Find your first job as Junior Developer

Find your first job as Junior Developer

Tactics and resources to get you ready

Sergii Kirianov's photo
Sergii Kirianov
·Jun 15, 2022·

12 min read

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You were working hard, congratulations!

You've studied long hours, fight scary bugs and weird terminology, and built some cool and not-so-cool projects. You are here. You are ready to start searching for a job, aren't you?

Well, most probably the ones, who are about to search for their very first job, are never ready enough for it. Feels like diving from a high platform in a swimming pool. You are hesitant and think you are not prepared enough or not good enough. You can climb down of course, but at my University swimming pool, the platform stairs were so bad, that it was actually even scarier to climb down. For many, it may resemble a fear of dropping everything they've gone through to learn to code. It's fear of being a failure. Though, I don't think you are a failure even if you have decided to drop it. You're definitely not a failure!

So, what to do now? You are afraid to jump and you don't want to drop all you have succeeded till now.

Jump.

The fun fact is, the chances that it will be way easier next time are very high. But, normally people don't just go to the highest platform and jump immediately, right? First, they prepare for it by jumping from the smallest platform, then - a bit higher, higher, and finally, they are ready for the last one.

Below, we will go through different techniques that will help you to nail the job search and finally get a job. Let's go from the very first and the lowest platform and slowly reach the highest in order to finally conquer it.

1.5 m platform - Get your papers ready

In its 2018 Eye-Tracking Study, Ladders Inc. revealed that the time recruiters spend on the initial screen of a resume is up from an average of only six seconds in 2012, but only by about a second. Today’s recruiters skim resumes for an average of 7.4 seconds.

Let's assume that you already have a decent portfolio of projects that you can showcase to the companies to prove your skills. There are myriads of articles on what projects are good for the first try, but in case you want me to give you a list of cool projects to build for your portfolio, please leave a comment below 😉

When I say portfolio, I don't say that you must have a portfolio website. It may be useful, though it can be harmful too. It depends a lot on your specialization and skills. I would recommend you read this article that might help you to decide - Don't waste your time on a portfolio website. Or, you can also check the replies in the tweet above, there are some great advice and opinions.

By portfolio, I mean anything that can prove your work, whether these are live websites, GitHub repositories, or even blog posts. Anything that can show your skills, knowledge, and passion.

What we will focus on, this time, is resume and cover letters. Yes, not every single company requires you to have a cover letter, but having one will definitely help, once you will get to an application spree.

My favorite "go-to" cheatsheet for both of them is Harvard - OCS RESUMES & COVER LETTERS. It has an amazing list of keywords that will make your resume professional. Examples of resumes and cover letters. Just trust me, it's only 10 pages, give it a read and most probably it will deserve a space on your hard drive (or SSD if you're rich 😏).

My personal recommendations about your resume:

  • Keep it short - one-page resumes are best. If you can structure information in an accessible and readable way for quick glance check - great!
  • Make recruiter life easier - do not list all technologies you have ever touched. Highlight technologies that are applicable to a current job you're applying to and keep others aside / remove them.
  • Keep it formal - yes, we live in a modern unicorn world full of colors and free template resume designs. Trust me, however deep you'll search for a resume template, the chances that somebody has used it already are extremely high. And just somebody but many somebodies. Make a clear black-on-white resume.
  • Once again, structure information - if your resume is in English (most probably it is) - the person who will review your resume will for sure review it from top to bottom left to right.
  • Make it flexible - you've heard about targeted marketing, right? It's a good idea to align your resume for a position you're applying for. Especially, in case you're well versed in different programming languages.
  • This is a LIVE document - don't forget to update your resume even if you found a job already. Add as many points as you can while you're learning or getting experience, it will help you to find the most important topics later on.
  • Evaluate yourself - either it's a community review, or you want to run your resume through an ATS scanner. Do it. You'll learn a lot about how good your resume is. There are multiple ways to do it: ask people on Twitter (as I did, see thread below), ask Redditors in subreddit like r/learnjavascript, r/learnpython and many others, or find an ATS service that provides you FREE trial to check your resume.

One of the other options can use services that will create a professional resume for you and they charge from 20-40$. As for me, this is the last resort, but we are all differently tailored, so it may be best for you.

My resume review request is on Twitter. Check the comments, there is some really good advice.

Resources to consider:

Cover Letters

Cover letters - I really hate them. While I can easily write an article for 2+ thousand words, I barely can write a great Cover Letter. Luckily, there are people like Ali and their articles that will help you to get better at Cover Letters than me - How to Write a Cover Letter to Land Your First Dev Job.

To add a few points from me, please make sure that your Cover Letter is aligned for nearly every job if they have different requirements. Be aware, that some job postings include hidden "keywords" that you must include in your CV, otherwise it won't pass the screening by AI. Don't forget, this all is a game and you need to play by the rules and be good at it, especially for your very first role.

Quite a short part, ha? 😬

Jump

Your first platform is behind you, you submerged into the water in a matter of a fraction of a second, but the emotions were great! You want more, now you want a higher platform!

3.0 m - Polishing your projects

Imagine you are about to climb on the next platform, but after the previous collision with water, your swimsuit is torn. Most probably you don't want to get to the highest platform to jump with your ass shown to everyone around, right? Well, maybe you want, but I believe not. So, make sure your swimsuit is intact before going anywhere up.

It's quite often while building projects solo, we may overlook something here and there. It's quite often too, that some jobs require you to know let's say testing, but you have never done it. You don't want to be an appropriate candidate for this job just because of something simple like tests. Go to one of your latest projects and cover at least some part of it with tests, this will increase your chances to get a job drastically! By the way, if you're a web dev and have never tried testing, here's my latest article on the intro to Jest, have a look - Beginner's guide: Your first test.

You need to make sure that your projects are shining. Well, none of the projects in the world are actually shining, but at least you need to clean up the mess you've made. Top things I've noticed while reviewing some of the beginner's projects:

  • GitHub repository README.md file is not updated - make sure you remove default generated README files and add some documentation to your project. This includes: how to run the project, if the project is deployed - add the link to live view, list technologies used in the project, describe the purpose of the project and what is it doing, list the hardest part of the project, list what issues you had during development and how did you solve them (don't just say "I Googled them").
  • Clean up any unnecessary system outputs - remove not required "console.logs", "prints", "system.out.printlns" and so on. Your project must be production-ready OR at least mention in the repo that work is in progress.
  • If you are Frontend developer - PLEASE make sure your website is responsive enough. Ask your friends to run it, ask the community to run it and give feedback, do the lighthouse reports and check that your accessibility is good enough.
  • Write tests - see two paragraphs above.
  • Write comments - yes we know you've made this project and you know every single line. Oh, I mean you knew it two days back. Write comments saying why this function is here, not what this function does.
  • Check your variables - make sure your variables have good and self-explanatory names.
  • Split up your code - one single file of thousands of lines of code is not what people would expect to see unless this is on purpose. Extract your helper functions. Keep code clean.

6.0 m - Visibility does not hurt

The easiest way to get noticed is to be visible

I started writing a blog a few months before I even planned to start looking for a job. Currently, employers are becoming more and more demanding on what kind of developers they want to hire. You need to stand out from the crowd or at least be visible in it. Your writing is not only to get likes and comments, followers and haters. Your writing shows your potential employer that you are passionate about what you are doing. It shows that you've spent time outside of your coding life to share your knowledge and experience with others. Don't know what to write? Do you think you're too inexperienced to write technical posts? Well, we all were there. Write about your project. Create a dev journal and write how are you approaching and solving the problem of your project. What issues did you meet and how did you resolve them. Doing so you'll see, that more and more people are getting around. People with less and more experience. People who would like to help you or give you advice on how to avoid such problems in the future.

And by saying writing, I don't necessarily mean "writing", any content creation would be great. Whether it's writing, video blogging, streaming, podcasts, etc.

Another great option - engage with the community. There are many stereotypes about developers and techies in general, but you can forget about them. I have met many people online and in-person and they are awesome. Ask the community for help, it's not bad to ask. Ask some more experienced dev to take a look at your project, get their feedback, and apply changes (just don't lose personality in your projects). Make a group of people who are searching for jobs too and help each other on the way. Try to make a mock interview and ask each other the most popular interview questions.

LinkedIn - this is a whole game, there are tons of resources about it, and even the ones from LinkedIn itself are great. Read them and make your profile shiny.

I must admit though, that this is not everyone's path. Some people are more open and social, and they actually want to share this, some are not. This whole 6m platform is already high enough to be skipped and go for the highest one.

You set your foot on the last step, you're trembling and still hesitant. You are ready, but no one is ready till they jump. You have passed all the platforms below and you know what to expect. So now, only the last step ahead is remaining.

Jump

You have everything ready. If you can afford it, your job search should become your full-time job, if you're time-constrained, at least try to dedicate a few hours a day. Even one hour a day would be good, to be honest.

There are tons of resources to prepare for the interviews and we are not going to cover them here. Those are made by professionals and I am not in a position to tell you something better. Just Google for those resources 😉

But what I can say - let's get to the grind.

I am completely self-taught, spent 0 dollars to learn, and got a job after two weeks since I started my search. At least I can share with you what I've done.

I won't share the websites I was looking for a job at. Why? Because it's pointless. Day after day, after day I was searching Google, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, and Bing even for keywords: "junior developer", "junior web developer", "junior web remote", and "junior remote software", "junior frontend", etc. Every day, from 8 AM to 6 PM. I went even on 4th !!!! page of Google search results.

Yeah, I was playing a game on hardcore, trying to find my very first programming job remotely. But I did it, so can you!

You are ready for it and you can apply to jobs that have a degree as requirement. You are ready and you can apply to jobs that even have 3+ years of experience as a requirement. And yes, you can apply to jobs if you're not fully matching the requirements.

Try any job board available where you see even part of the stack you work on. Honestly, I was not applying for a job with the stack I have no idea about at all, but I've heard that for someone that worked out 🤷🏼‍♂️

What I'm saying is - jump.

rejections

Don't get too disappointed to get rejections. We all are getting them. Even people with 10 years of experience are getting rejections at times. The reasons for that are nearly infinite, so don't even bother to worry. BUT. Make sure that after a certain amount of rejections you re-evaluate your resume and CV, because it may be the problem.

In the water

After all the tension you finally fly down into the water. Submerged. Excited. The fear is still present, but it's somewhere down in the emotions call stack. Right now you've made that step and from now on every next step will be easier. Looking for jobs won't be as scary as before. It will just become, well, a necessity or desire to get to a better place. Most importantly you've done it and you are searching for a job. Congratulations!

If you liked this article, please share it with your friends it will be a pleasure for me if this article will help anyone, even a single person. Also, if you want to have a chat or maybe set up a mock interview, you can find me on Twitter @SergiiKirianov.

Thanks a lot for reading and see you soon☺️

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