A question we are often asked by individuals who are seeking a career in web development is how to get a web developer job with no previous experience. Employers want experience. You need a job to get experience, right? That’s not always the case. There are ways to demonstrate to employers that you’re worth taking a chance on.
Over the next few posts, we’re going to break it down into practical advice and easy to follow steps to take that will increase the odds that you’ll be considering multiple opportunities and offers in no time. If you want to skip ahead to part 2 or part 3, click the embedded links.
Aspiring Web Devs, Start Your Job Search Here
Step 1 – Take Stock of What You Know and Can Do
First, let’s take stock of what you know and what you can do.
Review the items listed below. Note anything you’ll need to look into. Some of the items listed are “bonus points” and indicated with an “*”. While these aren’t mandatory for those just starting out, they are definitely a distinct advantage.
Programming Languages–the Basics
Other Skills & Knowledge
◊ Responsive web design (using tools such as Adobe Edge, Gumby 2, Bootstrap, etc. & basic design tools such as Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign)
◊ Usability (UX) best practices & able to use associated tools (Axure, FluidUI, Balsamiq, InVision, HotGloo, MockFlow) And know about site flow, scrolling, contrast & colors, loading, navigation, etc.
◊ Cross-browser compatibility
◊ Ability to hand-code from scratch
◊ *Experience building on any popular CMS and understanding of core differences between (WordPress, Sharepoint, Drupal, Joomla, Magento, etc.)
◊ QA testing across multiple devices
◊ Version control (using tools such as GitHub or GitLab)
◊ *Fundamentals of search engine optimization best practices (information architecture & structuring your site, navigation, etc.)
◊ *Understanding of development methodologies (such as Agile, Waterfall, Lean, Scrum, etc. Note: people who understand and can execute using agile methodologies are especially sought after. Even if you don’t have “direct” experience, knowing what it is and being adaptable is important.)
◊ *How to use any project management tools (Basecamp, Zeplin, Mavenlink, JIRA, etc.)
If you happen to know any other languages or skills, consider them a definite advantage and don’t be afraid to list them on your resume. But what if you don’t happen to have all of the skills or knowledge listed above? The best way to learn is by doing!
There are thousands of free online videos, courses and free trials for a lot of the paid tools listed above and of course, completely free tools that are very similar to any paid ones as well. Read up on them, download and play around with what you can get your hands on. The more you know or are willing to learn, the better. As a professional, it is essential that you’re always learning.
Even if you don’t have everything listed above just yet, that doesn’t mean you’re dead in the water!
Step 2 – Just Build It
You have the skills and knowledge. Perhaps you went through a program where you were given hypothetical or real projects to execute to have projects for your portfolio. If not, it’s time to get building! The very first thing you should build is your own portfolio website if you do not have one already.
Different Avenues for Building a Portfolio Site
Option 1) Customize a site theme or template
Option 2) Hand-code your own website
Option 3) Set up a GitHub pages portfolio website (note: we would recommend eventually having a website that you own/maintain but for starting up, this will suffice)
What to include in Your Portfolio Site
◊ About page (include a link to your LinkedIn profile, resume, if applicable–GitHub)
◊ Projects (gallery of relevant projects & links)
◊ Social (links to your LinkedIn account, GitHub profile or any other places online where you contribute)
Optional Info to Include in Your Portfolio Site
◊ Services (if you’re open to freelance work)
◊ Blog (great for keeping people up-to-date on you/your work–you can also link to your Medium profile if you have one)
Once you have your portfolio website up, it’s time to load it up with your core information and test it. Have friends or family members review the copy (words) for grammar, spelling and punctuation. If you don’t have a ton of portfolio projects to add (or any!) add what you can and get cracking on creating more.
Things You Can Do To Build Your Portfolio & Experience
◊ Do Pro-Bono Work (not-for-profits can ALWAYS use web help!) Think about some causes you care about or do a search online to see what organizations could use your help
◊ Freelance Work (hop onto UpWork, e-Lance and other freelancing websites and list your services. Price yourself as a newbie and be upfront about your skill-level.)
◊ Participate in Hackathons (note: there are several websites that list these. Just do a general search for “hackathons” and a search with your city listed)
◊ Contribute to Open Source Projects (make SURE to follow community etiquette for referencing any of your contributions)
◊ Build your own projects! Nothing shows initiative as someone taking the time to test the limits of their own creativity and showcase their skills. Let your imagination run wild.
You’ve taken stock of your skills and set up your portfolio website, or are on your way towards filling up both with more knowledge and projects. In post two, we will cover building your reputation and getting the word out about you as a job seeker.
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