How to (actually) Get Your First Job as a Software Developer

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So you graduated a school, bootcamp or are self taught and have reached the point where you want to be paid for the code that you write. You hit up some job sites like Indeed, Monster or Glassdoor and begin pumping out resumes. No one calls you back. You lose faith in your ability, depression ensues, next thing you know you wake up on the floor surrounded by Bud Lights, unsure of what day it is with a pile of beer stained resumes swirling about the room. It doesn’t have to be like this.

I’ve worked with a lot of bootcamp grads as they pursue their first job and the road is not easy but it’s not impossible. I’ve noticed that those who are successful aren’t always the most technically adept, in fact I’d say this is often the case, and there are some methods which will get you better traction than others.

Posting your resume on those giant corporate job sites is a necessary evil. You have a low chance of getting a response but this is part of the game. In fact, the entire job search is a game and if you think of it this way, hopefully you can detach yourself from the emotional aspects of it.

If you have a resume posted for more than a week and you’re not getting a bite, it’s time to change that resume. Your resume is a living document and should be tweaked often. Also, once you change your resume, even a bit and repost it on a site like Indeed, it will show up on recruiters’ radar as a new candidate to the site so it’s worth making changes every week or two even if your resume is getting some hits.

Speaking of your resume, it’s probably a good idea to remove that job at Pizza Hut or your stint as a security guard for a bank. These jobs have nothing to do with web development and will confuse potential employers. Well what am I supposed to add on there, you scream! First off, inside voices. Second, get creative! Instead of your experiences, write a list of projects you’ve worked on, with a link to the finished product and your role on the project and the technologies used. Still no good? Create a site for a friend, change your title to freelance web developer and put that as your first job on your resume.

If you see a job posting it might be also worthwhile to go directly to the employers’ site and apply directly there where you are more likely to get an email address of a real person.

The unfortunate truth is that getting your first dev job can be a bit of a numbers game and you’ll need to play every angle to increase your chances of winning.

LinkedIn. Use that shit. I’m consistently befuddled that people aren’t using this site to their advantage. First off, create an account if you don’t have one and add a picture for the love of Bob! Fill out your experiences and technologies to match what’s on your resume and begin accumulating connections.

If you went to a bootcamp or just graduated from school, you are in luck because you have a network at your fingertips that you should begin adding. Add any and everybody, even that weird kid… and if you don’t know who the weird kid is then it’s probably you.

Your goal is to reach 500 connections. This magic number will propel you in the search rankings and if that sounds like a lot, remember this is a long term investment. I began using LinkedIn at age 30 and had around 100 connections which I’ve grown to around 800 in the last few years. See an article that you like? Comment on it! Connect with other people in the industry and you’ll begin to feel the pulse of the hiring trends in your area.

When looking for jobs, you can use LinkedIn’s job search but a nice hack is to actually search for the phrase we're hiring and you’ll see a list of people with this phrase in their profile. Guess what you should do? Connect with these people and send them a DM expressing your interest.

I know every third article on getting hired tells you to go above and beyond for each job you apply for. They tell you to write a handcrafted note on papyrus paper and create a project specifically tailored to that company’s needs and send a batch of donuts. If you actually did this, you would be applying to a few companies a week and eventually go broke from sending out so many damn donuts. I think these kind of hail mary’s should be the exception and not the rule. Your dream company might deserve this red carpet treatment and if they reject you, just remember they will still be around in a couple years and you can always re-apply.

The reality is, you will need to have a fairly generic message you can copy and paste that tells the recipient a little about who you are and where your interests lie. Maybe change a sentence that makes it seem just specific enough to target the company you are courting.

Don’t you effin’ dare! So what you got rejected 100 times? Seriously so what? Rejection is not a rejection of you as a person but rather the way in which you are selling yourself. Constantly and consistently tweak things that aren’t working for you. Check out that hot shot on LinkedIn and see what she has in her profile. Use what is working for others to your advantage. There is little need to reinvent the wheel.

A much wiser person told me that your first job is just preparation for your second job. That really stuck with me. Don’t get caught up in applying to sexy startup jobs or top tier companies, go after those unsexy companies that maybe don’t offer free lunch and a fridge full of LaCroix. They may even have a dress code (frowny face). The experience you will get from this first role will begin your ascent into the developer sphere so take what you can get, even if it means wearing slacks!

Like most things in life, consistency is key. If you only apply for jobs when you feel like it, well, you just won’t get far. A bit of blind faith is needed here and realize that people much dumber than you have been hired. Power through the doubt, the rejection and realize everything that you truly want lies just on the other end of this uncomfortable experience.

If you want me to rip apart your terrible resume, feel free to email me at brianjenney83@gmail.com

Written by

full-stackish developer, late bloomer coder and power google user

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