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Listener Question: Felix Asks, "How do I gain the experience needed for the job I want?"

Published 1/8/2016

In today's episode, I respond to a question from listener Felix about getting past the "no experience" problem.

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Today's episode is sponsored by Digital Ocean! Use the code DeveloperTea at checkout to get one month of a 1GB droplet, completely free!

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Hey everyone and welcome to Developer Tea. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and in today's episode I answer a listener question from Felix. Today's episode is sponsored by digital ocean.com. Digital Ocean is a cloud SSD provider. Go and check them out. We will talk more about digital ocean later on in today's episode as well as a special offer that digital ocean has for Developer Tealisteners. But first I want to read you Felix's question. I think a lot of you probably have the same question. So I'm excited for this question the first one of 2016. Felix says as a new developer who has recently obtained their bachelor's degree in software engineering, it's been really difficult for me to land a job as a developer. It replies I receive are all the same currently seeking candidates with more years of experience. So my question is how do I gain experience if no one will hire me? Now this is a career change for me as my 10 years of work experience is in the management of permanent and affordable supportive housing for special needs and low income populations. I've listened to all the Developer Teapodcast and started doing some of the recommended things such as start a blog, work on your own little projects that I could show off and join a community and or project in GitHub. But what more can I do to be given the opportunity? Doing the above is already a big investment in time because I have a family. Should I just be patient and keep pushing along? Felix, you are not alone. There are a lot of people who are in your exact position. You're trying to change your career from one path to another, that new path being software engineering. Now you do have the advantage of having a bachelor's degree in software engineering. And I would say that this is actually this actually counts as experience. Your work in your bachelor's degree does count as some level of experience. Some people actually go directly into the workforce and they don't really have a ton of experience at all and they don't have a degree. So this is a positive point for you that you spent the time that it is necessary to get a degree in software engineering. The other thing that a degree does for you is it shows that you have a well-rounded curriculum. You have a well-rounded kind of upbringing. The way you learned was structured. Whereas if somebody doesn't have a degree, the way they learned may have been on their own. They may have built their own curriculum and there may be some holes in that knowledge. So you do have a leg up in that regard. Having a degree shows that the way that you learned was structured. But you are in kind of a conundrum being in a situation where you don't have work experience but you're trying to get hired. That is a difficult and frustrating situation to be in. Luckily, there are still some opportunities that I'm going to talk to you about today and hopefully this will give you some kind of an idea of where you can go from here. So if you look, I'm going to give you four tips today and we will talk about the first two and then we'll talk about digital ocean, our sponsor for today and then we'll talk about the last two. Tip number one, start counting every single day that you have worked on personal projects or even on school projects. Count those as coding experience. Your level of understanding for programming is absolutely not dependent on you having a job in software development. All you have to do to understand how to develop software is develop software. Practice makes perfect and that practice does not have to be rewarded by an employee in order to give you experience. Now, of course, you don't need to be disingenuous about this. You need to tell your prospective employer that you are counting your experience on your personal projects or on school projects as part of your experience. But ultimately, experience is not necessarily dependent on who is paying the bills. Experience is purely dependent on how long you have been exposed to the language. So start counting every single day. That you have worked on personal projects as experience in your resumes. Tip number two, seek an internship. Even if it's part time, even if it's only over the weekend. Felix, you mentioned you have a family. You already have a lot going on. You have to make sure you're still paying the bills. Seek an internship that doesn't necessarily have to take up your full time energy. If you have a degree, you likely have plenty enough experience to find an internship in the field. Because quite honestly, companies love having interns, especially if those interns are focused and if they're intelligent. Interns are actually really helpful to companies. So an internship is one of the best ways to build experience because it's beneficial to the company and it's beneficial to the intern. You will build relationships with tons of people at that company if it is a good internship, obviously. And you will build practical skills because as an intern, you will be building skills by doing specific tasks that are assigned to you most likely. So internships are really valuable for this reason. Part time position is enough to get you down the path to a career shift. Don't look at this as one big shift into a brand new career. Look at this as a gradual shift into a new career. One step at a time and one of those steps can be an internship. One of those steps can be a part time job at a company that could eventually, for example, offer you a full time job or it could be a company that knows many other companies and they can recommend you once your internship is complete. Now you should expect the internship to pay less than a full time job would because they are hiring you with that limited amount of professional experience in the field. But once again, this is going to be an investment on your part Felix. So when you go into an internship, realize that this is an investment into your future and it's a stepping stone into a larger opportunity for you Felix. Now let's talk about today's sponsor, Digital Ocean. Digital Ocean is the fastest growing cloud infrastructure provider because it's laser focused on its mission to create simple and elegant solutions for developers and teams. Digital Ocean is easy to deploy. You can spin up a droplet in just under one minute. Incredibly easy to deploy. Those droplets are pre-configured with popular open source platforms like Node.js, Magento, Docker, Rails. You can customize those with your own infrastructure of course. It's built to scale. You can use an API and Digital Ocean's floating IPs as you grow. And you can manage it with team accounts, which is a huge feature. It's reliable and available. They have data center regions around the world. And my favorite feature of it is that they have straightforward pricing. You only pay for the resources you actually use and you pay by the hour. There's no set up fee, no minimum spend. So you can use the promo code Developer Teato get one free month on a one gigabyte droplet. That is one gigabyte of RAM on that droplet. So go and check it out digital ocean.com and you can use the code Developer Teaat checkout to get that one month free of a gigabyte droplet. And of course that code and the link to digital ocean will be found directly in the show notes at spec.fm digital ocean the fastest growing cloud infrastructure. Thank you for sponsoring today's episode of Developer TeaFelix, let's jump straight back into your question about how to get more experience under your belt. How to get a job when you don't have that experience. And really the way that I'm approaching this is how to get a job despite the fact that you don't have the specific experience because ultimately this comes down to you being able to put a job on your resume. This comes down to you being able to say I have experience at a job working in software development or I have experience working on these projects in software development. The first tip was to start counting every single day that you have worked in development at all regardless of if you were working for a company or not. Start counting those days, start counting those months and years as experience. Number two was seek an internship even if it is a part-time internship or if it's a weekend only internship. If you have a degree of course you have enough experience to find an internship and this is one of the best ways to get your foot in the door so to speak. Number three seek a meeting not an interview. Seek a meeting not an interview. Do you know of a company or two in your area that you would like to work with? Now first of all if you don't know of a company or two in your area that you want to work with then that's that's kind of step one here. You should be looking at the companies that you would like to have a job with before you start trying to get a job. This is kind of a fundamental part of seeking out a job is deciding what your target job or your ideal situation would be but if you do know a company that you want to work with Felix then reach out to the software engineers or perhaps the software managers at those companies and offer to buy them lunch just to sit down and talk with them. This simple relationship building technique could land you an internship or a future interview or it may land you a job years into the future. It doesn't even have to be an interview to be effective because many jobs actually come out of these personal relationships. Many promotions come from personal relationships and you don't have to necessarily wait for an interview to come along for you to start building the relationships with your potential employers or perhaps someone who could pass your name along to a potential employer. Simply meeting with someone from a company you see yourself working with in the future can create common ground and you will have the chance to share your position and your story with that person. Everyone eats lunch and it's likely that you can make larger strides in your career if you reach out to people rather than only approaching the job hunt through traditional channels like submitting your resume through some form online. If you can make personal connections those connections may help those potential employers look past your lack of professional experience. Those personal connections will allow them to see things from your perspective. They'll allow them to see why you could be a valuable hire. And Felix, my last tip today is above all else. Remember that hiring is almost always a human decision. Practicing relationship building is the most powerful way to find a job. If the exact criteria for you is difficult to achieve then focus on building relationships with those potential employers. This goes right along with tip number three of seeking a meeting rather than an interview. Remember that hiring is almost always a human decision. In other words just because a job call says that you need four years of experience and you only have two doesn't mean that you are absolutely unqualified for that job. Those numbers, those job proposals, all of those things are usually written to try to find a candidate that the company thinks that they want. But if you go and meet with the people from that company who are looking to hire that particular position and you turn out to be the perfect fit then the fact that you don't have two years extra of experience could easily be overcome by some other aspect of your personality or some other aspect of your intelligence. Now ultimately Felix, your question of whether or not you should keep on putting your nose to the grindstone so to speak and keep pushing along be patient. Those are all good things. And yes, I totally recommend doing the things that I've recommended in the past of starting a blog and doing those side projects, having something to show even though you don't necessarily have work experience. But I also believe that human relationship is going to be so much more important than any of those things. So make sure you take the time to focus on creating relationships with those people in the field, creating relationships with those people who are looking to hire in those positions. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. And thank you Felix for sending in your question. If you are listening to this show and you have a question for me, you can always send it directly to Developer Tea at gmail.com. There's also a contact form on developertea.com. But of course, you can join the spec slack community. I am in there personally. You can send me a direct message on the spec slack community. You can get there by going to spec.fm slash slack. That will always be free. And I would love to see you in there. There are over 2700 other developers and designers that have joined the spec slack community. And of course, we would love to see you join as well. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. And thank you to Digital Ocean for sponsoring today's episode. Digital Ocean is the fastest growing cloud infrastructure provider. And once again, it is easy to deploy. It's built a scale. It's reliable and available. And perhaps my favorite thing about it is the straightforward pricing. If you want one free month on a gigabyte ram worth of a droplet on Digital Ocean, go to digital ocean.com and use the code Developer Tea at checkout. Make sure you check out the show notes at spec.fm. Of course, all of the links related to Digital Ocean and everything else that is relevant to today's episode can be found in the show notes. Thank you for listening today and until next time, enjoy your tea.