How to get hired as a junior web developer

11th Oct 2017

It seems impossible to get a job as a web developer. Each job ad you see says need to know React, Vue, Angular, Node, Gulp, Webpack, Sass and plethora of skills you may have heard about, but don’t understand at all!

Is it possible to get hired without knowing all of them? Can you learn on the job? Will you get rejected for not having enough experience? And how much experience do you really need? 2 years? 5 years? Or more?

Can you even get a job without spending three years coding things yourself? Can you win boot camp graduates without going to school yourself? Why is it so hard to get a job as a web developer?

In this article, you’ll find my thoughts about getting a job as a web developer. You’ll also hear how I found my first job as a developer.

First, it’s not about getting a job.

This may sound contradictory, but it’s not about getting any job. Before you look for your job, you want to know what you want to work as, and where you want to work in.

Do you want to be a developer in a creative agency, where you make beautiful websites that are designed by the most creative people you’ve ever seen?

Do you want to be a developer in a startup, where you build cool shit (like apps) and hopefully create something that makes the world a better place?

Do you want to freelance as a developer and help people make websites while you travel from place to place as you do so?

Do you want to work as a developer in a large company, so you have the stability and salary a large company can offer, but still do something meaningful with your work?

What kind of developer do you want to be? You must first know where you want to go before you can get there. If you want to get just any job, you’ll end up trying to learn everything and getting nowhere.

So, first, begin with the end in mind. Ask yourself – what do you want as your first job? When you do so, bear in mind that you can change your job afterward. You can get a job in a creative agency first, then freelance or create a startup later if you want to. Your answer is important, because it’ll inform your path as a developer going forward.

Learn the necessary skills

Once you’ve decided where you want to go, you need to learn the necessary skills to get there.

If you want to be a developer in an agency, you need to have a keen eye for design. You need to be able to perfectly convert PSD, AI or Sketch files into websites. You may also need some JavaScript skills to provide animations and interactions that fall in line with the design.

If you want to be a developer in a startup, you need to have a somewhat of a business sense. You need to know what features are important and what aren’t. You also need to be able to make applications for your startup (which means good-enough JavaScript skills), and you need to be able to communicate your thoughts and ideas with your colleagues.

If you want to freelance as a web developer, you need to know both frontend and backend (Wordpress, at least), so you can take on jobs for agencies, startups and your own clients. Freelancing right from the bat can be a difficult thing to do because you need to learn the business side of things along with the technical side of things at the same time.

If you want to become a developer in a large company, I don’t have any advice for you. I don’t know what a developer in a large company does because I’ve never been in that situation myself.

Before you apply for the position you want to be in, you need to demonstrate that you have the necessary skills and attitude to work independently without supervision. That means you need to create a portfolio.

No, I’m not talking about a portfolio where you put on your website. I’m talking about a portfolio of work you’re proud of. It doesn’t matter where you keep this, but you need to be able to bring it up and talk about the things you made. Your portfolio should contain at least one (preferably more) work that you can show your potential employer.

Once you have this, begin applying for a job.

But what about the high requirements in job ads?

I’m afraid I can’t help you with the requirements stated in job ads. I’ve never been a fan of finding a job through advertisements. I’ve never been successful at it. Besides, finding jobs through advertisements stresses me up so much that I feel like I’m a worthless piece of shit for not knowing enough.

Even today, if I look at the job ad you’re looking at, I can safely say for sure I don’t meet the requirements – I don’t know enough to be dangerous with React, Angular and Vue at the same time.

But that didn’t stop me from finding my way into web development, and that doesn’t have to stop you too. You can do so much more after applying for jobs through advertisements.

Here’s what I’d recommend: hustle your way into a job.

Hustle your way into the job.

While I first learned web development, I worked at as an intern in a small startup. I was mostly doing administrative work at that time. In about a month, I built my first Wordpress site. I designed and built in myself. It was hard for me to contain my excitement. I was so proud of it!

I can’t stop myself. I wanted to tell everyone about the Wordpress site I made (spoiler alert, it’s my blog, the very first version). I showed my manager my blog and talked excitedly about how I’m learning this web development thing and how I’m able to build this in about a month.

To my surprise, she started asking me questions about the company’s Wordpress site like, whether its possible to change the colors in a Wordpress WYSIWYG editor. I answered yes, showed her how to do it (inline styles FTW! This shows you how bad I was then!).

I answered all her questions, and I asked if they wanted more functionality for the Wordpress site, like a Datepicker that properly links visitors to their hotel booking API. She was excited and elated about this idea, and I spent the next month or two pushing away my admin tasks, learned some jQuery and got the job done 😎.

You see, you don’t need super awesome skills to get into the web development field. You can begin almost anywhere! Possibly even in your job now!

Aside from hustling within your company, you can also go to meetups. It’s the best place to look for jobs, as far as I know.

Go to meetups

Many companies hire people from meetups. I got my first part-time job as a frontend developer while I was still in school this way. I simply walked into every meetup I could think of, introduced myself and talked to people. That’s it.

But Zell, what if I’m shy and I don’t know what to say?

You already have things you want to say, don’t you? You’re excited about web dev. You want to share your excitement with everyone. You want to talk about what you’ve done. You want to learn so much more. You want to get a job. You want to get hired as a developer. You want to…

Express yourself. Say whatever is in your mind. You’ve kept it bottled up inside of you because you’re afraid that nobody wants to hear about your boring life story. You’re afraid that people would frown on you. You’re afraid that people will ignore you.

But your life story is the thing that companies want to hear! They want to hear from you to make sure they hire the right person! So feel free to share!

Yes, you will be ignored. Yes, you will get rejections. So what? If you stay at a corner without talking to anyone, you’re rejecting everyone before they reject you. But what’s the point of going then?

You need to step out of your comfort zone, be honest with yourself and the people around you. Say what you want to say, share what you’re excited about. Speak your mind. Miracles will happen sooner or later. I guarantee it.

Who should you talk to?

Practically everyone! It doesn’t matter who you talk to. If people resonate with you, they’ll ask questions and let you talk more. If they’re not interested, they’ll find a way to escape, and that’ll prompt you to talk to someone else.

All it takes to start the conversation is this: “Hi! I’m Zell!”.

From there, it doesn’t take much for people to ask you who you are, what you do, or what you’re doing here. You can then start sharing about yourself and asking them about themselves. Remember to listen when they talk! It’s only polite to return the favor if you want others to listen to you!

What if you don’t get any success?

Don’t expect any success. You won’t land a job with everyone you meet. Don’t even expect to land a job with ANYONE you meet. You’re just there to share who you are, meet people and hopefully make some friends. Don’t expect anything, but welcome it if anything happens!

(And things will start to open up for you. Try it!).

Follow up.

If you found anyone you want to continue a conversation with, make sure you follow up. Send them an email after the event. Say Hi. Try to help them out if possible (like look at their website and tell them about stuff). Some people don’t take this well, but others will appreciate you for trying to help.

You don’t have to be extroverted to do this

I hate crowds. I still do. If you find me at a meetup today, you’ll think I’m an antisocial who only cares about free food. If I can do it, you can too.

Wrapping up

Is it hard to get a job as a web developer?

Yes, it is hard to get a job if you’re trying to get hired through job advertisements. You’re comparing yourself with thousands of other people, which is why it’s hard!

Besides applying for jobs through advertisements, try talking to people and sharing what you’ve built. You might find your way into web dev without knowing how you did it. I still don’t know what happened, but I’m happy and grateful for the things that have happened along the way as I shared my journey with others.

I hope you’ll get into web development and I hope you have fun while doing so! :)

By the way, do you want to learn JavaScript but don’t know how to start? If you are, try going through this JavaScript Roadmap that I’ve built for you. In it, you’ll learn how to overcome your barriers to learning JavaScript, and you’ll get a roadmap to follow to learn JavaScript properly. Have fun!

If you enjoyed this article, please support me by sharing this article Twitter or buying me a coffee 😉. If you spot a typo, I’d appreciate if you can correct it on GitHub. Thank you!

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