This article assumes that you are
- fresh out of a developer bootcamp or have equivalent knowledge.
- trying to jump start your career in development.
- all of the above.
An unfortunate position I see many people in when starting a career in a new field is this:
Person: I’m looking for a junior job to build experience.
Employer: We’re looking to fill this junior role with someone who has experience.
Chicken, meet egg.
The purpose of this article is to explain the approach I took, what others have done, and what seems to generally work well. This is by no means a guarantee of success and there will be a lot I won’t be covering here. Basically, life is hard and unpredictable. People suck sometimes, and there will be frequent occasions where you will feel misunderstood.
The most uplifting news I can give you is that, most of the time, it all stems from over-thinking. Which is why it’s important to always keep a positive attitude. You are awesome! Hold your head up high! Internalize your successes so that when hard times come, they won’t affect nearly as much.
Step 1 - Demonstrate Passion
You’ll want to show not only that you like what you do. More than that, you’ll want to show that you’re passionate about it. You’ll want to send the message that developing is something you take pride in. Rather than just writing code that works, show off that you take best practices to heart and apply them where you can. Do this by showing off your work! If you’ve written code that you’re proud of, publish it to github if you can. If it’s a web app, deploy it to a service like heroku so that it’s open for anyone to visit.
Another option is contribute to open source software. Here is a fantastic list of approachable open source projects to submit pull requests to. A list of awesome beginners-friendly projects. If you’re a python developer and familiar with Django, they could always use some help! Here’s a custom query for their ticketing system that shows only tickets that are fairly easy to close. Easy Pickings – Django
Step 2 - Network
The hard truth is that a lot of the time spent in the software development field is… dealing with other people. We check emails, we go to meetings to discuss new features to be implemented, we work with our colleagues to strategize on how to solve problems we’re facing, and we even strive to write code that is readable by humans. And that’s only after you land a job. Camille Fournier put it best when she said, “Being an introvert is not an excuse for making no effort to treat people like real human beings, however. The bedrock of strong teams is human connection, which leads to trust.” Until you land a job, your time will be spent selling yourself with one primary goal: Demonstrating that you can add value to others. In addition to the points listed above, here are some ways to accomplish getting out and meeting people in your local dev community.
Attend your local developer meet up’s. Assuming you have some that is. If you don’t, guess what, start your own! It can start as a simple Facebook group that meets for coffee once a month, and can grow to be a regular meet up with 30 - 100 people attending monthly! Volunteer to speak at these meet ups too. Offer to help where needed, like picking a topic that no one has spoken about and giving a 30 minutes talk about it. That’s a really easy way to get your name out there.
Aside from the anxiety of speaking in front of a crowd, you don’t have much to fear. I’ve known a lot of people who pick topics they know nothing about just because it will give them an excuse to get out and force themselves to learn it.
Step 3 - Have a Specialty
This one is sort of optional, but it can massive benefits. The overall gist is this, become good at a lot of things, but become really good at one thing. Let’s say you’re a python developer. You’re in a good position because there are an abundance of python developer jobs open across the nation. The problem is that you’re up against a lot of other python developers and it can sometimes feel like a rat race. Now let’s say that you’re a python developer with a focus on insurance technology and you know a lot about how claims work, the differences between commercial benefits and employee benefits, and even some agency management systems. Now you’ve went from being a small fish in a large pond to a slightly larger fish in a slightly smaller pond. The goal being that if you market that specialty and continue to niche out there, the bigger fish in the pond will begin to seek you out.