DEV Community


Posted on


Internship/Unpaid or Hold out for Entry-Level?

I'm a self-taught developer who's looking to break through in the industry and I need to get experience somewhere. My living situation can take care of me as long as nothing goes wrong (no savings), but I feel like I'm lying when I apply for jobs that want years of experience for entry level even if I'm honest about my position. There's also opportunity in either internships or non-profits, but I went to a meeting for Central Arkansas Javascript Developers and they recommended I look for entry level jobs, not internships.

Do I hold out and wait until I'll find the right job that will take me as a newbie, or should I be hopping on with anyone who will trust me to get real experience right now?

If you look at it from a no school perspective, it's doing real experience without the debt if they'll take me, but also there's a chance I could get paid while getting experience too and not be as such a burden on my family.

Top comments (15)

aspittel profile image
Ali Spittel • Edited

Don't do an unpaid internship unless it's for a non-profit. It's illegal unless you're getting college credit (which it sounds like you aren't).

Internships that are essentially jobs with an end date are fine, and apprenticeships are even better (the title I think is fairer for career changers). But, don't work for free and don't let people take advantage of you. If anything, build some free sites for organizations you believe in or family/friends or freelance to get work experience.

But, you deserve to get paid for your work.

You could also take on a CMS, QA, PM etc. tech job that's less code intensive to build your credentials if your skills are still developing.

dmfay profile image
Dian Fay

Don't work for free and don't let people take advantage of you.

You deserve to get paid for your work.

Truer words were never spoken! Also beware of pre- or post-interview "homework" projects that seem a little too intensive: if somebody wants to get a page redesign or a prototype out of you to see what you can do, they can damn well pay you for your time.

rhymes profile image

Thank you both for saying these words. I'm going to refer to your comments in the future πŸ₯³

molly profile image
Molly Struve (she/her)

My first job was a 6 month internship at a 15 person startup with the option to hire at the end. I was able to prove myself on the job, and at the end of 6 months, was hired full time. One of the nice things about applying for an internship is usually the interview is less rigorous. When I interviewed for the internship, they were well aware of how junior I was, so instead of having me write new code, they had me show them a project I was working on. During the interview, I walked the other 3 devs through it and how it worked. It was a really great interview experience.

Here is more about my story into tech. I would highly recommend an internship if you can find one at a good company with good people. You will learn a TON on the job!

ap3rus profile image
Vladislav Nagornyi • Edited

I got my first job as software developer when I was still in university, it was a small company at the time and it was actually a paid job. The salary was entry level, but the fact it was paid allowed me to not just get hands on in writing and testing the software, but also to feel responsible for delivery and learn to own the product.

Another important fact is that there is a shortage of software developers everywhere in the world, you should be able to land something even with no commercial experience as long as you have basic knowledge and problem solving skills.

andrewbrown profile image
Andrew Brown πŸ‡¨πŸ‡¦

My advice is you should be a burden to your family for as long as possible and join a startup so you can snag a position above your station and skip this intern, entry-level or junior nonsense.

I have never held a role lower than CTO ever since the start of my career 12 years ago.

I was living with my grandmother rent-free and my parents were begging me to get a job, any job like at a gas station. Then over night I was flying to Barcelona because I was now the CTO for one of the largest open-source Rails projects.

The reason this happened was because I put in free work without asking for two weeks and I had no idea but I had saved the company because it was in a slouch after a few years of failed development and my injection of developmental effort allowed them to secure more funding.

I always give things for free where I could expect money. I just published my first udemy course yesterday and I gave it out for free. I mentor bootcamp grads for free, I provide technical advise to startups for free when I could charge for consultancy. I do security audit for startups for free, I help Angel Investors do due dilegence on startups for free. I will sometimes code full MVPs apps in a few days and just hand them to free to people. Things do come around and if you can then you should.

That doesn't mean you should put too much of time for free in one place, because I do want a return on my time put in, but its like how VCs invest in multiple startups because the return on 1 makes up well beyond for the 10 other failed investments.

If you need some career mentorship in the web-dev I can spare a zoom call.

cubiclebuddha profile image
Cubicle Buddha

If your resume doesn’t have experience and if you have holes in your job history then an internship might be the only thing that gets recruiters to look at you. And you might even be able to get a paid internship. However, some cooler companies might take you if they see lots of commits in your github profile on open source projects. So that might be another avenue. :)

tammalee profile image
Tammy Lee

Unpaid internships are a scam. You should either be a volunteer or get paid for your time. Period. I was paid a terrible wage at my first coding job but at least I was getting paid to learn more.

tammalee profile image
Tammy Lee

I don't know you or the path it's taken you to get to this point. I know what I would do but my situation may be very different from yours.

It sounds to me like they are trying to avoid as much risk as possible. 25 days out of a 90 day 'paid' internship are free? That way they can tell after three weeks if they're going to let you go and they won't be out any money. Maybe they're that unsure about how you'll fit in. Maybe, because they're a startup, they're not even sure if the position you'll be in is needed so this is an experiment to see how it goes?

Your choices are:

  • accept their terms as they are and hope they like you
  • negotiate terms so your internship is fully paid
  • walk away and let them know why

At the end of the day, only you know how comfortable you'd be accepting risk working for free, pushing back in a negotiation, etc.

I know what my answer would be but this is your life and your path to make decisions about.

dylanesque profile image
Michael Caveney

In the USA, you really shouldn't be doing an unpaid internship in this industry. As long as they're paying you something, it could be a really good opportunity.

steelwolf180 profile image
Max Ong Zong Bao • Edited

Focus on entry-level (with titles of not having junior in them) jobs and internships where you get paid. Which there is an arrangement of allowing you to convert full time when you had complete your internship.

If you have time to spare, you could offer your services to non-profits to help in upgrading their websites or tech stacks. It helps you to build your portfolio, improve your skills while doing good.

Ask for referrals with friends in the Javascript Developers meetup, most developers have some portion of referrals programs by their HR to reduce the time taken to find good developers.

Good luck and I look forward to hearing good news for you :)

yshaik91 profile image
Yusuf Shaikh

Same here want tips and help regarding same situation as yours !!!😞

tammalee profile image
Tammy Lee • Edited

I see. Thank you for clarifying.

My advice still stands. :) It's a decision you have to make for yourself!

I wouldn't work for free but I'm not you in your situation.

Timeless DEV post...

Git Concepts I Wish I Knew Years Ago

The most used technology by developers is not Javascript.

It's not Python or HTML.

It hardly even gets mentioned in interviews or listed as a pre-requisite for jobs.

I'm talking about Git and version control of course.

One does not simply learn git