Part 1 — All the Feels. A lot of blog posts talk about strategies on how to find your first developer job, but rarely people talk about what it actually feels like. Well, it sucks!
One of the best things that HackerYou bootcamp have brought to my life is its amazing community, filled with seniors that have been on my shoes before and are willing to help. I’ve picked the brain of several Senior Developers when I was applying for my first job, and here is some knowledge I gathered from these amazing people, as well as some insights I had while job hunting. I ended up collecting a lot of information, which I’ll divide in two parts. The first one will be more subjective, while the second will be insights about the hiring process and job interviews.
A lot of people ask: when should I start applying for jobs? And the answer is now. If you’re going to wait for you to feel comfortable or confident then it’s never. The nature of being a developer is forever feeling unprepared. You’ll always have something to learn, you’ll always have room for improvement, so why not now? Companies will hire for potential and culture fit, specially for Junior positions. Make a portfolio with two or three projects and start applying. But don’t wait for your portfolio or projects to be perfect before you start applying, because — I bet you guessed it right — they’ll never be perfect. Actually, they should never feel perfect. Your portfolio and your projects should be a reflection of where you’re at this moment, so they should evolve with you. And you should always be improving and learning. Also, the added pressure of having companies looking at your portfolio today can do wonders in terms of pushing yourself to improve your projects.
Finding a job takes time. How much time? I don’t know, but it’s usually connected to how much effort you put into it. Yes, unfortunately you have to do all those things that you read about. Research the companies to write the right cover letter, change your resume accordingly, study a lot for the interviews… you know the drill. It’s mostly in the numbers, so the more you apply, the more interviews you have, and the closer you are to your first developer job. That’s not the only factor though. Some people will get a job with half the same effort as you. Which leads us to my the next topic…
Why them and not me? The answer might surprise you. No, it’s not because you’re useless and will never be good enough, cause trust me, if you didn’t give up on coding when you started learning, as many do, you’re the opposite of that. You might even be more skilled than the candidate they chose, but they were a better fit for the company’s culture. This part of the hiring process is very subjective and hard to accept. Why do we befriend some people and not others? It’s in the little things. And it’s also completely out of your control. But how you feel about it is, so let go. Trust that if the company thought that you were not the best fit for them, they’d also not be the best fit for you. If you’re not having as many interviews as others, that doesn’t mean anything. You just need to succeed once, it might just mean that they’ll have to fail more times to achieve the same result. Don’t compare yourself to others, you know nothing about their journey. Only compare yourself to your past self. There you go! See how you improved?
Job hunting is stressful, doesn’t matter if you’re looking for your tenth job or your first job, it’s filled with anxiety and self-doubt. These feelings come from fear of failing, and they’re completely normal and expected. But let me tell you something: you will fail. And you should fail, cause if you’re not it means you’re selling yourself short. Do apply for that job you think you’re not qualified for, let them be the ones to say no, if they ever. You should only say yes to yourself. Can I do this? Yes. Should I apply for this job? Yes. But what if I don’t get this job? You’ll get the next one, because every time you fail you gain experience. You’ll feel more comfortable during interviews, you’ll gain confidence each time a company reaches back, and if you keep pushing you’ll eventually get a job! You only really fail if you stop trying. Stop using the times you didn’t succeed to evaluate your self value and start seeing it for what it really is: just one of the many steps you’ll make to find your first developer job.
If you’re having a bad day, let yourself have a bad day. Some days will be awful, don’t fight that feeling, let it come and go. If you feel like you can’t write another cover letter, go do something else. But don’t let that be an excuse to just run from discomfort. Starting to code was stepping away from your comfort zone, and if you didn’t you’d not be here, right? Learn to identify when you really need a break from everything. And be kind to yourself. If the things you’re saying to yourself would not be OK to say to a friend, then why it would be OK to say them to you? Be your best friend. Let the voice in your head be the same as the one that supports your friends.
Whatever you’re feeling, we’ve been there. Surround yourself with others experiencing the same as you. Reach out to the people who have been there (and FYI my DMs are always open on twitter). Don’t be afraid to be the one to vent, sometimes you think you’re bothering someone and you’re actually validating what they’re also feeling but are too afraid to verbalize. If you’re open people will be more willing to open themselves to you. Let this be an opportunity for mutual support.
Take this opportunity to learn as much as you can. About what kind of job do you want, what kind of company you’d like to work at, what are your strengths and weakness and how you can improve.
Knowing what you really want will help you find the job that you deserve. I’ll talk more about that and more in the second part.