20 Tips for Landing Your First Job in Web Development
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Luke Stenis graduated from Austin Coding Academy’s Full Stack Web Development program in 2016. Upon graduating, Luke landed a role as an “Implementation Engineer” with Austin-based content production company, Invodo. During his time at Invodo, Luke also worked as an instructor at ACA, teaching the 10-week “Intro to Web Development” course.
Luke currently works in Salt Lake City, Utah, as a “Digital Analytics Implementation Engineer” with PluralSight.
Looking to break into a web development career? Great decision - the job market is booming here in Austin, and around the country. In fact, there are so many jobs available that it can be overwhelming to know where to start or how to begin.
The technology field is vast, and as a result there are a variety of different career paths you can take to becoming a web developer. While there are many paths to a coding career, those who are successful shared a similar method for landing their first job in web development.
As a fledgling techie, you can land your first job by following in the footsteps of coders before you, and use these twenty tips for success in the job market:
1. Update Your Resume
When you change jobs or careers, you need your resume to reflect your new career positioning.
- Summarize your professional skills with three bullet points at the top of your resume.
- Highlight your greatest achievements and biggest responsibilities at each previous job you’ve held.
- If you have an eye for design, give it a nice look using Canva
2. Create Different Resume/Cover Letter Versions
As mentioned earlier, there are a variety of different career paths into tech, so you will need a few variations of your resume to address a few different types of entry-level positions you can apply for.
3. Start a Blog
Not only will you become a better developer from the amounts of research that goes into writing, but blogging also showcases your depth of knowledge, areas of interest, and establishes your brand voice. It can also set you apart from your competition. Anyone can “fake it” on a resume or portfolio, but a blog is another substantial piece of evidence that you are the real deal.
4. Examine your interests
Deciding to go with the first job that’s offered to you could lead to a less than desired situation. Refine your prospects only to the career path you know you’ll enjoy for longer than a week. A paycheck is great, but it won’t make you happy at work. Daniel Pink’s research on autonomy, mastery, and purpose is a great guide, if you’re looking for a model of success.
5. Build Your Online Network
Not on LinkedIn yet? Start there. Already have a profile? Make sure it reflects your new career positioning, and then start connecting with other like-minded folks in the tech industry. If you are in a coding school like ours, start connecting with other students, instructors, and alumni. Once you get the ball rolling, your networking door into the tech industry should open pretty quickly.
6. Network in Real Life
Network as much as possible. Getting to know the people that have already succeeded and learning from them is a great way to get your foot in the door and possibly find a mentor. There are tons of tech-focused meetups on Meetup.com, and if you are interested in attending one of our coding schools’ events, check out our events calendar.
7. Find a Mentor in the Industry
If you followed every tip in this post, you will be well-prepared for landing a job. However, if I had to choose only three tips from this list to share, this would be one of them. There is no better way to know how to succeed in getting a job than from being coached up by a seasoned veteran of the industry. You can find mentors within your existing networks, or at meetups and networking events around town. I found my mentor on my soccer team, and it was one of the most valuable steps I took to getting my first job in web development.
8. Take Online Coding Challenges
At our coding school, we recommend our students practice coding at least two hours per day in order to retain and master the skills we teach. This is no different for anyone looking for a job. Most technical job processes involve at least a coding challenge or whiteboard question in order to test your chops. Check out Code Fights.
9. Practice Whiteboarding Challenges
I was told before my in-person job interview there would be no whiteboarding challenge… until there was one. Having to solve a problem on a whiteboard in front of a group of people can be terrifying. Many times, the problem is nearly unsolvable, and the interviewers just want to hear how you think. Even if you don’t know the answer, walk through your approach to the problem and how you would solve it out loud. If your logic is sound, it won’t matter if you nail the answer or not.
10. Continue Growing Your Knowledge Base
11. Build Your Own Project
Companies want to hire someone actively passionate and proactive about writing code. Work on an app or website that keeps your skills and areas of interest sharp. Love cooking? Design a website for a bakery or restaurant and showcase your culinary skills. Love animals? Build a website for a veterinary hospital non-profit.
12. Never Stop Working On Your Online Portfolio Site
If you followed the previous tip, you just expanded your skillset and now have even more powerful tools at your fingertips. Make sure your portfolio site reflects these new skillsets and continue to update it with the latest and greatest code you know how to create.
13. Contribute and Collaborate on Github Projects
Web developers need to work well in a collaborative environment and know how to contribute to projects meaningfully. Every recruiter and hiring manager you communicate with will most likely review your Github profile and repos to see how much experience you have with these teamwork-based skills. It’s also a great way to grow your skillsets and projects featured on your portfolio.
14. Spend As Much Time As Possible Per Day Job Searching
You’ve probably heard this mantra before: Finding a job is a full-time job. It’s true. Job searching is a combination of networking, applying for jobs, and working with recruiters, with networking being the most effective activity. It takes time, effort, and a certain amount of preparation to not only get a job, but get one you love.
15. Refine Your Job Search
Refine your search to industries and companies you would actually work for. While it may feel rewarding to blast your CV to every junior position available on the market, be honest with yourself about what type of industries you want to work in. Finding a job is hard work, so every ounce of time and effort you put into it should be worth it.
16. Apply through a Referral
Take advantage of your network and apply for a job through someone who works at the company. Some of the best jobs I’ve ever had I landed through someone I know inside my network. In fact, both development jobs I’ve had came via someone I knew who already worked at the company.
17. Apply Directly With a Company.
Don’t fall into the habit of using the “Easy Apply” button on LinkedIn, or applying indirectly through a third-party job board. Chances are highly likely that a company who is hiring on a job board also has it posted on their website, with a way to apply directly with them. These applications are commonly vetted first.
18. Research Companies You Interview With
Before going in for an interview, do some background research on the folks you’ve been told are involved in the interviewing process (ex: LinkedIn profiles). Knowing an interesting fact about the interviewer - what college they went to, did they play a sport or part of a club - can be an instant icebreaker and shows your level of interest not only in the company, but in the people you could potentially work with.
19. Practice Relevant Interview Questions
Research job forums for common and potential interview questions and coding challenges for the positions you are applying for. Practice answering these questions and coding challenges correctly, and research any topics or challenges you don’t feel confident in.
20. Send a Personalized “Thank You” Note
If you feel like you nailed an interview and want to work for the company, consider sending a handwritten “thank you” note or personalized email as a follow-up. This doesn’t work every time or at every company, but I’ve seen it work as the difference-maker between two equally-viewed applicants.
Landing your first job as a web developer isn’t easy, but you can definitely do it with the right amount of effort in a few focused areas. You spend around 2,000 hours per year at your job. Make sure you are doing all you can to set yourself up for success in the job market.