Finding your first developer job

April 08, 2020

This is a continuation of:

  1. Shifting your career to web development
  2. Thriving in bootcamp

So you've completed bootcamp and now you're searching for your first developer job. Fabulous!

Clean up real good

After the bootcamp is over, the job search commences! Your bootcamp may already have a program to guide you through the process, but if it doesn't, here are some key takeaways:

  1. Polish your portfolio. Make sure it's responsive, accessible, and performant (optimize those images!).
  2. Keep coding every day. Even though bootcamp is over, challenge yourself with a new coding project to complete every week. Learning new things shows potential employers your ability to keep learning, because that's critical in a career in web development.
  3. Looking for a job is a full-time job. Find creative ways to land that first gig. There are entire sites devoted to job search, and my favourite one is The Muse.

Finding developer roles can be tricky when you have no professional experience, traditionally speaking. The good news is, this is a role that rewards the foundational skills of programming, adaptability, and quick learning. There are really only two things you need to land a decent developer job:

  1. A great attitude (be a person that people want to be around for 40 hours a week).
  2. Slam dunking the technical test (the ability to code...something you've been doing for the past 9 weeks!).

Know your worth

The salary of developers are changing by the year. They also vary by industry, company size/budget, and so forth. There are a lot of ways to find this information online, including PayScale and Glassdoor. Keep a spreadsheet with various salaries you come across and build your case when responding to recruiters' question about salary expectations.

When you're asked about salary expectations, give a range within $5,000, such as "$60,000 - $65,000". Gather as much information as you possibly can about non-cash compensation, such as paid time-off, savings plan matching programs (retirement, pension, even vacation), and learning and mental health budgets.

If the employer offers you within the range you gave, it's a fair offer. If they offer you below the low end of your range, you can either negotiate or decline and move on.

The best time to negotiate a salary is before you officially accept an offer (signing on the dotted line). Negotiation is a bit of a tango, and it's hard to cover every scenario here, but I'll say this: the answer is always No if you don't ask.

Always be on the look out

Some folks may feel safer about applying and interviewing for one job at a time. But omg, don't do this! You need to cast your net wide, far, and frequently. This is mass fishing, not leisure fishing!

I applied to 56 jobs before getting interview requests with 10 companies, and of those, 2 offers. You only need 1 job, but the odds are in your favour when you increase them.

Remember that you are graduating with 30 other students (that you most likely know, from your cohort!) at the same time. And you're up against other experienced developers or graduates from other bootcamps (and graduates who've been looking much longer than you, too!).

No FOMO

I remember the devastation I had when companies would reject me. I feared that I was missing out on great opportunities. It was a huge blow to my confidence and self-worth.

Shopify (everyone's dream company, it seems) might reject you today. But it will welcome you with open arms in a year, or two years! Rejection is not closing the door to an opportunity forever. It's saying "not now, but later".

You're going to gather skills and up your value when you take any development job (because you get what you put into it), so after a year or two, you're going to be better prepared and more attractive to other employers. Put in the work and they'll be chasing after you.

Bet on yourself

Before becoming a web developer, I was an HR professional for 4 years. The interesting blend of skills and experience transfered over quite well. Employers saw me as having the maturity to stick with a career long enough to give it a chance. And they also saw me as having the courage to recognize that it wasn't for me anymore.

I love what I do every day, and I hope it makes you come alive too. And if you want to make it your career, you absolutely can. The biggest blocker in this decision, is you.

There are so many ways to shift to a career in web development, and this is a template of my personal journey. Customize it as you please!

At the end of the day, invest in yourself. Bet on yourself. 💜