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Molly Struve (she/her)
Molly Struve (she/her)

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Tips for Finding Your First Dev Job

You have just recently acquired an entire new awesome set of dev skillz(yes, with a z!), next up, finding a job! But where should you apply? What things should you consider when looking for your first dev job? Here's a list of a few things to keep in mind as you are job hunting. These can help ensure that you end up with the first job of your dreams and that it will set you up for career success.

1. Consider Internships

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.

2. Ask About Opportunities

If you find a company that appeals to you but they have no Jr. Dev openings or internships, shoot them an email anyway. You never know what might be available and there is no harm in asking. When I applied for my first job I saw a post on Hacker News that the company was looking for a full time dev. I was clearly not ready to be a full time dev but I really liked the sound of the company so I emailed them anyway. Much to my surprise, they were open to taking on an intern and the rest was history.

3. Don't Discriminate Based on Company Size

I have talked to a few junior devs who are applying for jobs. Most of them mention they are only looking at big companies because they think that is the only place with resources for them. A lot of people assume that smaller companies don't have the resources to mentor a junior dev but that is not always the case. For example, some companies might have the bandwidth to mentor but don't have the capital to hire a more experienced dev. Furthermore, I have found that the smaller the team the more it feels like a family at work. It also means everyone is invested in ensuring you succeed because you are a big part of that team. At my first dev job, I was on a team of 4, including myself, and the education I got was second to none.

4. Your Needs Matter Too

When you are starting out, usually you are dying for someone to hire you. All you want in life is for someone to validate that you have what it takes to succeed in this world. You study syntax and algorithms, and you do everything in your power to ensure you nail the interview. But your performance is only half of the interview. You also need to make sure this is a place you want to work! Come ready with questions! What is the work environment like here? What is your typical day like? Is there a junior dev I could talk to about their experience working here? Make sure you are evaluating the job and company just as much as they are evaluating you. Interviewing is a two way street, you should make sure your needs are going to be met as well.

5. People Are Key

Your future coworkers probably matter more than you think. When you are interviewing for a first job, the people are probably the most important aspect you should be paying attention to. Are there people who are willing to mentor and teach you? What are their teaching styles like? Is the vibe in the room one that you like? Having a good mentor and a solid support system is going to set you up for career success. The 3 guys I worked with at my first job were not only incredible teachers, they were also extremely supportive. Days when I doubted myself, they believed in me. They laid the foundation that my dev career has been built on and I can't thank them enough for that. Half of this job is about having confidence in yourself, and if a company can help give you that when you are starting out, nothing is more valuable.

If you are hunting for your first dev job, GOOD LUCK and don't settle! Your first dream job is out there, just waiting for you to find it!

For those looking for other resources, @DevTogetherChi is hosting a Meetup Tues Jan 8th. They will be doing lightening talks and the theme is "Your first dev job" Talks will be posted after and they live tweet during it. Might be worth following along!

Discussion (14)

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vinceramces profile image
Vince Ramces Oliveros

Bad Tip:

Salary

Someone I know brags about the job salary being too low. Doesn't really matter for me to have low salary at the beginning. It starts to grow as I gain more experience/achievements.

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chipd profile image
Chris Dermody

Just wanted to add that a portfolio is great to show off your skills.

I've got a side project to help devs and programmers quickly generate one based on their github profile, mydevportfol.io.

It's donation based so pay whatever you want (minimum $2.50 though due to stripe limitations).

Feedback always much appreciated. I wish I had coupon codes built as a feature so I could share them in comments like this. Soon though!

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molly profile image
Molly Struve (she/her) Author

That is really cool!!! Thanks for sharing! I'm making a list of things I want to checkout over the holidays when I have more downtime, I definitely just added that to the list.

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dmahely profile image
Doaa Mahely

Thank you for this post.
I just graduated with a software engineering bachelors and will be applying for jobs soon. I especially like your tip on making sure that my needs are met as well. I'll definitely keep that in mind.
I'm interested in more than one field (e.g. web, Android, data science) and only have a limited amount of experience in them. How do I decide which positions to apply for? Do I apply to all types or try to settle on one?

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molly profile image
Molly Struve (she/her) Author

I would definitely apply for all kinds of positions. Then, when you are interviewing make sure to ask a lot about what each position is like. They might mention responsibilities for one position that you are not super excited about, while another position sounds like exactly what you want to do. I started out doing full stack work then slowly migrated to the backend exclusively. Keep an eye out for positions that might expose you to multiple interests and then you can direct yourself however you want :)

Good luck!!!

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dmahely profile image
Doaa Mahely

Alright, will do. Thank you ๐Ÿ˜Š

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steelwolf180 profile image
Max Ong Zong Bao

Internships is great instead of going for a full time Dev when your starting out as a Junior Dev to understand the company and your suitability to the role your doing.

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molly profile image
Molly Struve (she/her) Author

It really takes some of the pressure off you and off the employer. Everyone kinda has an out if it doesn't work out, but when it does work out, everyone wins!!!

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khalilsaboor profile image
Khalil Saboor

But what if I can't afford to be six to eight months without income? Most internship in my area are unpaid or require me to be either a recent graduate or college degree.

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molly profile image
Molly Struve (she/her) Author

Great question! My internship was paid, while it wasn't a huge salary it was definitely enough to live off of for 6 months. I think when you are looking for an internship with option to hire you are more likely to find something paid rather than if you were a student just looking for something for the summer. The idea that you might end up there full time will likely make a company actually want to invest in you.

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steelwolf180 profile image
Max Ong Zong Bao

I heard of another option is to go for full time. Since full time jobs had probations and you get out of the place without much burden if you think it is a bad place to work for.

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molly profile image
Molly Struve (she/her) Author

Ugh that is frustrating! :(

I have always worked at companies that have paid interns, even summer ones, it is nuts that a lot don't. I wonder if location plays a role in that, I am in Chicago which has a tech scene growing like crazy and everyone is hiring all the time.

Keep at it!!! There is a fit out there for you somewhere! A local group here called DevTogether is doing a meetup and the theme is "Your First Dev Job" They plan to have 10 lightening talks on the subject. The talks will be everything from people giving advice to new devs sharing how they navigate the job market and deal with things like rejection. Even though you are not in Chicago they will post all the talks after and they live Tweet during it so you could probably find some good advice there.

Meetup Registration
Twitter Handle: @DevTogetherChi

Hope that is helpful for you!!!