Tips for getting your first job as a programmer
Did you study information technology and do not know how to get your first job? These tips will help you land your first job and start your career.
This article is written for young professionals and graduating university students in Mexico.
I begin by letting you know that this article is a collaboration of ideas between a group of programmers with whom I have spent the majority of my time and your compa, Chambitas.
If you are a recent graduate
If you just graduated this summer, and you do not have experience working on a real project or at a company, start doing something now! That way you will manage to master the basic notions of your favorite technologies. Being self-taught is most appreciated by technology companies.
You will have a point in your favor if you speak English. I know that when companies are looking for apprentices they prefer to train candidates in X technology, than to teach them English.
If you are going to do your professional practices
If you are about to go to that semester where at last you do not need to take classes, but you must present your professional practices within an organization; my most sincere recommendation is that you look for the place where the type of #chamba you do is the one that is closest to the one you would like to do when you graduate. Don't settle for getting approval of prácticas professionales (internship) in exchange for doing activities that don't align with your professional goals. If you want to be a programmer, start now!
If you still need to graduate
If you are still in the middle of your degree, or just starting, now is a good time to apply these tips that come from some of the coolest devs in Mexico and myself:
- As mentioned previously: start programming now! We usually think of a “job” as any activity that gives us money, and if it does give us money, great! But if you are invited to collaborate on a project with the objective to learn as part of a team, this is also a job, you should feel very fortunate. I would imagine that if you were invited it is because you are trustworthy. It is with these first job experiences, that you will get the best pay which is the experience itself.
- Create a LinkedIn profile at once. Yes, Linked In is, for me and other recruiters from different countries, the new resume. They even made it easy for us, why wrack our brains thinking about what design to use for our resumes when for years there has been a platform that does that for us? All you have to do is add your experience and that's it. It takes about 20 minutes to make your LinkedIn profile, but the truth is that they are well spent. Update it from time to time, use a friendly photo on it, add each project you participate on, as well as the technologies you use, tell your teachers that you already use LinkedIn and that you would like to add them for future recommendations / collaborations. Connect with people that you consider to be leaders in the industry but do it wisely: for example, put a short note when requesting to connect with someone, let them know why you want to have them in your network. Please don't let that note be a "I'm looking for a job", you’d be better served to tell them what you can do. Learn to sell yourself. If when you graduate you already have your LinkedIn profile set up well with connections from your industry, you could get the job you want. One more time: you increase your chances if you speak English.
- Hold on a second, the real knowledge of programmers is found on Github. You do not need to be an expert in programming to be on Github, on the contrary, there you will learn code and best practices from other programmers with more experience than you. So put together your profile on this platform at once and collaborate on the projects that you find interesting. Create your own repositories. Not sure what Git is? It is a version control management system, like Mercurial, Subversion, etc. but unlike the others, it models the data as a set of instances of a mini file system. Some industry leaders I know think that if a programmer doesn't know how to use Git, they are not up to date or have no initiative to learn. And so you ask yourself “what am I doing studying technology if I am not taught about and up to date on tools I will need to use in a future job?”.
- And speaking of cool technologies, try Linux. Getting involved in open source will give you a broader perspective of the software development industry, since according to statistics, 86% of the servers in the world run Linux. And most importantly, Linux opens your mind to a freer way of working with operating systems.
- Make a list of the IT companies you would like to work for and research what technologies they use (as well as which developers work there). If you do not know anything about the tools that are used, do not worry, if you really want to be part of that team it is better that you start learning and using them. At the end of this list you will have a list of topics to study. Remember to research the technologies used at your favorite companies at least once every six months, the languages and frameworks that are used today in development projects will most likely have changed or been updated in the following year.
- Get yourself a mentor. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to have access to someone who has taken a similar path to the one you would like to travel? A mentor is a guide, a person who will share their story with you so that you use what you consider positive and apply it to your own story. I see them as a person who will help focus your path in directions that, based on their experience, they consider the most appropriate for your professional development. Usually a mentor is someone who inspires you. And where can you find people to draw inspiration from? Check out the next and last tip.
- The most valuable piece of advice I can share is: join a community of programmers in your area. If there isn't one yet, what are you waiting for to start it? Two things are required to start a community: willingness to share your knowledge with #LaBanda, and willingness to invest your time. If because of school and work, you cannot volunteer and be an active part of a community, at least attend the monthly events that local communities organize. Most of these events are hosted by the same IT companies in your region and are promoted through meetup.com, so join now! Attending these meetups give you knowledge directly from the speakers, who often reside in the city; and it will test your social skills in an informal and relaxed environment. It's like presenting your resume but live and without filters.
In conclusion, I dare say that the so-called "social skills" are something that companies pay a lot of attention to. From joining a development project among your friends, or joining the community of devs in your area, to creating your profile on LinkedIn or Github, all these tasks have a social base; the difference is that one is live and the other online.
It is in fact one of the coolest characteristics of us living beings: our ability to relate and in the best of cases, understand each other. Companies are looking for human beings not androids. If I have realized something in the time that I have been recruiting software engineers, it is that my client (the company) is always going to select the candidate who, even if they lack knowledge or practice on some development technology, knows how to communicate a recommendation , warning, complaint or positive comment they have about any job situation. We live during times when free technologies push us to not only be good at what we do but also at how we sell ourselves to others.
Hugo Hernández is a Recruiter for the IT industry, and is better known as Don Chambitas (@donchambitas).