How to overcome the catch-22 problem in my job search

Hello y’all! I hope you’re doing well so far. I’ve been having a rough time trying to get into my job search nearly 7 months in after graduating college and counting. Right now, I’m still trying to learn more skills liked Java, Python, C#, and much more and catching up with all the skills I’ve learned back in college. The biggest fear I have on my job search is all the jobs I want to get into will not be easy for me to apply for. I’m still struggling to get my foot and career jumpstarted, even when trying to showcase mini-programs that I’ve made on my github. I’m also trying to get through my certifications and the only type of major experience I’ve made is literally just my coding work which is what I’m still doing and posting it on my github. I am working to start up my website soon, too. However, I’m worried that if I want to get the job, I’m stuck with the feeling of catch-22 which requires me to get a job, but I need to get a job just to get experience. Is there anything I can do to break the cycle and potentially land a job?

Yeah, that’s tough. Some thoughts…

  1. Businesses often exaggerate the experience that they “require”.
  2. Even if you don’t get the job, they may keep your CV on file and might consider you for a lower job, which sometimes don’t get advertised.
  3. Every job for which you apply teaches you sometime and sometimes makes some contacts. At the end of every interview, when they ask if you have any questions, ask, “I’m still learning this process. How could I have done better? On what do I need to work?” A lot of times you’ll get blown off, but sometimes not. I had a guy stay on the phone with me for 45 minutes, giving great advice.
  4. If you can’t get a “job”, do other things:
    – open source
    – build your own “big project”
    – get together with some other people and build a “big project”
    – see if you can volunteer for some non-profit
  5. Keep working on resumes, cover letters, portfolios, interviewing skills, etc. People often overlook how important these things are. If you can, record your interviews and listen back with other people and see what they think.
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I have to agree. I’m still keeping my resume in check. Another big issue that still impacts me though is also figuring out what project I should make or join into which is hard because overthinking of what project to make or even contribute is like a never ending search that is basically hard to begin with.

Don’t worry about the “perfect” project. Just do any project. Make it a stupid project. It doesn’t matter. They are not hiring you to come up with good project ideas - they have people who do that, people that wear turtlenecks and sip exotic teas. You are trying to hire you as a coder. Just write a stupid project, but code it well. Just chose and idea. It doesn’t matter if it is dumb or unoriginal.

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Especially because nearly each “perfect project” looks like a really bad project 1 year later.

I mean 1 year of learning (on the job) equals 2.000 hours.

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Not sure if I missed it - but are you actually writing applications?
You sound like you just try to learn all kinds of random things and make projects. Which is nice, but very unlikely to get you a job, if you never apply for one.
Companies will write all kinds of stuff in the description that sounds ideal. Half of it is complete fluff (teamwork, enthusiasm, being able to work independantly), then like 20-30% stuff that would be nice to have (like expirience with certain programs or libraries) and the rest actual skills you should somewhat have.

So just apply. It’s programming, a growing industry. If you show some decent skills and know what you are doing, there shouldn’t be an issue. Like, you are learning 3 languaes right now - so this doesn’t sound like you are aiming for some rare niche.

You said that you are a recent college graduate. I strongly urge you to contact the career services office at your university and ask for their help. Even though you are no longer a student, they may still be able to offer things like resume review, interview practice, alumni resume networks, and putting you in touch with local recruiters. If your school is holding career fairs and recruiting events in person, find out when they are and attend. If those are all virtual, ask the career services office if they will give you links to them. Companies that are looking to hire new college graduates tend to fill those positions in calendar cycles. Right now, many of them are probably beginning to recruit and interview for jobs that start around graduation.

When it comes to the “Catch-22” of needing experience to get a job, I think it’s important to remember that now all experience needs to be professional experience. The closer your experience resembles professional experience, the more of an advantage it gives you. A bunch of small projects that are what someone might do in a course or following a tutorial aren’t nothing - especially if they are well executed, but I suggest getting more heavily invested in a larger scale project that demonstrate the skills you can bring to a software project. You can build something yourself, investing a lot of time in it and continuing to work on it for several months. This gives you experience working with a project that grows over time and may change scope. It includes a lot of interconnected pieces that you have to keep working well as you continue to expand. It gives you opportunities to run into technical problems and find ways to solve them. It includes maintaining packages as they are updated, deprecated, or found to be vulnerable. Alternatively, you could work on getting involved with an active open source project. This will show your ability to jump into an existing code base and learn the ropes. It will involve working with a team of fellow developers. It will give you experience handling code reviews, project requirements, and working on a project that has to consider the impact on real consumers. It doesn’t matter what your project is - a tech blog or a hamster dating service - and it doesn’t matter very much what language/framework you use. Show that you have been making good software.

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I hadn’t yet. I’m trying to figure out how to get my hands dirty with the applications. It’s really a rough issue since for me, I’ve been trying to learn what type of projects I should show to prospective employers. When you mean applications, just out of curiosity, what examples that are applications?

I think it’s more than just 3 Languages. So far, I’ve learned Python, Java, C#, HTML, CSS, SQL, C, and others and right now, I’m planning to expand to Kotlin and more along the way so its kinda like expanding my horizons to what I know beyond the basics from college.

Languages are not Pokemon. You don’t need to catch them all. Just start applying to some jobs where you meet at least half of the requirements.

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I meant JOB applications.
You got knowledge in 4 programming langauges - that’s on average 3 more than you need in any job.
Especially as programming languages usually don’t complement eachother. I can hardly think of a scenario where you’d need Python AND JavaScript AND C#.
One company usually focuses on one language. Webdevelopers maybe double with JS and PHP. Sure html and css is nice. If you work with databases sql might come into play - or maybe not because you work with a framework that provides helper-functions for that. Nobody knows except your future employer.

What you have to do right now, is get onto LinkedIn or some other platform, fill in your resume, upload an image, write your CV, create some generic template for an application-letter where you can just change the company adress and some skills according to the job-description and then go and apply for some jobs.

You already have the skills to land an entry-level job. And you can keep working on those projects while writing job-applications, because once you got the basics down, you can write 5-10 applications an hour. Even if you do this only once a week, you might land a job in a month.

I don’t know where you got the idea of just learning and learning and making projects to show off. Like, it’s not a bad idea. But 80-90% of what you learn won’t be useful in your job - which is general figure for everything we learn. Although you are increasing the number by learning EVERYTHING in a field where you only need one thing and then learn new things all the time. Again speaking of webdevelopment, you company might use VueJS or Typo3 or Magento or whatever other framework. If you learn all frameworks but only need one in your job - gratz, you just wasted weeks learning something you’ll never use again.

So right now, it sounds like you want to be perfectly prepared for the application? Just don’t… write some job-applications and if you get a “no”, considere asking why and consider applying again in 3-6 months - which you won’t need because once you start applying, you’ll get a job in 1-2 months.

To be perfectly honest, working on projects without writing applications might do more harm than good. Because in the job interview, you might get asked why you were unemployed for so long. You can say you were working on projects, brushing up your skills or whatnot - but the longer the timeframe, the more likely this sounds like a lazy excuse.

Also keep in mind, once on the job, you will propably get a mentor who will support your first couple weeks to months, getting you into the working-mode and give you the freedom to learn and or brush up whatever knowledge you might need there. Meaning you don’t NEED to be fully prepared because the first thing on the job will be them preparing you.

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Oh yeah, I’ve recently come on contact from my career services to help me out. I hope they can offer some advice.

Another thing Jagaya pointed out was this:

I know it can be worry some, especially if I have no experience and if employers will see it as an employment gap for me working with the skills relevant on to what I’ve learned.

Even if I have no experience, the only free experience is of course, working with projects. The hardest part for making projects is honestly where to start, both personal and in a larger scale. Even though I’m trying to catch up and refresh my skills, the more tricky question is where is the resources I can do to help not only create good software, but also show off what I can truly be with the skills I have acquired from both at my Alma Mater as well as outside of college.

There’s honestly no reason to learn 3 different programming languages at this point in time, before you’ve landed a job. Pick one of them and learn it well. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you need to learn every language every job posting lists.

There are a lot of jobs that use full-stack JavaScript. If you already know JS for front-end, then just keep learning it for back-end via Node.js.

You also have to keep in mind which languages are used most at certain kinds of companies. C# and Java are more likely than most other languages to be used at larger companies (i.e. 200+ employees). JavaScript, Python, Ruby, and other niche languages (Golang, Elixir, Rust) tend to be used more at small companies and startups. Rhetorical question for you to answer for yourself: Which type of company would you prefer to work at?

Your first goal before landing a coding job should be to develop your skills and build a semi-ambitious full-stack app. Don’t waste time on building “toy” programs. Start small, but build towards something of a decent scale that solves a typical business problem.

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When it comes to the “Catch-22” of needing experience to get a job, I think it’s important to remember that now all experience needs to be professional experience. The closer your experience resembles professional experience, the more of an advantage it gives you.

100% correct, if you build stuff that are or at least look like functioning commercial projects this will really make you stand out. Even just one, substantial accomplished project is better than loads of little learning projects.

A lot of (possibly most) entry level developers are putting projects like burger builders or to do lists or various other toy projects they’ve picked up from tutorials on their cv and those kinds of projects flag non-professional

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