In August 2015 I decided to give programming a shot. In March 2016 I got into my first job in software development. I had no idea what software development is. But I was there. And you can do this too.
My first job was more of a part-time student job at a web dev agency but I also have friends and colleagues who jumped into a Junior role right after a Bootcamp or a self-taught program.
What I've learned from my friends, colleagues, and from my own experiences is that it's always about what you can show to your potential employer. If you reach out with nothing, most of the time you will get nothing. However, "something" that you can show is not always only a full-fledged web application or a beautiful static website that you've built.
Let's assume you are at zero. You don't have a portfolio yet, just the burning desire to get hands-on experience. Good, welcome to the club of everyone, there are tons of people like this, you are the 99% of people starting out. I think, though, there's a common misconception about what you really need for your first job and what you actually have at this point.
This is your conception of yourself before applying or before even thinking to apply for a job in IT. No wonder you are terrified through to the bones to get any applications out there.
You need to ask yourself the right questions before applying. Everything you've asked yourself so far is: "Have I learned enough coding yet?" or "Will they like my code?" (by the way, the answer is no ;) or "Will I even pass a coding challenge?"
Asking yourself the right questions can reveal hidden assets and give you a confidence boost.
Without a nice portfolio of previous tech job gigs, web applications, static websites, nor blog posts, you don't have a lot of hard assets to show off yet.
Nevertheless, every single person has this portfolio of soft assets in their sleeves already to some degree:
Skill levels vary and additional soft assets may be there.
The Main Quest's Plot
With no experience in the field, your application is merely a promise that you will build the skill and give 110% to help the company where you can. Getting the job is a gamble for both sides. Neither the employer, nor you really know if you’ll perform well.
If you build your personal story that shows off all the points above, you’ll create a position for you and for the employer to believe that you can do it.
So your guiding questions when applying for entry positions and showing up to tech interviews could be something along these lines:
- Why am I eager to get into software development? What drives me to the company's industry? (Motivation)
- How does my personality integrate with the company? How do I learn? How do I structure my work processes? Is there something that makes working with me more fun, like a hobby? (Personality)
- How can my background contribute to the company's mission? What have I done in the past that's similar to the company's goals or activities? What professional experiences could be useful for software engineering? (Background)
- What do I currently already do to become a software engineer? Where do I hang out with people from the field? What's my current side project? (Activity; This is all about visibility but you might also build hard assets along the way)
- What makes me a team player? Why is it fun working with me? How can I improve the communication at the new company? How do I present topics? Do I have teaching, knowledge sharing, coaching, mentoring experience? Leadership skills? (Communication)
Additionally, ask yourself what you can do to increase your Luck factor, basically by working towards it. As you can see from the graphic above, luck is not a constant but a variable. It's calculated from the 5 soft assets and multiplied by your Consistency factor.
Finally, it'd be great, if you can actually show some of those skills. For example, you could show GitHub profile activity, a few posts on things you've learned in your journey so far, social media profiles, knowledge of the local community scene, and so on. Work with what you already have here and improve on the hard assets as you go.
Now take these questions and your first job becomes an inevitable near-future event with this favorite quote of mine from a Spanish full-stack developer podcast:
“Sigue, insiste, persiste...”
Create yourself a game plan and get into applying right away. If you made up your mind to be a part of the software world then it's never the right time to start applying, other than yesterday.