After 2 years and 2 months since I started learning web development, I’m delighted to report that I have just accepted my first Frontend Developer role. Some background information about myself, I’m a university dropout who has been working in a gym as a Personal Trainer for the last 10 years (I turned 30 this year). I started learning back in August 2016 and found FCC later that year. Up until July 2017 my time was spent either coding or personal training to pay my bills. Then in July I’m delighted to say my wife and I had our first child. Naturally this meant the time I had to code was now significantly reduced. But don’t get me wrong, I never resented this, it was a conscious decision I made because I wanted to spend time with my son and try to be a good father. I still cracked on though with the time I did have and by the start of this year I had a portfolio that I made in React and was ready to start applying for jobs.
Actually landing a job was the hardest part of this whole journey for me. It took me 10 months, a lot of job applications and 6 interviews from 6 different companies before I was offered this job. And I was completely deluded how long and difficult it would be. I found balancing my time was an issue. Like I alluded to earlier, I was not time rich. I still wanted to continue learning and improving my portfolio but that had to be balanced with applying for jobs. But the hardest aspect is how soul destroying it can be. It gets really hard to keep motivated when you don’t even get a response to most of the jobs you apply for. Then finally you land an interview and you start getting excited about the possibility of finally landing your first job and you get rejected. I had plenty of low moments this year when I would question whether I could achieve this and it was hard to picking myself back up after each set back. Then in September I had an interview with my future manager who is a really nice laid back guy and we talked about my skill set and I showed him my portfolio on my laptop and what future projects I was working on. He then e-mailed me the following day with a small technical challenge - I have done 5 technical tests this year and ironically this was the easiest one I’d been set - that I sent back to him a few days later. Then after a few weeks I was contacted by the company’s recruiter and offered the job :).
I’m still a bit shell shocked to be honest and it still hasn’t fully sunk in that I finally have a dev job. I’d like to thank everyone who’s contributed to FCC. The curriculum is amazing and is better than most paid for learning tools out there (I could not get my head around Redux until I completed FCCs Redux section). The posts from people who have gotten their first jobs has really helped me at times too. And to anyone reading this who is struggling to find their first job, remember that you’re in good company and getting your first job is not easy, it’s hard. But keep going, keep improving, keep applying and eventually it’ll happen.
Takeaways / Tips:
Keep applying for jobs until you have accepted a formal job offer. I learned this the hard way. I had gotten through to the third and final stage of an interview process for a job I really wanted. Around the time of the final interview and in waiting for their decision I completely stopped applying for jobs and coding. Then when I got rejected it was really difficult starting again because I had completely lost my momentum and had no positive leads.
Every interview is a good learning experience. Interviewing well is a skill that needs practise to hone. There was big difference in how well I interviewed from my first to my last interview. I was a lot~ more relaxed and confident because of the practise I’d had. I also learned a lot about my weaknesses from these interviews. After each one I knew what questions I had answered badly. Afterwards I would come up with better answers or learn more about the topic I was asked so I was better prepared next time.
External recruiters are mostly a waste of space, but they can sometimes be useful. Generally my experience with recruiters from external agencies is a negative one. I have been lied to, deceived and they are very time consuming. But they can be useful, however what makes them good is also what makes them bad. The good thing about them is because they’re paid commission for placing someone in a role they will go out of their way to sell you to their client and get you an interview. But this is also what lets them down. Because all they are interested in is filling the role, some have been known for bending the truth about the role like what the pay is etc. And if you fail to provide to be of any use to them, they will drop you like a sack of potatoes and won’t even bother replying to e-mails. Now, I am being a bit unfair because there are some genuinely nice and good recruiters out there. But there are some bad apples. So if you do decide to use them, proceed with caution.
Use Adobe XD (it’s free), photoshop or sketch to design your portfolio and apps. It is so much easier using these tools to design the layout of your webpage/app than just figuring it out with CSS. It saves a lot of time and practising taking a webpage layout and converting it to code is a requirement in a lot of Frontend Dev roles I’ve seen.
Web design is a skill that can be learned, or least significantly improved. I’m not claiming to be good at web design by any stretch of the imagination. But I’m better at it now than when I started 2 years ago and that was down to practise and learning. FCC and Medium has some great articles to help. I’d also recommend this book. If you suck at web design don’t despair, you can learn to get better.
Focus on quality, rather than quantity when applying for jobs. I had more success in getting interviews when I focused on sending applications more tailored to the role than just simply sending in my resume. I would write a cover letter/message and in it I would include a link to my portfolio and point out what technologies I used that were also in the job advert. My feeling is if you don’t make an effort with your application for the role, why would the person at the other end make the effort to consider you seriously.
React design patterns and Best Practises. This is an excellent book to help you learn how to structure your React code.
For anyone looking for a job in London check out this company, they have a great 12 week academy for new starters and it’s targeted towards people looking for their first dev job.