Learning to code is sometimes spoken of as some sort of magic trick that will instantly solve all of your employment problems forever. While it’s true that software developers are increasingly in demand and generally earn excellent salaries, this doesn’t mean that looking for a job will be a joke for them – especially not for those who have only just picked up the relevant skills.
If you have recently learned to code, either by yourself or at university or through a bootcamp like ours, and for whatever reason you simply cannot find a job, then let me start by saying this – you are not alone. Many people find or have found themselves in that situation, and it certainly doesn’t make you a failure.
But given there is a substantial, undeniable demand for coding skills on the market, it does mean that you have to change something about your job-hunting approach.
Assuming that you have already gone through the absolute basics – that you have written up a CV, read a few articles on how to find a job and how to interview, created a profile on LinkedIn, and so on – let’s look at some of the things you can do to give yourself that extra push. Because no matter how bleak things may look at the moment, you can do it.
1. Look For Job Referrals
Unless you are completely self-educated, then you should have made some contacts while learning how to code. These may be friends who are now working at software companies, professors or instructors who hold you in high regard, or professionals from career services (most educational institutions nowadays provide these, bootcamps included).
Get in touch with these contacts and politely ask if they can refer you either to companies or to other professionals they know. If they are unable to help right now, ask them to keep an eye open in the coming months. Job referrals are known to be incredibly useful and effective, so if just sending out CVs isn’t working out for you, try and make use of your network.
For self-learners, this process is naturally a lot more complicated (indeed, this is one of the downsides of learning by yourself). In that case, I advise that you at least put some effort into beginning to build that network. Write content and interact with people on social media, and not just LinkedIn but also Twitter, Reddit, specialised groups on Facebook, and any other community you can find. Writing a blog can also be of great help on the long term, particularly if the content is good.
Of course, if you start out alone, it will take a while before you see results. But then, the contacts you build will be there to stay. It’s a long-term investment for sure, but networking can really payoff.
2. Build For Business
If you have just learned to code, then no matter how talented you are, you’re still just a beginner, and it’s on you to prove what you’re worth. This remains the case even if you have just emerged from 5 years of university, and especially so if you have never held an internship or done any non-curricular work during that time.
Therefore, do not stop coding while looking for jobs.
An impressive portfolio filled with functional, elegant and sophisticated projects is a much better asset than a well-written CV. If you don’t have a job, then your free time should go towards building websites and applications that demonstrate not just creativity and competence, but also a business mindset. Build something that can (at least in principle) generate profits, or that can help a business that is trying to generate profits. In fact, build more than one such thing.
Companies don’t really care that you can do something in theory as much as they do that you have done it in practice. Build projects of your own, put your code on GitHub, contribute to work on Open Source Software. That’s how you will really sell yourself.
3. Revise Your Application Process
Companies do need good software developers, so if you can code well and you’re still not getting job offers, it likely means that you’re doing something wrong at the application stage. So go back to the drawing board in terms of how you approach that.
Firstly, consider the volume of your sent applications. You may be sending out too many of them, blindly throwing out CVs at every job posting you find without taking the time to properly tailor your application to each company. You may not be sending out enough of them, waiting weeks for every company to get back to you before you start working on the next one, forgetting that you will always be competing with dozens if not hundreds of other applicants and so will never have very high odds in the first place. Calibrate up or down if you recognize yourself in either of these scenarios.
Secondly, get professional feedback. Speak to a recruiter, or at the very least a friend who already has some experience working for tech companies. Show them your CV and ask to do some mock interviews. If you have already done this, then find somebody else and repeat the process – it’s perfectly possible that the first time around you were given some bad advice.
I can’t stress how important getting a second opinion is. If you did what somebody else told you to do and it’s not working, then don’t just sulk and think “Oh well, I guess traditional methods just don’t work for me”. Instead, find a new person to advise you.
Finally, when you do get rejections, try and get some feedback. Ask – politely, as always – if there was anything about your application or your interview that came short or stood out negatively. Some companies will just ignore you, of course, but others may send responses that will give you clues on what you must change. Even a short line like “the attitude shown during the interview didn’t suggest a good fit for our team” can give you something to work with.
4. Broaden Your Horizons
FAANG companies are almost legendary for how selective they are with their applicants. You may not be aiming quite that high, but perhaps you’ve been applying for companies with relatively high standards. That sort of company is not especially likely to welcome newbies.
This may not be what you want to hear, but sometimes it makes sense to lower your standards a little when hunting for jobs. Instead of looking for developer roles, look for support roles in which some technical skills can be put to use. You can progress up from there in time.
Broadening your horizons doesn’t necessarily mean giving up on your dream job. Remote working has expanded the possibilities for tech employment substantially, so start looking for positions specifically in other countries. Research and use foreign job hunting websites – some of them are available in English too.
Don’t look down on freelancing work, either. If you have been working on building your portfolio (see above), then you can also start pitching yourself as a freelancer to companies whose business matches your type of work. Again, I’m not saying this is an easy route or that it will magically land you a contract at once. But there is more than just one single path towards finding work. If the one you’re walking on now isn’t taking you anywhere, then it’s time to walk a different walk – even if that means stepping out of your comfort zone.
Looking for jobs is stressful, I understand that. Nobody wants to have to deal with that stress, and on top of that have someone tell you “you’re doing it wrong!”
But the simple fact is, developers are in demand. So, if you learned to code because you wanted to find a job, then yes, it really was the right decision!
Your job-hunting methods may not be giving you results right now, but keep up your courage and try something different. It’s hard – I know this personally – but something good will eventually come.