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What Am I Doing Wrong?

inceptioncode profile image Darrell Washington ・2 min read

Hi, my name is Darrell Washington. I'm beginning to brand myself as Darrell "Inception Code" Washington. I think that's pretty cool besides that, I feel like I am in a rut. I fell in love with programming and the idea of solving problems behind a computer in the 10th grade. I then began mainly teach myself front-end web development. Along the way, I ran into a few mentors who broaden my perspective and helped polish my skills.

I am 21 now and starting to search high and low for any Junior role. I have been through multiple interviews, opportunities, and company tours. I came across plenty of interns and Junior Devs, who was just starting out at their companies not even a year ago. I feel as if I have the same amount of beginner knowledge and skills but I can't land the job.

I have a website, a pretty decent GitHub with over 15 repos I have a few clients under my belt as well. I've created a web app and a few other React Apps. I'm just wondering why am I not receiving callbacks, or unable to get through interviews. I am completely open to all suggestions, feedback, and criticism. I've noticed that sometimes I don't understand certain terminology and theoretical things involved with development. However, I believe my resume and personal experience showcases my practical knowledge, at least at a junior level.

I feel like throwing in the towel sometimes. Especially when I hear stories about people switching professions and landing a job in three months. Also, stories about people teaching themselves how to code and 6 months later they land a job. Don't get me wrong that's great, inspirational and amazing to think about how an industry such as IT and tech has different ways of entry.

What can I improve? Is it my social media presence? Not enough projects? Simply, not enough education? What could it be? Thanks in advance for the advice and support.

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inceptioncode profile

Darrell Washington

@inceptioncode

I can't see myself keeping my hands off a keyboard. Love to code and love to change lives.

Discussion

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Here's the ugly secret about programming jobs, this experience never ends for some of us. I've been at this for 30 years and it's still rough to get hired. The only time it was different was for a brief time during the late 90's dotcom boom. If anything, the industry has become a lot more insular and a lot less diverse than it was in the past.

The why? Well, I think it boils down to 2 things, connections and fitting the mold (aka 'cultural fit'). I have had issues with these things myself and it is still the case in my current job search.

It sounds like you're self-educated to some degree. This means you most likely don't have the college connections to get your foot in the door and/or to get by the HR guardians. It's important to build connections where and when you can.

Not having a CS degree is also why you probably don't know all the CS 101 "secret handshakes". I still have the same issue sometimes myself. You can watch videos or take free online courses that can help somewhat.

The bigger issue I've found though is the nebulous 'cultural fit'. Basically, most places only want to hire people who are a lot like themselves. Of course, certain types of discrimination are illegal but terms like 'cultural fit' and 'team dynamics' are used to work around this. I'd guess this is part of what you're encountering.

Speaking of making connections, I looked at your portfolio noticed you are also in the Atlanta metro area. When (if?) I'm able to get a senior/lead job and if I'm looking for a junior level front end developer for the team I'll be sure to look you up.

 

Wow, the "cultural fit" aspect is kind of sad and a slap in the face. To be honest, I never thought of that until you brought it up. I do need more connections and figuring out the best way for me to do that can start a whole different conversation.

This is great advice and thanks for keeping me in mind if an opportunity for a junior role pops up. I'm going to change my website and presentation around to try to get past that "cultural fit" issue. Thanks again.

 

Darrell,

People have covered a lot of things with you here. I'll offer my story and advice. I left college with no internships or experience and found myself needing a job. There was no Github either. At the time the advice everyone gave was having a really good business card and going to career fairs. So after fumbling around with that I changed course and went from almost never getting a call after applying to getting a call every single time.

I believe your issue is your resume and cover letter. This, of course, removes the absolute best way of getting a job which is through a friend or your network. Even if that happens you need a good resume so people can't find a reason to reject you.

There's a fantastic post on this site already about building a resume, but let me summarize some key things about a great resume:

  1. In the beginning, each job gets its own resume. Eventually, this will turn into each role but for now each job. This lets you dial things in.
  2. You will need to list your skills. This needs to be near the top and contain some of the major asks for the job. It doesn't need to be 100% perfect, but the big items need to be there.
  3. For "Experience" talk about your accomplishments and the value you brought. Never talk about the tasks you did. You didn't build a react web-application, you delivered a web an application that services 50,000 users a day.
  4. Use numbers in your accomplishments and value statements. They stand out they beg for a story.
  5. Be brief, but don't overly limit yourself. You'll find lots of advice telling you to keep your resume to 1 page or two. This has never been an issue for me. What you're doing is conveying that you are a perfect fit as effectively as you can within 30-60 seconds. Two pages of mind-blowing stuff are better than one pointless one.
  6. Make an adjustment to every application. It is hard to know what will make people call you, but keep trying.
  7. Apply EVERYWHERE. You need to get the skill of getting a job before you get the job you want.
  8. Cover letters are very important. You buy a few minutes of time with them where you can tell your story and why you belong there. Don't squander that opportunity, take your time with it and think about this from their perspective.
  9. No typos, no errors, make the resume look clean and sleek.
  10. References available upon request.

It took me about 3 months to go from getting no calls to consistent calls with every application. What nobody tells people is that getting a job is completely different than doing a job. They are separate skills and require practice and dedication.

Good luck to you, and you would like help with your resume hit me up.

 

Those where great tips I never thought about needing to restructure my resume. I have gotten other tips but those suggestions are great. Can you give me the link or title of the post you are referring to?

Also the apply to everywhere tip is something I need to work on honestly. This may sound weird but I do filter my job search. Things like 2-3+ years of experience, knowing A-H technologies, and understanding X,Y and Z scare me off.

I do need to get past that.

 

Here is the post: dev.to/agazaboklicka/how-to-write-...

The job search is a draining experience. It takes practice, discipline, and a lot of resilience. Hang tough and don't stop until you get a job.

Then, get a different one if it doesn't work out.

Thanks, Ryan, I'm not planning on giving up. I will keep trying
different actions until I get the results.πŸ‘

 

Hi Darrell,

I see some low-hanging-fruit-kindof-issues you could resolve which may help a little.

  • Your name on your website (the H1 on the upper-left) is blue on blue == invisible.
  • Your website loads 5.7 MB on the first page-load. This is huge, and the most data comes from images. Find a way to get below 2 MB, better 1 MB. Check out "Audit" in Chrome's devtools.
  • Get a professionally (as in no selfie, no photo-booth) cover-photo/headshot. It doesn't need to be in a suit, but something calmer than your current photo. (The second pic on your "About-Me" page is much better than the first)

Those are things I look at when I have applications on the table.

Also, I'm not from the states, so I don't know if this is really an issue, but there seems to be too much branding for your XP-level. I'd reduce it a bit. There's just too much text, so the user is more likely to read none of it, than any.

I wish you all the best! In case you ever think about moving to Germany, we're looking!

-antonio

 

Yeah, someone mentioned that to me after I made this post. I will redo my entire site. It will be just one page straight to the point with less branding. Thanks for your advice and I will develop with performance in mind. πŸ‘Œ

 

Hey, Antonio, I reviewed your response and advice than began to redeveloped my website. I hope you approve of the changes. I have a few issues that I can't seem to figure out how to fix.

  1. On mobile, the header background image looks terrible and not really like an image at all. Even though dev tools emulator shows the image perfectly.
  2. I have compressed my images yet I still don't feel like my website loads fast enough.
  3. My the responsiveness of the site is almost good but certain text and elements aren't aligned properly (I am sure you will notice).

However, I am pretty happy with the changes and the website.

Thanks, for your help and support

darrellwashingtonjr.com/portfolio-...

 

Hey Darrell,

I am happy that you are asking for advice.

Some thoughts:

  • after reading your site for 2min I don't know anything about you. I think that you're a web dev, because you post here on dev.to. Your site is a bunch of "business"-talk, motivation coaching and some code stuff. That's nice if it would be a personal chit-chat blog.
  • For a junior position a github account doesn't say anything. Why? Because most of the time, the juniors copy code over and sell it as "selfmade".

Because I am one of these "coded for 6 months and got a junior dev job"-guys, I can give you my advice on that:

  • create a page that focus on one topic: you as a dev (this is my page)
  • make a list of startups in your area
  • search for the CEO or CTO on their page or linkedin
  • get the free premium month on linkedin
  • write them that you are fully into learning and giving your best to be a awesome team member. ask what you have to learn to become a team member.
  • I wrote to 2 CEOs, both invited me
 

Great advice, I did land a tour of a company when I accidently contacted the CEO. That is very valuable I need to get back to that. Also, you and others here are basically recommending a more direct website and I couldn't agree more. You all have definitely put that into perspective for me.

 

I think one of the most useful advices is "be productive, not busy".
So do the things that really count.

And making contact to the real decision makers is on of these things.
Show them how you can help their businesses.
And that's about being a person that is solving problems in all kind of ways, not only coding.

I took deep consideration of your advice on my website. I also took a look at your site as well and redesigned and developed my new site. Take a look when you can. Thanks for all the inspiration and advice!

darrellwashingtonjr.com/portfolio-...

 

A few tips

  • Is good to share code in github, but be carefull with the quality of the code that you share. And come back, to evolve the code that you shared. Because, hopefully you are evolving, but if you don't maintain the code that you shared how can we be able to know if you are at a good level.
  • Learn the best practices of the area that you are learning (for example, don't use style in html(like all rules there are exceptions :) ))
  • If you like programming, do programming challenges. Register in codewars, for example.
  • Try to learn the concepts, they normally do not change and can be used in numerous languages and situations.
  • Try to get a mentor, the path will be easier
  • Do lots of networking, connections are very important
  • We work for humans and with humans, so work your social skills

I hope these tips will help you.

 

Thanks, I definitely need to connect more and build a better social track record. I can agree to that. I will go back and refactor code and participate in my coding challenges and hackathons. This is great advice πŸ‘

 

Some minor feedback:

  • Your website has a LOT of info. Like...a LOT. For the jobs you are looking for, an HR rep or recruiter wants info that should easily fit on one page. It's too hard to find relevant info. For instance, I took a look to see if you are in my area to see to see if you might be a fit for my company and...well, it's really hard to tell where you're from in all that info.

  • Your linked-in link is doing something fancy and ajax-y and doesn't work for me on Chrome on MacOS. Might be my Ghostery or some other plugin, but trust me, my browser/laptop configuration is pretty typical for a web dev, so you really want links like that to work for my config.

  • Go to meetups and job fairs -- don't just rely on social media. It's important to meet people beyond the HR gateway.

  • Your lack of a CS degree is a bit of an issue -- it's a chicken-and-egg situation. Most companies are fine hiring people with 3-5+ years of experience that don't have CS degrees, but at your age it is hard to get past the "resume filtering" stage without one.

 

Thanks for the advice. I'm going to redo my website and minimize the "content overload." Everyone here has pointed something out with my website. So I will definitely take a look. Also the theme on WordPress I'm using is writing weird inline styles, broken links and all.

Thanks for bringing the website issue to my attention. It will be changed immediately. I was looking into doing GT's coding Bootcamp and padding my resume with certificates. That takes time and plenty of money but I hope that will make up for the CS degree. What do you think?

 

Hey, Patrick, you were very detailed in your response and advice concerning my website. This led me to redesign and redevelop a new website entirely. I hope you approve of the changes. I have a few issues that I can't seem to figure out how to fix.

  1. On mobile, the header background image looks terrible and not really like an image at all. Even though dev tools emulator shows the image perfectly.
  2. I have compressed my images yet I still don't feel like my website loads fast enough.
  3. My the responsiveness of the site is almost good but certain text and elements aren't aligned properly (I am sure you will notice).

However, I am pretty happy with the changes and the website.

Thanks, for your help and support

darrellwashingtonjr.com/portfolio-...

I think google can help you with most of these, but here are some guesses:

1) This is maybe because of Retina displays? Remember that on retina, images must actually be 2x their pixel size.

2) go to your website in Chrome, open the develpor console, click "Audits" and "Perform an Audit". That'll give you lots of insights into what loads slowly, and what you can do to fix

3) yeah, CSS debugging can be a bitch. GLWT :D

 

That was definitely motivating and your right I have to meet the people now. I have been slacking on relationships. I will hit you up on Twitter first thing tomorrow. I believe that getting as narrow and straight to the source is the best way to get in the door. Thanks for the advice and your time. πŸ™

 

For what it's worth, I think it would be worth going through a telephone/Skype interview with someone who is in the industry and familiar with hiring but who is not going to hire you, but strictly give you feedback on what they see that you're doing right and wrong.

I did this very thing for a colleague's college age son just a few weeks ago and I hope that I helped. Likewise I've given resume feedback to several people locally who are in the same JavaScript group as I am.

Find somebody locally who can "review" you.

 

That's a great idea I tried to set that up before. Our schedules would never workout.

 

Awesome Job! All of your hard work will help you in the long run. But building a personal network is just as important as building your portfolio. Have you tried going to local meetups and conferences? Being active in your local tech community and helping out, this will help you to build your network. Those are the people will help you find a job. Also I suggest looking at @gonsie article: dev.to/gonsie/career-next-steps-kdg

Keep up the hard work. It will pay off!

 

Thanks everyone for the insights, advice, and moral support. I've listened to all the tips and constructive criticism. I made changes to my approach and kept a positive mindset thanks to everyone here. I have now landed a job!! I love this community and I wanted to give everyone an update. I can't wait to start next week!

 

Oh cool didn't know something like that exist. I will check it out. Thanks!