As a junior developer searching for my first position over the last 57 days, I have learned a few things I would love to share with others who are in my position (or any person looking for a job). I am going to be as transparent as possible, discussing mistakes I have made no matter how embarrassing. I will also be giving y’all tips that I try to follow myself, although even I sometimes have a hard time sticking to them.
Let’s get started!
1. Stay Organized
The first tip I have for my fellow job hunters is to stay organized. In order to figure out what is working best for you (getting you the most responses), you should keep track of all the positions you have applied for. I personally like to be very detailed with my tracker. I record the date I applied, the status of my application (applied, rejected, phone interview, coding challenge, etc.), the website/job board/friend where I came across the position, who I may have spoken to within the company, and I always link to the job description itself. I also have a notes section so that I can keep personal notes, such as if I’m excited about an application or if something stood out to me.
I keep everything saved on a Google spreadsheet that way I can access it and update it at any time; which brings me to my second point, UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE. In order to stay organized, you should be updating your tracker daily. This is something I often forget to do and find myself combing through all my emails trying to update my tracker. It is definitely a bit of a headache and I suggest you don’t be like me.
2. Continue Coding
I have to admit that I always thought this one was common knowledge for those of us new devs trying to break into the profession. Turns out, this isn’t something all new devs do. I’ve been told during interviews that the company was impressed that my GitHub status bar hadn’t gone blank after my bootcamp graduation. At first I was surprised, thinking that I was nothing special; I thought that this couldn’t be true. How do we keep up our newly learned skills without practicing them?
Well, it turns out some of us concentrate so much on our job search that we don’t take the time to continue learning and practicing, which is vital. So, I am here to tell you: keep coding.
When I first graduated, I focused on building projects to keep up on my technical skills. I also focused on trying to prepare for those intense technical interviews everyone talks about. I was using multiple websites to practice interview questions and algorithm problems. While these are great things to concentrate on, unfortunately, they did not prepare me for my first technical interview.
There are two things that I would also love to mention quickly about coding. 1. Build a portfolio site, even if you have 0 design skills, like me. 2. Contribute to open source projects. This gives you experience working with large projects alongside other devs, which can help you stand out as a new dev.
3. Prepare for EVERY Interview
This is another thing that I would love to believe is common knowledge, but I want to say it anyways. You should always prepare for every interview, whether it be a HR phone interview or a final round in-person interview. How can you prepare for an interview, you may ask? Well…
For coding related interviews, review the basics of your language of choice. Work through commonly asked algorithm questions. Talk out loud through code of previous projects you’ve built to practice your communication skills.
For cultural/HR interviews, prepare key points for commonly asked questions. If you know the name of your interviewer, search them on LinkedIn as well as Google. If you can find a common interest, try to bring it up during the interview to make a personal connection. Remember that the company is trying to figure out if you are a good fit for them not only with your technical skills, but also your personality.
Most interviews come to an end with the question, “do you have any questions for me?” This is your opportunity to go from the interviewee to the interviewer. An interview is not only for a company to determine whether you are a good fit for them, but also to see if the company is a good fit for you. Prepare questions that are important to you and focus on what you want in a company. If you want a mentor, ask the company whether they have a mentorship program. If having a fail-safe environment is important to you, ask.
4. Don’t Let Job Requirements Put You in a Box
Something that I have been told OVER AND OVER again by experienced devs is to apply to a job even if you don’t check every box on the application’s requirements. If the position says 3 years of experience, apply anyways. What is the worst that can happen? They say no, that’s it. Plus, I have seen so many “junior” roles posted by companies that require 3+ years of experience. To me, if you have 3+ years of professional experience you are no longer considered a “junior” dev, but what do I know. 🤷🏼♀️
In regards to this, I have had several companies reach out to me after applying for positions that I didn’t meet all the requirements. They reach out to let me know that I’m not exactly what they are looking for, but ask if I’d be open to an internship/apprenticeship type position that could turn into something long-term. To me, that is their way of wanting to give me a chance, but not wanting to take the gamble of hiring me full time and me falling flat on my face. To some, this may not seem ideal, but to me, I like that a company is interested in giving me a chance to prove myself and my skills to them. Long story short, don’t be scared to apply to positions that you may not feel qualified for.
5. Practice Makes Perfect but Do Not Waste Your Time
As we are searching for a job, keeping up on our coding skills, and trying to live our normal daily lives, we can’t waste any of our precious time, so don’t apply to jobs just for the heck of it. If you don’t think you’d be passionate about the product or it’s a company you don’t think you’d enjoy working for, don’t waste your time applying to the job. If you apply to a job, get an interview and start to get a weird vibe from the company and things aren’t sitting right with you, pull yourself out of the race. Do not waste your time.
Just the other day I had applied to a company I was very excited about. I thought I could become very passionate about the product and was really hoping that I would get an interview. Well, this company was one of those “would you be interested in an internship” companies. I expressed that I was open to the possibility and would love to speak with someone about it. We scheduled a phone interview and then everything went downhill from there. I don’t need to go into details, but the company made me feel very uncomfortable and I ended up politely pulling myself from the candidacy pool before I even had my initial interview.
While I felt like the interview would have given me more practice and confidence with interviewing, I didn’t want to waste my time, nor the company’s time. It is important to remain honest with yourself and the company during the interview process so that you don’t end up in a bad situation.
6. Maintain Your Mental Health
Looking for a job can be grueling. As someone who has struggled with anxiety and depression in the past, I have found the job search to be very difficult at times. Receiving rejection emails over the weekend is definitely one thing that has thrown me off kilter every time it happens. I also fall into a funk on days that I receive multiple rejections in one day, heck sometimes even within a single hour.
Personally, during this 57 day period, I’ve dealt with 2 instances of loss and grief. I fell into a two week long slump where I struggled to get anything done and I wasn’t feeling like myself. I was beating myself up mentally. I couldn’t solve algorithm problems because my mind wasn’t clear enough to go through it step-by-step. Applying for jobs didn’t excite me. I felt terrible, but then something clicked.
I realized that I needed to learn how to be patient with myself. Looking for a job is hard. Dealing with grief is hard. Living with anxiety and depression is hard. I didn’t need to add to it by being disappointed in myself and beating myself up. I needed to forgive myself. I needed to be patient with myself. I needed to be patient with the process. I needed to celebrate the small wins. I needed to take care of myself first, before anything else. I needed to allow myself days off to rest and recuperate, clear my mind.
Please do me and yourself a favor… take care of yourself. Go out on that run. Go read that book. Go spend time with your family/pets. Go out in nature and enjoy the fresh air. Go do something for YOU and do your best to stay positive.
There are so many more tips and tricks to job hunting that I have not touched on here. If you are reading this and would like to share some of your wisdom, please comment below. I’d love for this to be a resource for young devs to turn to.
PS. us young devs love to know that we aren’t alone in our struggles, so if you are struggling, this is a safe place for you to share. Please be kind to one another.
Top comments (52)
Wow those are really good points that you discussed about. I was also searching for a job over 2 years. I was very sad and depressed. I didn't want to do anything. My mind was totally blank. Then my cousin had a ukulele. I used hear him play it. I got an interest towards it. I learnt how to play the ukulele and got myself out of my depressed mode. Sometimes you have something right in front of your eyes that you don't see. Because we always see the future and not the present.
I had same issue. One reason I never really went into depression was my lovely wife and my new born. I was close many times. What made it worse were few interviews where I scaled through about 5 rounds. They even contacted my reference and all that, just to hear they went with a more experienced guy. Why make me go through all those steps.
What I did eventually is join a really fast growing startup in a completely non-technical role. Build useful web app for the whole team within my role. Got noticed.Starts getting better from there. Location is also really important.Where I am based competition is fierce and inmigration laws makes it easy to just hire experienced guy from abroad.
Thank you so much for sharing your own personal experience! It is amazing that sometimes the thing we needed the most had been right in front of our face the whole time. I am so happy that you found a way to take the darkness and turn it into a bright light.
No problem i just want to show other job seekers who are going through a tough time to keep their motivation up always. Failure is what makes us great.
Ok, well, I can agree with this one now! Well said.
We don't always see the beautiful and bright future ahead because we are blinded by the darkness of the present, as much as we want to look forward to the future.
Very True Words
You have raised awesome points! I was also stuck in job searching situation until 2 months ago. For me, these things helped me alot:
The whole process was really tiring TBH. Rejection after rejections, HRs not responding on time, preparing those same questions again and again was making me frustrated. But here's the catch: Everyone who's at the same level as you is goind throught the same phase. The will to face all the failures is most crucial aspect of this. Keeping your sanity is more important than all of this in my opinion.
Everyone has his/her time of success. Waiting for the moment is worth keep working moment.
P.S: If someone needs those programming books, I've "Cracking the Coding Interview" & "Programming Interview Exposed" in PDF format. I can email these files easily.
Thank you so much for adding a few extra pointers!!! I think that your point about following up is a great one. I sometimes have a hard time getting past the idea that I may be bothering them, but that's silly. Also, I'd love a PDF version of Cracking the Coding Interview. :)
Here's the pdf cracking_the_coding_interview_pdf_...
Keeping regular followups is indeed hard. But it also shows that you as candidate are really interested in them. Also you need to move on to other companies if you know that the one where you've already applied isn't interested in calling. In my opinion, it is their responsibility to send candidates a proper follow up response (whether they're rejecting you or keeping you on hold). If they're not doing it than candidates have right to ask themselves.
In my comment, I forgot to mention 2 other points
Always study the company profile before going for an interview. Read about their product(s)/services, core values. Ask interviewer(s) about their daily office routine, challenges that they face in technical and communication terms etc. These kinds of post interview conversations prove your interest and individual curiosity.
Give them a thank you card at the end of an interview as a gesture of appreciation.
Thank you so much for adding to this discussion!!!
@mizra I would love a copy of the Google job tracking sheet as well as the programming interview books.
here you go:
Job Tracking Sheet
About the tracking sheet, companies which are mentioned in it are all local. However, you can easily get the idea how companies engage with candidates during hiring process.
Thanks @Mizra super helpful. I hope to return the favor one day. When in Atlanta drop in for coffee. Cheers
Let me know if there are any Software Engineering spots opened in Atlanta.
Sure thing. You should join the tech404 slack group and Code for Atlanta slack group. Lots of job posting in both groups.
I would love those if you could mate email@example.com. thanks ahead
Number 4 should be highlighted. I am at my second company and my 5th project right now and I think I never ticked even half of the requirements. I was always just like "seems interesting, let's do this" and it worked out just fine.
You usually can't tick everything. I never met a guy who could. It is impossible, but if you are able to learn on the go your fine. There is even a term and study about that. JIT learning (Just In Time learning).
Awesome post :)
Sadly I am currently on item 6.
Recently I applied for a new job. I got accepted by a company but I had to refuse it because the company was not quite what I was looking for.
I made a big mistake in this process, when this company accepted me I canceled all other interviews... >_<
Now I feel really down with my decisions and need to get motivation to keep coding.
Don't worry, everything happens for a reason. You will find a position that is great for you and you'll look back and realize things had to happen this way for everything to fall into place. Stay positive.
Thanks! I hope so :)
So wish I would have seen this sooner. I've been on the hunt for a developer role for months now, to the point I picked up a call center tech support job in the meantime (which I don't enjoy but money for bills and living.) It's been rough, especially hitting rejection after rejection, I've found myself losing focus and lacking making time to practice and keep my skills up. Was fully convinced that getting ANYTHING to get me out of my cave would help bring it back but...it's just eating up more time and energy. Life. Either way, thank you for this inspirational post.
I hope that these tips will help you gain your drive and focus back. Sometimes you just need to take baby steps and start by coding 5-10 min a day and slowly increase it from there as you see fit for how much free time you have. Even if it is only a tiny fraction of your day, you are still making progress. Stay positive. I have another post where I discuss how/why I feel overwhelmed dealing with searching for a job alongside my anxiety/depression. You can check that out here. I wish you the best of luck looking for a dev role.
Thank you. I should probably consider trying to stick to smaller amounts like that to build a better habit first. I tend to go all in and get really in to something, spending 3-4 hours a day for a good week or so on it, then everything just dies off again for a while until I find something else that's exciting or I want to learn how to do. Terrible practice to be honest! I'll definitely check out the other post as well. Thanks again!
Thanks for sharing. This is a great article. As someone who is just starting out in my webdev journey, this is an article I'll come back to. I'm almost 3 months into learning front-end as a self-taught developer with 0 experience. It's challenging but I can't wait to get to where you are now! Good luck!
Thank you so much! Good luck on your journey and enjoy every bit of it. Learning to code has been one of the best experiences of my life.
I agree with your points, I got my first dev job before I even went to university.my the first job was as a trainee, but during in my time there, I was able to learn some much about what companies look for in developers and software engineers. I had very little to no real word experience with software development at the time, most of the code I had written had been for high school or purely to learn about a language, not production ready stuff.
But in my interview, I was able to show my willingness to learn and work to gain the skills needed. I did leave the job to earn a degree, so now at university, I spend my free time playing with and writing code. I am even making a personal website, still needs a lot of work though.
Thank you so much for sharing. Your personal site looks great so far. Good luck on finishing it, as well as university.
I am just at the start of this process. Honest interviews are so important. Interviewing is a two way process.
Regarding interview questions. There is a video called fizz buzzkill where experienced devs show that even they get stumped at some questions.
Some interviews will go well, some will go not so well. In which case, it was not meant to be.
I'll have to check fizz buzzkill, I had never heard of it. Thank you for the new resource!!! Good luck to you with your job hunt.
All extremely good points Victoria. A new job search can be so difficult and frustrating sometimes. Protecting your mental health I think is the one that people tend to dismiss. Which is probably the most crucial one because if you are mentally drained its going to show in your work, and you interviews. Thanks for this post its GREAT!
Thank you so much for these tips! I'm about to start considering applying for roles and have definitely been put off by the requirements. The 3+ years of experience for junior dev roles is everywhere (and actually in many other industries too), and it's incredibly demotivating. But it's good to see so many people saying you should just apply anyway - and that you've experienced companies giving you the chance to take on internship roles!
My very first job that I got right out of school was a senior job. I had to learn a lot and fast but I worked there for 2 years.
In places where the worker shortage is greater, you can get jobs where you don't meet the requirements but the company is ready to teach you.
Great article !
I have over three years of experience across all languages as a hobby, and I would still consider myself a junior. Just wanted to leave that there. There's never a point where you know everything you need to answer most questions.
Thanks for sharing this!
Thank you for this. I'm hoping I'll be at a similar point next Autumn/Fall. But I'm currently looking for something non-coding at the minute. It's good to hear how similar the experience is.
Thank you for this! As someone who's looking for internships, this was very helpful, especially keeping track of all the positions you've applied to
You're very welcome! One thing I did forget to mention is that I often even copy and paste the job descriptions into local files on my computer, that way if the link doesn't work after a while, I can still refer back to it.
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