How to Land a Development Job Without Experience

Many aspiring developers looking for a job have the theoretical skills required to be a developer but lack commercial development experience, which can make employers hesitate to take them on. In this article, Paddy Sherry — an experienced recruiter — provides some handy pointers for improving your chances of landing a development job.

How to Land a Development Job Without Experience

For any young Computing or IT graduate, landing your first full-time job without commercial development experience may be the biggest challenge you’ll face in your career.

Fresh out of a technical degree, it’s easy to think you know everything there is to know about building software and that you’ll walk into the job of your choosing. You may have achieved top marks in your degree, built an awesome final project and studied the most bleeding-edge technologies and JavaScript libraries.

However, unless you’ve demonstrated extensive programming ability from your mid teens, already built relationships with employers or completed an internship with a company, getting that first job offer is going to require time and effort.

Why Is It So Difficult?

Web and Software Development in the real world is nothing like the sterile environment in which you studied.

You’ll be working in a team, and while you may have done a 12-week project at university with some classmates, in a job there are many more variables. Every team member is expected to deliver and work cohesively with each other. That means understanding the product and the part you have to build, committing quality code to the repository that meets the coding standard, delivering your feature on time and making sure it functions on all production environments instead just your local machine.

There are already production systems in place, so trying to slot in and instantly start cranking out code is difficult, even for the most experienced developers. Time is required to learn the project structure, understand code written by another developer and commit changes that don’t break something elsewhere. Companies spend time and money finding new employees, so they won’t want to sink more effort into hand holding a junior developer through the first six months of their probation.

Bugs may be tolerated in your own projects and college work, but they cannot happen when working on a commercial development team. The company’s cash is on the line with every deployment, so if you break something they’ll be losing face and revenue until it’s fixed. Every production release needs to be tested, secure, scalable and performant. Experience is required to understand all the areas involved in software products and what you have to test when developing. This is impossible to have when starting your career.

With all that said, when you find an opening for a Junior Developer, there are some things you can do to give yourself an advantage over the other applicants.

Decide Your Best Languages

Given the sheer breadth of information, computing courses can only touch lightly on web development, software engineering, databases, networking, UX, architecture and business development. A frequent mistake from new job seekers is listing all of these as things you’re proficient in.

Any recruiter that reads “excellent at Java, C#, Python, PHP, Ruby, Javascript” will instantly move on to the next CV. You may be good at one or two, but it’s impossible to be anything more than a beginner with the others so early in your career.

Narrow down your skill set and decide which languages you’re good at.

Back-end languages are less prone to change, so pick one strict language like Java, C# or Python if you want to move into software. If Web Development is the route you want to go, select PHP or Ruby. This is the foundation upon which you’ll build your career.

Pair that with some front-end JavaScript knowledge and you’re setting yourself up as a developer that can offer front- and back-end expertise.

You’re reducing the skills you claim to have but demonstrating that you’re more focussed while still keeping your options open to specialize in front- or back-end development later in your career.

Employers love that flexibility in their workforce.

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Source: Sitepoint