness. The "front door" doesn't work for virtually any company. Get into open source, network, meet people, and get in the back door via referrals. That's about the only way to land a job anymore.

cliftonhill profile image
Clifton Hill

It's a windy road, where the goal seems to get lost on the way, but your advice makes sense for anyone that can stick to the difficult path.

rudolphh profile image
Rudy A. Hernandez • Edited

If I knew the answer to that I'd have experienced a first job, but definitely along the lines of what you mentioned. The side effects of Impostor syndrome are very real as I pour over the requirements in job postings. It leads to doubt, lack in confidence, and eventually lack of motivation to push through; a self-fulfilling prophecy that I've cycled through for years now.

190245 profile image

Tell me more... I note on your profile here you're an "Aspiring Java developer" with some educational background.

I just so happen to be hiring Java developers (though, I'm in the UK, not the US).

I might not be able to hire you, but if I can give you insights into the mind of a hiring manager... I'm game if you are...

rudolphh profile image
Rudy A. Hernandez

Most definitely game Dave, thank you.

justaman045 profile image
{ Aman }

I am currently stuck between

  1. Where to apply for companies
  2. Am I good for this job and if yes does my Resume says so?

If anyone can help me out please help me ๐Ÿ˜…๐Ÿ˜…

You can get my resume here :-

krgrs profile image

Hey Aman, feel free to send me an email: Let's talk about what you've done so far and what some good next steps might be for you in regards to your two answers.

bradtaniguchi profile image

I'm not technically a self-taught dev, as I got my job thru an internship while going to school. However, I do interact with a number of devs that are either fully self-taught, currently teaching themselves, and applying for jobs. I've followed and kept in touch with a few of those that have gotten jobs after being 100% self-taught and wanted to provide what they did to "break through".

  • All of them had to overcome the competition.
    • Some jobs they applied for had thousands of applicants.
  • All of them had to deal with lack of experience.
    • Lots had a ton of custom projects for anything and everything.
  • All of them applied to a TON of jobs, and were rejected A LOT
    • One even applied to so many the job site blocked them from applying to more during the month. Its possible this was too many, and didn't help as the applications were of lower quality.
  • All of them were determined to get into the industry no matter what it took
    • the amount of rejection all of them took is absurd, but you only need to get offered the job once.
  • All of them changed, and updated their approach over time after getting feedback
    • quality over quantity. If you don't update your approach when it doesn't work, odds are it wont ever work. Keep improving, keep applying, and keep updating how you apply.
  • All of them took MONTHS of learning and applying.
    • don't expect to be hired super quick, expect a grind, expect a marathon, just remember you only gotta get in once
aghost7 profile image
Jonathan Boudreau

Back then:

  • Not being considered due to not having a degree (initial screening)
  • Irrelevant algorithm questions (was aiming for web development)

Whats different now:

  • I have a network which can get me into an initial interview even if HR would normally screen me out.
  • Whiteboard questions and the like are now shunned.
darkain profile image
Vincent Milum Jr

Horribly toxic interview practices prevented me from landing any sort of job for an entire decade... then I decided to switch careers and no longer try to be a "software engineer", and got hired by a respectable company with respectable hiring practices and have the most amazing team ever now.

mjgs profile image
Mark Smith

The web has changed very quickly over the past few decades, and so have hiring practices. It uses to be very much about hiring freelance developers, but it feels to me that today the focus is much more concentrated on in-house teams of developers

I think the recruitment process needs to evolve to work with both freelancers and salaried employees, this would improve the ecosystem for all.

I wrote about this in my post:

The coming revolution in freelance web development

izildopimentel profile image
  1. Skill gap
  2. No portfolio

Want to become an android developer. Building a simple API photo app and maybe second a to-do app.
Any tips for landing a job in tech, seems a booming industry but hard to get in.

highcenburg profile image
Vicente G. Reyes

Does this include freelance jobs?

andrewbaisden profile image
Andrew Baisden

For many unfortunately that answer is covid ๐Ÿฆ  ๐Ÿ™ƒ

sobpilot profile image

I have an opening for someone with expertise with bundlers, github, css, html, and javascript. Contact me to setup a remote interview.