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What I Learned From Getting My First Developer Job

Six months ago I started searching for my first developer job. It took me about 6 weeks to get an offer, which I consider very lucky considering I was coming from a completely different background and taught myself to code (you can read more about coding journey here). It was a tumultuous time full of emotional ups and downs, and here is what I’ve learned from it:

1. It's a numbers game

During my job hunting period I kept a trello board with the number of roles I applied to, as well as details for the roles I got interviews for. At the moment I accepted a job offer my numbers stood at this:

Jobs applied to: 47
Replies from recruiters: 6
First rounds: 4
Second rounds: 3
Third rounds: 2
Rejections: 1
Offers: 1

On average, I was hearing back from one role for each 9 roles I was applying to, but once I heard back I was quite likely to get offered a first round interview so APPLY APPLY APPLY! Out of the 47 jobs that I applied to I got to the final round for only 2, but I got an offer from a company that I liked and that’s all that matters.

I suggest having a dedicated time in your day to send out applications as it can be quite time-consuming. I sent out a cover letter with every application, and, although I had a template and was only changing the introductory paragraph and a sentence here and there for every application, it still took me about 15-20 minutes to write one.

2. Know what you want (or better yet, what you definitely don’t want)

It can be tempting when you are looking for your first developer job to want to cast the net as wide as possible and apply to every job you see. After all, if it’s a numbers game why not apply to as many jobs as possible?

But that strategy is not as productive as you might think. Applying can take a lot of time especially if you're doing cover letters, and there are so many tech jobs out there(especially in a big city), that you can't possibly keep up with every new job that comes on the market. By applying to every role you see you might actually miss the application window for a role that would have really enjoyed.

So hold your horses and ask yourself a very important question: Would you like working for that company/ in that role? And if the answer is not at least ‘yeah maybe’ then skip over that job posting. It’s normal to not know for sure from a job posting if you’d like working there, that’s what the interview process is for. However, if there are core responsibilities mentioned in the job description that you really don’t like and that would deter you from accepting an offer then don’t waste your time applying.

I knew from my previous job that I don’t enjoy working very closely with external clients (I worked in marketing where I had multiple catch-up calls every day with clients and it was stressful!). So, for example, if I come across a job posting from companies where I’d be building websites for clients I knew to just skip over it.

3. Focus your CV on your relevant experience even if it’s not employment

Recruiters will only glance at your CV for about 10 seconds, so you want to make it easy for them to see your skills.

When I was applying I didn’t have any professional dev experience, but I did build 2 full-stack apps as part of my portfolio. I made sure to talk about those projects at the top of my CV, detailing the technologies I used. I had completed a programming course where I worked within a team to build a website, so I made sure to include that in my experience as well.

Here is the front page of the CV I used to apply:
CV front page

4. Being involved in multiple hiring processes gives you leverage

It’s a really good idea to not have all your eggs in just one basket. If you started the interview process with a company you like I would suggest it’s even more important to keep applying and interviewing at other places.

And here’s why:

  1. It will help with your nerves because your preferred company is now not your only shot at a dev job
  2. Being involved in different hiring processes gives you more interview experience and knowledge of the kind of questions asked
  3. Being involved in multiple interviewing processes, particularly in the later interview stages, can give you a lot of leverage to negotiate when you do receive an offer

5. Always negotiate

Here you are, you applied, you did the take home test, you did the in person interview, and you’ve just received an offer! Finally you are about to enter the career you want and you just want to say yes on the spot in case they're about to change their minds.

But don’t.

The first offer companies make is rarely their most generous one. You worked hard and you deserve to be compensated properly, so always negotiate!

Before you head into the negotiation make sure to prepare:

  • Know what you want. Do your market research and know what number you’re aiming for, and also what’s the least you would settle for
  • Prepare some bullet points on what your skills are
  • If you’re involved in other hiring processes that are better paid, make sure to underline that

Here is more or less what I said when I negotiated my pay:
"At the moment I am in final round stages with companies who pay in the 35k-40k range. I believe this range matches my skills, experience and potential considering the tech stack I know and that I have one year of professional work experience dealing with clients and stakeholders. Would you be flexible to increase the salary to match that range?"

And it worked, I got a 7k increase to their initial offer!

A note of portfolio websites:

I did build one, but I am not sure anyone ever looked at it.

I used a template to build it because design isn’t one of my strong points and I wanted to use the portfolio to illustrate my JavaScript projects. Putting together a portfolio website really helped in getting me to frame my ‘tell me about yourself’ story, as well as talk about my projects.

So even though I haven't directly used mine I would encourage you to build a portfolio website.

Top comments (1)

mahammadmansur95 profile image

Tq. For sharing ur experience.. It will be helpful ...