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Thomas Hewitt
Thomas Hewitt

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How long should it take to land your first dev job???

For newbies this is going to be the biggest question after 'what language should I learn first?'

Unfortunately, like that first question, there's no easy answer.

The internet is awash with people bragging about how they were able to secure a job after three and a half hours working with (other code learning resources are available), however what you need to consider is:

  • What is the situation that person is in?

ie. are they living with the same responsibilities that you are? Do they have the kids and the full time job that you might be having to juggle whilst also trying to change your life?

  • Are they some kind of sorcerer?

These people exist. I've seen the Harry Potter documentaries. If you've not seen them, they're a documentary series about a young boy from England that shouts a lot and also does magic.

  • What is their background?

Some people will go in to code as a platform from another technical background, whilst others will be coming to it with fresh eyes for the first time. Code isn't easy. It's definitely something that anyone can do with enough hard work and patience, but nobody is ever going to tell you that it's an easy thing to do.

  • Do you need to validate yourself against someone else's achievements?

No, you don't. Stop doing that. Yes Karen, even you. Stop it.

So ultimately, you shouldn't be paying attention to what other people are doing. But that still hasn't helped answer the question ...

Next it comes down to where you live, what opportunities are around you and how far you're willing to go to seek these opportunities out.

Some people may find that there are lots of communities around them to help them network and to enhance their knowledge whilst others may find themselves in a much more remote or rural setting where the support isn't nearly as strong.

The point is, it's never going to be a hard rule. I have some opinions which I'll share but that doesn't mean that they'll work for you, same goes for anyone else that claims to be an authority on the subject (editor's note: I don't claim to be an authority on the subject).

  • Set a target early on as a benchmark.

This could be something like, building a professional looking, responsive website. Once you achieve that target, you'll be ready to begin building a portfolio and applying for jobs.

  • You're never going to be 'ready.'

If I didn't already have a job I'd probably be sitting at home thinking, 'they won't want me yet.' The question of whether or not I will one day get there wouldn't be an issue. My problem would be that I'm not willing to look at what I can offer, only what I can't. Counter this thought process by punching yourself in the face and applying for jobs anyway. Trust me, that experience will teach you so much (editor's note: don't punch yourself in the face, perhaps a stern talking to might work instead?).

  • Keep coding.

Literally don't stop. Even if you get the job, keep coding and learning. So much of this industry stems from innovation and in my experience the newbies are the people who've learned about the latest practices and can open the eyes of some of the jaded veterans. Almost everyone in this industry gets excited by something new but we can't know everything all the time so keep going and try to learn as much as you can.

I hope this helps someone. Even if it doesn't. I got to feel really cool by typing super fast for half an hour or so.

How long did it take me??? About 9 months.

Discussion (11)

georgehanson profile image
George Hanson

Persistence is the key to landing your first developer job IMO. As you mentioned there are so many factors that can affect your chances many of which you cannot control. Geographical factors and socio-economic factors to name a few.

thomaswebdevboy profile image
Thomas Hewitt Author

100%. Each application is a learning experience. Each interview, each project. Eventually a person will look back at the amalgamation of these collective experiences and see how far they've come, but it's always easier to look back rather than look ahead. Thanks for checking out the post.

rachelsoderberg profile image
Rachel Soderberg

I studied for five years, then it was about a year of applying before I found my first developer job. After that, the second developer job came within a couple of months of searching. I think once you catch momentum it usually gets better.

thomaswebdevboy profile image
Thomas Hewitt Author

Thanks for responding Rachel. What did you do whilst you were studying if you don't mind me asking? For me, whilst I was studying I was also working full time which meant a lot of 5am starts and late finishes/ not much social life.

Great to hear that once that experience did come to you through your first role, your second job was there so much quicker.

rachelsoderberg profile image
Rachel Soderberg

For my first couple of years (during community college) I continued to work part time and did full time school as well - that was pretty a pretty manageable workload until I finished my Associate's and moved on to my Bachelor's degree. Then I left the retail job I was working and just spent a year or two on myself where I more or less lived on the excess financial aid and made some money decisions that I now regret (oops, live and learn!) Later into my degree the workload started to lighten up as I filled out all of the electives and "fluff" work like Humanities credits, so I picked up a different part time job working in a retail warehouse early mornings for a bit. Grew tired of that after a year and started pet sitting/dog walking and coaching at my gym to pay the bills.

I started applying to jobs about a year before my graduation, and became more serious about it about 6 months away from the big day. I managed to find my first software dev job the same month I graduated! :)

Hmmm, that was probably a longer story than it needed to be.. lol

thomaswebdevboy profile image
Thomas Hewitt Author

I love stories like this one. I think the danger of the current landscape is that there are a lot of headlines reading that companies are desperate for developers and that there aren't enough developers to fill these positions. It's refreshing to hear from an actual developer that had to put in the hard work to get to where he is, and it's really humbling for people going into development for the first time to read it. Thanks for sharing Andrew.

andreasjakof profile image
Andreas Jakof

I studied Economics but I hab the chance to evaluate a technical (dev) solution during my job as a student and the guy responsible for the project came and said „Tell me you can code!“
„Well,“ I said. „As a matter of fact, I habe some experience in Pascal and Delphi. What language do you need?“
„I don’t know C++,yet, but programming is mostly algorithmic thinking and cutting big problems into smaller pieces, which, when solved, solve the big problem. The rest is just syntax.“
He gave me the job, right after graduating. But since my (at the time still future) wife went to another city for her first job. I was open about looking for another job, as soon as the project was done.
The learning curve was more like a wall. I was coding in C++, while learning it in a multi threaded, peer-2-peer distributed system. And I loved every moment.
We had to re-engineer a proprietary protocol, and when do you see a bunch of guys sitting around a pc with a hardware panel of buttons attached, one presses a button and the only thing that happens is, that a number appears on the screen and everyone cheers and high-fives.
What I am trying to say... I was really lucky! Getting a job without any experience. Taking that student job, was the second best thing (after marrying my wife) that I did in the last 10 years.
Getting the second job was a lot harder in comparison. I wrote lots of applications and was rejected almost every time until one day I was invited at a consulting company. And I thought „At least the traveling gets paid then, when I go to my (still future) wife.“ So I took the job, new language (C#) lots of projects, lots to learn. But this consulting job gave my wife (now she was) later the opportunity to move closer to her family again, when she wanted a change. And some day later, a customer, I was working at already for 3 years, asked me, if I would like to make it permanent. So took the chance again. Well now I knew exactly was I was getting in to. I already worked on the software for about a year. Lots of the code came actually from me. And already almost 2 years later, I still have no regrets. We are moving everything to the cloud (Azure) now. Again lots to learn, again lots of new toys to play with.

So as soon as you have gotten some experience, it gets easier. Still the first one or two jobs will need a lot of persistence.

jamesroyston profile image
james royston 🐳

I love reading about developers who went the self-taught route and succeeded. It really is all about persistence. Everyone struggles and faces roadblocks on their journey, but those that face these challenges with determination and literally never quit are the few that make it! It’s such a simple concept, yet so hard to wrap your mind around while you’re in the thick of the “learning to code” grind.

thomaswebdevboy profile image
Thomas Hewitt Author

That's completely right. The thing with code is that it's only simple in retrospect and actually whilst you're in the thick of it, learning is frustrating and you go a long way between those light bulb moments.

For me personally, it was a case of learning that those light bulb moments will come eventually.

Thanks for taking the time to leave a message James, really appreciate it.