3 things to do to get hired as a self-taught developer

It's the ancient paradox. You can't get hire without experience and you can't get experience without first being hired.

I went from a junior show presentor in the zoo to a frontend developer. It took me ten years. To be honest, in between I was trying to find my purpose and experimented with various potential careers. Throughout this years, taking on the responsibilies of different roles have also taught me on or things about crafting out careers. Especially, a career like programmer, which is based a lot on a meritocracy system.

I have met many developers, with or without degrees, with or without relevant degrees. Event though computer science has quickly risen the ranks to be one of the most popular course selection over the years, I still believe right now it is still possible to get a job or gain experience as a self-taught developer.

It is possible but I'm not going to sugar coat things here. It is definitely going to be a lot harder if you do not have the necesssary paper qualifications. Besides getting better at programming, here are 3 ways to gain experience as a self-taught developer and get hired.

1. Build a portfolio

Of all the things you could, I will say this is the most important thing to have if you are a self taught developer.

If we put ourselves into the shoes of the hiring company and HR, we will recgonise that they want to find the most optimal candidate for the job opening. Take note, optimal does not mean the best candidate, as sometimes they could also demand a very high pay. It means the candidate who could get the job done within the budget and timeline set aside for the role.

If we could recognise the different tier of hiring requirements, we can start gaining confidence and discover openings in the system.

Here are some ways to build a portfolio

Help a startup or a non-profit

Maybe it is a not so well-funded startup (or maybe even your friend) who needs a prototype. Or maybe it is something simple like a landing page or something that you could fire up a website on Wordpress. Or maybe your local non-profit organisation requires a fresh face lift for the website.

Not all business aspire to create a multi-million app or require complex infrastructure and database design. This will be a good opportunity to build up our portfolio with functional website/apps.

Contribute to open source project

Show that you care about crafting your skills by contributing to an open source project that you use. It might a documentation or slight bug fixes. Or if you feel that there are a certain feature that will benefit the community, contribute. Besides giving back to the community, and having the online presence of doing so, we are also gaining a lot by reading and understanding the source code of this open source project. Which in my opinion, at least the popular ones, are very well designed.

Start your own blog, website, business or youtube channel

The point is, you need to give the hiring company confidence in your skillsets. You can't just appear and tell them that you are capable of various things without having anything to back it up. The hiring party will always choose to balance out the risk-reward ratio, and will tend to err on the side of false negative than false positive. Show case your understanding and improve your ability to communicate the principles of software development through your preferred chanenl.

2. Network

A marketer advertising their own products. And a friend recommending the same product. Who will you trust more? Chances are, if your friend is praising something because he/she try and test it out, you are more incline to have a positive impression on the product.

Same goes with job hunting. To be honest, without paper qualifications or certain key words, your resume might be axed out by the AI. This is where knowing people helps. We, as human are still tribal in nature. We have a more open-minded approach when someone is introduced to us through word-of-mouth. So get that foot first in the door by expanding your network.

3. Certifications

Can't deny that paper certifications still weigh in to increase your reliability as a developer. It is a signaling mechanism that you put in the effort to study the craft and hopefully undergone a rigourous curriculum. Although, we all know the truth that some certifications are worth more than others.

I'm torn between the importance of a degree and industry certifications if you have to choose one in your mid career change. A degree teaches you the fundamental and train your thinking in the abstract. Even if enterprises are moving towards hiring non-degree holders, the trend towards hiring degree holder is still a safer choice unless a candidate can prove to be exceptional.

Certifications are more focused towards hands-on knowledge and usually take much shorter than a degree. In some cases, depending on the job scope, a certified candidate might be more optimal. Considering the time to be industry ready, getting certifications will definitely produce a better ROI.

However, if you aspire towards a more research driven or academia role, degree will have to be the way to go.

Here are my thoughts on getting hired as a self-taught developer. Besides putting in the hard work of becoming adept at programming, we need to focus on becoming a well-rounded developer as well. What are some of your thougts on getting hired as a self-taught developer?

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