30. How to get a job without experience

February 22, 2019

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I had a conversation with someone on twitter last week, and I think their situation was very relatable.

I’ve been an Android Developer for the last 1.5 years and I’m trying to get into a web developer role.

The issue I’m facing is most companies don’t seem to look at my web dev credentials, they keep pushing for an Android role.

I’ve heard the same story in multiple flavors.

I am a junior developer trying to get a senior role at a better company, but I don’t have interesting work to show — Someone I met last month

I want to get a job in tech, but I don’t have a Computer Science degree — me in 2012

This meme is probably overplayed at this point:

old played out meme

Here’s you can beat the cycle:

1. Be specific on the kind of work you want

This sounds silly, but you have to know the kind of work you want first. “Better job” / “more money” are honest but not specific enough.

Better: I want a frontend developer role in a team that works with React.


2. Position yourself as an expert experienced in that field

I’m going to be honest here, if you don’t have relevant experience, a company shouldn’t hire you.

Put yourself in the shoes of a CTO or team lead, you’re hiring developers for your team. Which one of these developers would you hire?

Dipti who has worked on the same technologies your team uses and can start being productive from day 1


Rahul who has no relevant experience but is enthusiastic and a fast learner.

Rahul seems like a great guy but he’s probably not going to get the job.

How do you position yourself as an experienced developer? Well, you actively seek experience.

  • Learn & Practice

    This isn’t a secret, you have to learn a skill before you can get paid for it.

    However, just completing a course or reading a book does not qualify as skill. You have to practice it, like a lot. The best way I know to learn a skill properly is to build something with it.

    I wrote about this all the way back in newsletter #2: The best way to learn

  • Build a few small applications/side projects

    You don’t have to have relevant projects at another company to prove you know your stuff. That is only a trust proxy for the interviewer to see that other people value your skills.

    You can showcase your personal projects as well, in fact, in most cases, you can showcase your skills better in a personal project because you get to define the requirements.

  • Contribute to open source projects

    Another way of showcasing your skills is to contribute to popular open source projects.

    You don’t have to make the next big MVC framework, consistent tiny fixes to an existing library shows that you know what you’re doing and can work with other people.

    And guess what, you will learn a lot in the process. Not sure where to start? Click here.

  • Share what you learn

    The most underrated way to showcase your new skills is to share it with others.

    Give a talk at your local meetup, write a blog post and submit it to a medium publication. Put that in your resume.

    To give a good talk / write a good blog post, you will have to research and explain the concept clearly - which gives you an instant increase in credibility.

    If you meet someone who can explain a concept in simple words, you immediately conclude they must be really smart. Nope, they just spent a lot of time refining their understanding.

    In an interview from the past, my interviewer spent the entire time discussing a blog post I had mentioned on my resume. The interview went really well because it revolved around what I already knew!

But, I don’t have enough knowledge to share it with others.

I hear you, that’s fair. When you’re learning something new, your confidence is low.

Here’s the kicker though, you don’t have to be an expert in a topic to teach it. In fact, you’re chances of giving a good talk or writing a good article are higher if you just learned that topic.

When you have spend a few years on a technology, you get used to things. I have to constantly remind myself that something that’s obvious to me is completely alien to the person who is seeing it for the first time.

If you’re still not convinced, watch this video on the concept of Document, not Create.


3. Get referred

There’s one fundamental thing you have to change about your job hunt: You need to stop applying.

I can’t say it better than how Kyle Shevlin did:

Stop Trying to Win the Resume Lottery

There’s this game that so many people play that I like to call the “resume lottery”. People throw their resume and cover letter into a giant pile of other resumes and cover letters and hope and pray that somehow they stand out. It’s nearly impossible to win this game. I mean that literally. According to Designing Your Life, a book I’ve been loving lately, their research suggests that playing the “resume lottery” has a success rate of about 5%. That’s horrible!

Why is that percentage so low? Because as much as 80% of job openings never make it to a job board. When they do, they aren’t always really open. Often, they have a candidate in mind that they’ve customized the opening to fit to appease HR. On top of this, according to a 2015 report, 52% of managers admitted to responding to fewer than half of people who applied for a position. What chance do you have of winning the “resume lottery” up against those odds?!

Try smarter, not harder.

You should read the entire post.

There is no better way to increase your chances of getting the job than getting a warm introduction.

When someone on the team vouches for you, you get a good first impression before you even enter the building.

But, I don’t know anyone who could refer me

Yeah, that’s the tricky part about referrals, you can’t just ask a stranger to refer you, you have to earn it.

The good news is if you take the advice from step #2 above, you’re giving people a good reason to refer you. You’re not just asking for a favor, you’re asking them to review your work and see if it they like it.

As a mega-introvert, I have hard time making new friends and (for lack of better words) expanding my network. But, being a regular at the local meetup and sharing knowledge has made it easier to meet new people because the conversations start with the topic of my talk instead of awkward introductions.


4. Deploy patience

Credibility takes time. People don’t remember announcements, they notice consistency.

Don’t just write one blog post and give up, write a bunch of blog posts. Give a few talks, fix a bunch of open source issues.

This might take a couple of months, but the reward at the end will be worth it! You don’t want just any job, you want the perfect job for you.

The job hunt in itself is a long stressful process. Sometimes things don’t work out even when you give it your best.

I once went for an interview which lasted the entire day. I met 5 different people and the interviews went well, I went home feeling great. Next day, I got a call from HR telling me the CEO didn’t approve the team’s budget to hire more people. 🤷

Trust the work you are putting in.


That’s all, here are some articles for further reading:

  1. How to be More Successful in a Job Hunt - Kyle Shevlin

  2. The Role of Timing in a Job Hunt - Kyle Shevlin

  3. Increase your marketability - Kent C. Dodds

  4. How to contribute to open source - Kent C. Dodds

  5. How to land a good front-end developer job - Sooraj Chandran

Hope that was useful on your journey!


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