How to Land Your First Coding Job
Job searches can be daunting, especially for recent college graduates. Research shows that the chances of landing a decent job within six months of graduation are only 50-50. In a field as competitive as tech, the odds are likely even longer. To some extent, it is a numbers game: the more applications you submit, the greater your chances of getting a call back. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the sweet spot for securing an interview lies somewhere between twenty-one and eighty applications.
But there are steps you can take to improve your chances. Read this guide to learn a few.
One: Be Ready.
Before you begin your search in earnest, spruce up your resume. Make sure it is well written and clearly formatted. Know where to tailor it for specific roles. Have it available via mobile so you can apply for jobs quickly as they come up.
Update your LinkedIn profile and, while you are at it, cast a critical eye over your other social media accounts. Practically all companies look up job applicants’ online presences, and almost eight in ten HR professionals admit to having rejected a candidate based on social media posts—sometimes for reasons as trivial as poor grammar.
Create accounts on all the top job boards. Sign up on big names like Indeed, Glassdoor, and CareerBuilder. But also target coding-specific avenues. For example, both GitHub and Stack Overflow maintain job boards of their own.
Equally important: put together a portfolio of your best coding work. Include around four to ten projects that showcase your abilities and range. Choose an industry-recognized host for your portfolio: GitHub is a good example.
Before you publish or send out anything, show it to someone you trust—like a friend or your career center—and have them review the language and test the code. Better to be safe than sorry.
Two: Maintain and Expand Your Network
Estimates vary, but it appears that considerably more than half of all jobs are filled through networking. Your professional network is therefore one of your most valuable assets. Find ways of reconnecting with people you know in the industry: for example, post links to articles you think might interest them.
At the same time, focus on expanding your network. If you did internships, connect with the people you met there, whatever their level or job title. Explore alumni associations, meetup groups, and networking events. Join relevant LinkedIn groups, subreddits, and so on.
Above all, make sure everyone knows that you are on the hunt for a job and that you have the right skills. Be bold: that way, people will be more likely to remember you.
Three: Cast A Broad Net
Start by making a wishlist for yourself. In an ideal world, where would you work? Using what technologies? In which industry? Next, look at the available job postings. How closely do they match your wishlist? Where might you be willing to compromise in order to broaden your application pool?
Be open-minded. Learn about other technologies you might be interested in working with, paying particular attention to techs that might not get as much coverage on computer science courses. For example, at Revature we find that many new associates have never heard of SalesForce or ServiceNow, both business-critical platforms that can be very rewarding to work with.
Expand your search terms. For example, there are many different titles for coding jobs, some of which may be interchangeable. Among others, we have seen developer, designer, programmer, engineer, analyst, strategist, consultant, architect, specialist, administrator, and tester. Any of these could be potentially rewarding roles for an entry-level coder.
Look at a wide variety of companies, too. Don’t be distracted by name-brands. And don’t confine yourself to Silicon Valley, either: these days, virtually every company above a certain size relies heavily on software.
At the same time, don’t feel like you need to be a match for every single requirement or responsibility listed in the posting in order to apply. There is no such thing as a perfect candidate, and recruiters know this. Instead, do your best to show how hiring you would be a good move all around.
Four: Keep Your Skills Sharp.
Most likely, your job search is going to take a long time to bear fruit. Meanwhile, the tech world marches on at its usual furious pace. So it’s important to keep your skills sharp and stay on top of new developments.
In terms of technical skills, coders can benefit from a multitude of online resources, both paid and free. Leading job board Indeed recommends a few key certifications that could improve your odds. Consider also contributing to open-source coding projects and submitting entries to online coding challenges and competitions.
Don’t overlook your soft skills, either. For example, practice interviews by role-playing with friends who may be looking for work themselves. Networking is a good opportunity to keep your people skills sharp, as well as an essential part of your job hunt.
Look for opportunities to improve your hard and soft skills at the same time. For example, volunteer to code for non-profit groups. Offer your skills as a freelance coder in the gig economy.
Five: Consider Alternative Approaches.
Traditional job-searches can be lonely and frustrating. But they are no longer the only game in town. For example, companies now exist that hire aspiring programmers, train them to industry standards, and deploy them to client firms in various industries.
Revature is a leading exponent of this business model. Over the years, we have hired TKTK trainee coders, making us the top employer of entry-level tech talent in the United States. We train our associates in both hard and soft skills, and place them on exciting tech projects with our clients in IT, financial services, retail, government, and many other sectors. If you are interested in learning more, visit Revature.com/oneday.
Six: Stick With It.
Finding a job is hard under any circumstances; and finding your first job in tech can feel like an impossible task.
At times, you will feel frustrated by the chaos out there. You will have to wade through endless spam to find worthwhile information. You will face the Catch-22 of so-called “entry-level” jobs that turn out to require years of experience.
Despite the hardships, our advice is to stick with it. We have encountered hundreds, if not thousands of people who felt as if they would never find a good job in tech, only to land eventually in a great role. To quote the Hollywood classic Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come.”