If I think through the corpus of posts I’ve published, it seems they rarely focus on concerns at the entry level. Or, at least, at the entry level of software, specifically. Today, I’d like to look at a reader question about getting that first programming job.
My question is, what if I’m not exactly a developer yet? I’m just wrapping up one of those full stack coding bootcamps, and I’m anxious about finding that first job. Can you offer any advice? I want to show that I care about doing things right.
First, I’ll offer a few caveats. Nothing in the reader question spoke to how much experience the asker had outside of the programming industry. That can matter, but I’ll write this post in such a way where it won’t. Secondly, because I’m not entirely clear on the context for the last sentence, I’ll assume it exists as a way to show (and provide) value to prospective employers. In other words, I’ll assume that “I care about doing things right” means “I want employers to see that I have good work ethic and care about the craft.”
The Entry Level Conundrum
When I graduated college at the end of 2001, I graduated into the teeth of the .COM bubble bursting. Offers I had received dried up, and interview invitations I had received evaporated. A new reality emerged — a reality in which entry level folks found themselves subject to a paradoxical conundrum.
Nobody wanted to hire software developers without experience. And I couldn’t get any experience without getting hired. I did what anyone in my position would do and went to work at Radio Shack. I’m actually dead serious about going to work at Radio Shack. That’s how bad things got in my search, and I needed money.
Eventually, after almost a year of peddling cell phones, freelancing a bit, and looking for work in my spare time, I landed a job as a “Software Quality Engineer,” or, as I like to think of it now, “Software Engineer with Training Wheels.” I took the job, shed the training wheels and never looked back.
While my story eventually ended in joy (or at least employment), I believe the entry level conundrum holds true in the industry to this day. Developer fortunes as a whole have improved substantially since I graduated with my CS degree. But it can still be hard to find that first gig.