I've been working as a Junior Front End Developer for nearly four months now. So I thought I'd talk about my experience of getting a job, as it's different to the "I got a job earning $100k after 3 months" it seems like I see a lot.
32 months: The time between me starting to learn to code and getting a job offer. Although this is a misleading number because I knew the basics already, it was a case of updating my knowledge and learning new things on top of that.
23 months: The actual amount of time I spent learning to code. Early on I had a lot of gaps and didn't really make it an almost daily habit until February 2020.
42: How many places I applied to. It doesn't sound a lot, but I was picky who I applied to, particularly when it came to the length of my commute.
6: The number of places I interviewed with. Not the same as the number of interviews I had as some of them had multiple stages.
5: The number of months between applying for my first and last jobs.
2: The number of technical tests I did.
1: The number of job offers I got.
1: The number of jobs I wanted by the time I finished the interview(s).
What I did
I read a lot of advice that said to start applying before you feel ready. Which I did. I started learning React in February last year and started applying in March. By the time I got a job I still didn't feel ready and was thinking about all the things I hadn't had time to learn yet.
I also saw a lot of advice about networking. And advice about what sort of things are good to have in your portfolio. I realised that my list of things to do were:
- my actual job, which took up most of the day on weekdays and some of the evenings and some of the day some weekends
- learning things/making things to put in my portfolio
- applying for jobs/updating CV, cover letters, LinkedIn etc
- looking for jobs and researching ones I've found
- interviewing and more research on those jobs
I looked at the list and realised I did not have time to do all those things. Since networking was the thing that would take the most time to pay off, I focussed on getting a job the old-fashioned way. Which worked out for me.
The tech tests
There's a lot of stuff out there about technical tests. None of which I really experienced.
I did two in total. One was on paper - although since it was virtual it was in PDF. It was asking questions about code and asking you to write bits of code. Fortunately, I have a PDF program on my computer that lets me add text, and other things, to PDFs. It was timed - I had to email my saved copy by a certain time. I spent some of that time working out how to use the program because it had changed since I last wrote text in it. I found, for example, that I couldn't edit anything. I had to copy it and paste it in another program, edit it there and paste the whole thing back in. So that added an extra level of complexity. But they were happy with what I did.
The other was a take-home test. I had a brief and I had to write a program. Although I had about five days to do it in, three of them were when things were particularly busy at work. So I effectively just had a weekend to do it in. They seemed happy with it and it was a good chance to see what sort of the thing the work involved.
I'm not earning $100k. There were no jobs that offered that amount! Most junior jobs offered similar amounts, so it was clear what sort of pay I'd get in this area. And anyway, I didn't make this career change for the money. I mean, money is nice, but I had plenty in my last job and I wasn't happy. I'd far rather have a job I like and earn less. Well, I'd rather have a job I like and earn a ton, but given a choice between job I like and money, I'll take the job I like. As long as I can afford to live on the money. Which I can - I had to look at the amount I spent and work out what my minimum was. Then I didn't apply to any jobs who specified a range that was below that. Job I like but worrying about being able to pay the bills isn't really an improvement.
I know in comparison to a lot of people this is pretty quick and easy - but it didn't feel it at the time. It's only looking back that I realised my whole job hunting experience was actually pretty good.