Making a career change into web development and finding my first job is one of the hardest things I've ever done. There are so many talented developers out there for companies to choose from that competition is fierce. And the fact that I'm a naturally shy person and not great at talking about my accomplishments and skills doesn't help.
It would be all too easy for me to let my job search frustration get me down. Instead, I'd like to channel my frustration into something that helps you get started, gives you some ideas, and hopefully makes the job search process a bit less confusing and intimidating.
The advice I'm going to give you is subjective. Job searching can vary widely depending on many factors, and a lot of it is my opinion based on my experiences.
Also, I'm in the USA. I've only ever applied for jobs here, so some of my advice won't apply to countries outside the USA. If you have experience applying for jobs outside the USA, please comment as I'd love to learn more about that.
Now that we have the fine print out of the way, let's get started!
When you need a job, uh, yesterday, it's tempting to shoot off the same resume to 50 different places and hope a few of them call you back. Unfortunately, playing the numbers game in the job search is unlikely to work for a few reasons:
Some companies use what's called an ATS or Applicant Tracking System. They pre-program it with keywords and use it to filter out resumes that don't make the cut. If you send off a generic resume to a system like this, a human is unlikely to see it.
Hiring managers can have 100+ applications for any job opening, and they don't have time to connect the dots between what they need and what you offer. If they scan your resume and don't see what they're looking for in a few seconds, it goes in the NOPE pile.
If you just go for any job opening without some thought about what you really want, you'll probably be right back here where you started within a few months. You put so much effort into job searching. Start off by looking for the right job, not just any job.
We need a strategy!
- What kind of jobs do we want to find?
- What kind of companies do we want to work for?
- What sort of people do we want to work with?
- What kind of work do we want to do?
As an example, I have an educational background in design and I worked in the healthcare industry for almost a decade. I recently acquired development skills, and I know a company would be more willing to take a chance on someone who already has industry experience. They can teach me skills quickly, but industry experience takes a long time to get so it has a lot of value.
I want to work for an organization that serves others through knowledge, embraces technology and is responsive to change, and values openness and authenticity.
Target front-end developer positions that want design savvy
Target design positions that want coding skills
Target development and UX design positions in healthcare to leverage my background
Now that I’ve narrowed that down, the job search seems a lot less overwhelming. I know the kind of work I’m looking for and where I want to find it. Yay!
Now that we have a strategy, let’s talk about how to find those jobs:
- Applying on company sites
- Searching on Google to find job openings
- Using job search sites
The best way to find a job is to know people who have job openings. People want to hire people they already know and like. So how do you get connections if you don’t know anyone?
Go to meetups
Developer meetups come in a lot of different forms. Twitter chats, Slack channels, in-person events, and more. Seek out the form of meetup you like the best and go say hi. Places to find meetups:
Have an online presence
Start a blog and share what you’re learning. Tweet your progress. Add to the conversation on sites like Dev. Follow people who inspire you. Do everything you can to let people know who you are and what you do.
Now that we know more about networking to find a job, let’s talk about applying through company websites. While it’s better to use your connections to find a job, applying through company sites can be effective provided you customize your application to their needs.
Think about products and services you use and love. Go to their website and check out their about page. Do their values align with yours? Are they straightforward about their hiring practices? Do they care about diversity?
As an example, I love using the automation service Zapier. They are on my wish list because they have a great product I love using and they’re transparent about how they work and who they want to hire:
Think about a time when a company gave you really good customer service. If they treat their customers with care and respect, chances are they treat their employees the same. I use and love Buffer. They’ve given me great customer service which made me check out their jobs page. They are also on my company wish list.
Glassdoor is a website that lists company information and reviews from people who work at or have interviewed with companies. You can find salary information, interview questions, job openings, and more.
While no website is the ultimate source of truth about working at any company, Glassdoor can help you identify trends in employee complaints and nail down salary ranges for positions. It’s a wealth of information and can be helpful in deciding where you do and don’t want to work.
Look at “best of” lists
Fortune Magazine puts together many different lists of companies like “100 Best Companies to Work For” based on things like perks, time off, pay, and diversity.
Create entries in your favorite note-taking program for each company on your wish list. I use Trello, but a Google Doc or spreadsheet would work too.
I like to include the company name, a bit about the company, and links to their Glassdoor page and job openings page.
Now that we’ve gone over applying on company websites, let’s talk about using a little bit of Google Fu to find jobs.
We’re looking for web development positions, but not every company with web development job openings will call the position “web developer.” If we’re going to search and find these jobs, we need to build a list of search keywords. Here are some of the different job titles I’ve seen for web development positions:
- Front-end developer
- Web engineer
- Web designer
- Web technologist
- Web manager
- Website administrator
We also need to know the names of the common online dashboards used for recruitment and job postings:
Now that we have some information to work with, it’s on to search! Did you know Google will let you search the content of a site? We want to search the content of the online dashboards above for our keywords.
As an example, if I’m looking for a remote web development job, I’d type the following into Google:
site:workable.com remote web developer
And get these results:
Wow, look at all those positions! Now I could look through the list and research the companies offering the jobs to figure out if any of them meet my criteria.
Now that we know how to use some Google Fu to find unadvertised jobs, how about a list of good old-fashioned job search sites? Here’s my “top 10” list of job search sites that yield the most high-quality and up-to-date job postings:
To recap, in this post I shared my tips for finding web development jobs:
- Creating a job search strategy
- Networking to find jobs
- Applying on company sites and creating a “company wish list”
- Searching Google for job openings
- A list of my favorite job search sites
I hope I gave you some job searching ideas and took a little bit of the confusion and intimidation out of the process for you. We're in this job search thing together. 😉 Thanks for reading!