Soft Reset

Advice, opinions, and revelations of a non-traditional Software Engineer.

Finding that first job

Jan 21, 2022   ·  3 min

Finding your first job developing software can be a daunting task even for those with a degree. Without a formal education, how does one go about getting their foot in the door?

There is plenty you can do to help you land that first job other than simply studying material. Building a portfolio, personal projects, contributing to open-source projects, and even starting in a non-development role can give you a leg forward.

Personal Projects

While you are learning, rather than just going through the exercises in books, online courses, or whatever medium you have chosen, think of projects that you can do that solve real problems in your personal world. Write a script to conditionally backup your files. Build a budget and expense tracking application. Create a database application to keep track of your coins, stamps, or whatever your favorite collection may be.

Opensource Projects

Look around Github to find interesting projects that you can contribute to. There are many lists online of “beginner-friendly” open-source projects. I have found though, that most open-source project maintainers and contributors are very willing to work with “beginners”.

Build a Portfolio

Once you have a few personal projects, and perhaps a few larger open-source contributions or smaller contributions to well-known projects, build a portfolio to show them off. Github Pages are nice or build a website from scratch. Just make sure anything you implement is fully functional and there are no broken links or buggy pages.

Find ANY job

I started in Tech Support. While in that position, I started writing scripts and small programs to help myself and my team save time and perform our job better. I proved my work ethic, showed I wanted to improve the company, and when the need for a new software developer opened up, the company already knew me. (I have now been a Software Engineer at that same company for almost 7 years).

Summary

All you have to do is show a willingness to learn, commitment to finishing the projects you start, and eagerness to get your feet wet. You don’t have to go from 0 to Software Engineer, and probably won’t. Get your feet wet at a company you would want to develop software for, in a non-software role. If you can think up and create your projects without the guidance of a specific tutorial where you are just going through the motions of what the instructor is telling you, or a manager is assigning you, it will help out tremendously.

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