Looking for Your First Dev Role (2 Part Series)
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.