Program Practical
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Program Practical

When to start looking for a job


One question I hear a lot and have even asked myself a while back ago is “When do I know enough to start looking for a job”. While this question is very complicated and depends on a lot of factors I wanted to go into my background a bit and what got me to the point of saying “I know enough”.

Like I’ve mentioned in the past I have about 5 years of hobbyist programming under my belt but until recently I have not really had much to show for it. Mostly due to a lack of discipline and not staying in a stack long enough to learn the amount needed to get a job.

Typically if you look at boot camps and online courses they have you go though and make at least 6 sample projects to show off on your own website. I think this is a great as it gives you a lot of experience and a lot to show off in interviews. My only warning is don’t do the same thing over again. For instances if you are wanting to get into website programming. Make your portfolio, an app that uses API’s like Wikipedia, maybe a small game like Simon (this has gotten praise at interviews before), and more diversity depending on what kind of projects interest you. Same applies if you are looking for Android programming or even Game Programming. If you want a job making mobile apps, first start making apps to show you know your stuff.

This will give you a solid foundation, and proof you know your stuff. While you still wont be an expert you should have enough to land an entry job depending on where you are.

However, if you are like me you might still be worried. I have always been odd with my self esteem and worried while I feel I know a lot about programming, would I be able to keep up in a team environment with deadlines?

The big vindication for me was participating in my first hackathon. During the hackathon we used the MEAN stack. The only technology I have used in the MEAN stack up to this point was JavaScript and to my surprise we used TypeScript instead of JavaScript so I was really out of water on this. So to give me somewhere I could work I asked to be on the front end, as although I didn’t know Angular JS at the time, I could do HTML, CSS, and limp my way though TypeScript.

I am happy to say I was able to pickup enough on the technology pretty quickly to contribute features and code to the front end. Being able to be throw into a new tech stack and in 24 hours be able to churn out code was the confidence boost I needed to feel like I could take on a programming job and not completely fail on day one.

However, I do have some warnings with hackathons. Find a team before the event. I was lucky and met a very nice guy at the Ruby meetup in town that was going to be at the hackathon and he got me on his team who had an experience developer who was just looking to have a good time and didn’t mind looking over the new guys.

While I didn’t know the guy from the Ruby meetup other than our one conversation, that was enough to get onto a team that did some great things. I say this because I over heard the people who helped find teams for coders say they put all the “dead weight” on one team to let it sink. Its very sad as I feel hackathons should be for community development more then the outcomes of the projects. A whole team of people excited to get into coding ended up getting a horrible experience that could have very well killed their desire in coding.

To wrap up what has turned into a ramble. Pick your platform of choice and make 6 unique apps / sites that all have their own features. Don’t be afraid to clone, they are just example projects. Go to a hackathon, or a local meetup on a night they might be doing a coding project. Main thing is don’t go to a hackathon alone. Ask around a meetup group and see if anyone else is going and if they have room on their team for one more. At the end of the day coding skills are important, but your confidence in learning new skills quickly will determine your success in an ever changing technology world.

As always thanks for reading, and follow me on twitter for more daily updates, live stream alerts, and post on my journey from Senior IT Admin to Junior Developer. Subscribe to the Program Practical channel on YouTube. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments below, and don’t forget it’s always a good time to start to #LearnToCode



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Nic Ollis

Nic Ollis

Software Engineer working out of Indiana