This is not going to be an exhaustive approach to getting your foot in the door of software development. I have heard stories from several developers about how the got their first job, and their education level when they got it. I’ve worked in companies that were small (literally 4 developers), midsized (just around a hundred employees, with 3 developers), and large corporations (ten thousand employees, with a huge development team). Regardless of company size, I have found that most, if not all, of the developers that I worked with had a post secondary diploma or degree in a technical field. Often, they have a degree in computer science, electrical or mechanical engineering, or a diploma in computer programming. If you want to get into the field starting with a degree will only help.

There are many great things said about online or offline code schools, nano-degrees and such, however, personally speaking, I have never worked with anyone that solely had one of these certifications. I have worked with many people who have had a post secondary degree/diploma and have additional certifications. I’ve taken some courses, and this is commonplace in this field. Udacity and Code academy boast of great success stories, so if you did go that route or you are thinking about going that route there are success stories.

However, due to my lack of experience with getting a job without a degree, I’m going to stick with how I became a developer, working consistently and professionally for 10 years. I can’t believe that I’ve been doing this for as long as I have but looking back I’ve learned a few lessons that can help you.

Earn a degree in a technical field

This is the easiest way to get your foot in the door of major and minor corporations. Just about all job descriptions for developers/programmers from companies require the candidate to have a degree in computer science or engineering. Getting around this fact is somewhat difficult, so if you are serious about making a life through development you really should start here.

Humble yourself

Ok, you have the degree now it’s time to show the world what you can do… whoa not so fast. The enthusiasm is great, keep that, but always know that you don’t know everything. After graduation you really don’t know much about writing usable code and writing code that others can edit if you are unavailable. You don’t know about trying to understand and fix problems that are in other developer’s code, or how to refactor code and optimise it. Forget about coding, you probably don’t know how to solve real business problems yet either. These skills all take time to acquire and a lifetime to master. Also, if you think that your .Net, Java, T-SQL, html, CSS, or JavaScript skills are amazing you will meet people that you work with and learn that their years of experience in these languages put your skills to shame. Bosses and developers don’t like to work with conceited people. You will not move ahead in a career in this field with that attitude.

Be honest in your interviews

Normally the hiring process consist of you applying, a phone interview, and one or more interviews in person. Be truthful! If you lie about any of your skills you will be found out. It is okay to not know something. If you don’t know AngularJS but you are familiar with jQuery say that. Developers are constantly learning, and no employer expects you to know everything. What they do want to know is that you are willing and able to learn new technologies. That being said, if the position is for a .Net Developer and you don’t know a .Net language you should not be applying for that job.

Practice Practice Practice

If you’ve done all of the above you will probably get a job. Hurray! Now take some time when you’re not working to practice. The more you program the better programmer you will become. Is there a little application that will be beneficial to you or a friend? Code it up. Is there a new framework that you want to learn? Take a weekend and learn it. Is there a technology course that you want to take to broaden your programming skills in a certain area? Take it! Get certifications if you can. Build up your personal skills, resume, and LinkedIn profile.

Be on LinkedIn

Take a look at the skills that other people in your position have acquired. This can give you an outlook of some steps to take in your career. In addition to this, another reason to be on LinkedIn is for searching out new opportunities. Head hunters are constantly patrolling LinkedIn for people like you. If you are thinking about leaving your position a head hunter may be helpful. However, be careful some will call your work line or try to contact you at all hours to get you be their client. Be cautious when you are picking one to work with.

These 5 steps will help you to not only get a job is the development field but keep a job in this field. Longevity in any career is hard to attain, especially in a every changing industry like ours, but it is possible. I been doing this professionally for the past decade and I know that you can do it to.

Photo by Jefferson Santos

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