Many entry level web developer roles ask candidates for 2-3 years of experience, which makes no sense! How are you meant to enter the workforce if you first need years of experience? It's a total paradox. A chicken or egg dilemma!
Here is why employers ask for experience and how to sidestep that requirement and land your first web developer job.
Why entry level jobs aren't entry level anymore
We must first understand it from the employer's perspective. Why are they advertising supposedly entry level roles that require so much experience?
It usually comes down to three things:
- Years of experience is a convenient measure of ability. Filtering candidates by years of experience will conveniently exclude obviously unqualified candidates even though it means missing out on promising up-and-comers without experience yet
- Experience inflation. Once upon a time a pint of milk cost 10 pence. Once upon a time entry level jobs required 0 years of experience. As the job market becomes more competitive, the minimum years of experience needed to be competitive increases
- People with experience might be easier to work with
Let's break it down ️️⬇️
Years of experience a convenient measure of ability
Convenient yet imperfect - candidate filtering is a convenient method employers use to filter out and identify top candidates for a role.
Employers sometimes assume that one's skill level increases along with their experience. Thus, more experience equals more skill. As an unfortunate consequence, many talented developers lose the chance at a job to someone with professional work experience.
As the barrier to learning web development lowers and more developers enter the job market year over year, the minimum years of experience required to be competitive gradually increases.
Just as rent, gas, and grocery prices rise in unison, companies also raise the level of experience required for employment. The current average is two to three years of experience for an entry level junior web developer role.
There is a potential dark side to this. Some employers hope to pay an entry level salary for a developer who is actually quite experienced. Meanwhile, they block new candidates from entering the job market. Luckily, this only accounts for a small percentage of employers!
People with experience might be easier to work with
It's very costly for a company to hire the wrong person:
- ❌ It could affect team morale and productivity
- ❌ A company can fall behind on its targets
- ❌ You have to start the hiring process all over again
If a candidate already has some professional experience, that can increase the employer's confidence that they can work in a team.
Now you understand the root cause, you can try to reassure the employer you are a great bet in a different way. Let's look into that.
How do I get my first developer job without experience? 🤔
Experience is an imperfect measure of ability and companies are generally sympathetic to understand this. If you can somehow stand out they will consider you for the role.
💡 Top tip: Remember - unless explicitly stated the experience does not necessarily have to be profesional experience!
Here are our top 3 suggestions to demonstrate your ability:
- Have a solid developer portfolio
- Contribute to open source projects
- Freelance work
Let's break it down ⬇️
Have a solid developer portfolio ✅
What is a web developer portfolio?
A portfolio is a website that showcases your coding projects. In addition to your projects, you can include a bio, contact information, and link to other resources such as your LinkedIn, Twitter, GitHub, and blog.
Creating a strong web developer portfolio will set you apart from others and grab the attention of recruiters and employers.
If you are wondering what sections to include in your portfolio, here are the 4 most important:
- Hero section with a short summary that captures your value. The hero section is where you introduce yourself and is the first page of your website. Be sure to describe yourself clearly, and show enthusiasm, commitment, and some personality. Although it is not mandated, you may consider providing a picture of yourself. You could pick one image of yourself and use it across multiple platforms for recognizability.
- List of projects (it's a project portfolio after all!) Create a dedicated section on your website to list your projects. For each of your projects, list all the technologies used for each project and provide a brief description. Also, provide links to the live project and the code repo for each project. You may even consider adding dedicated web pages on your portfolio website for each project to elaborate on them further.
- About page. The about section is where you let everyone know your mindset, where you currently are, and what your aspirations are. If you have significant achievements, such as developer certifications, have spoken at conferences, were featured in articles or other media, or have a college degree, this is the section to highlight them
- An easy way to contact you. Make sure to include contact information for viewers of your portfolio website. Consider providing a contact form for them to fill out or, at the very least, display an e-mail address. You may also want to include links to your LinkedIn, Twitter, GitHub, or other sites you may be active.
💡 Top tip : To further stand out from the crowd, purchase a custom domain for your portfolio website!
Contribute to open source projects ✅
Contributing to open-source projects is an excellent way to gain relevant experience.
While contributing to open-source projects, you will learn the following:
- How to work with version control, which is essential for web developers
- Work in a team environment
- You will also gain plenty of the highly desired green contribution squares 🟩🟩🟩, which proves you are an active coder!
Not only does a healthy GitHub contribution chart shows others you are active, but your repositories also provide viewable source code for potential employers to evaluate.
Freelance work ✅
Freelancing is another viable alternative to professional work experience. When starting freelancing, your goal is to get great reviews.
An excellent strategy to start freelancing is offering your services for free or at a low cost. Remember, gaining reviews and experience is much more valuable than anything you may charge at this point in your career.
In addition to adding reviews that you receive to your chosen freelancing platform, asking your clients to write LinkedIn recommendations will significantly benefit your experience growth.
With several freelance projects completed and their reviews and recommendations, you will have viable professional work experience and testimonials to back them up! 👍
Create an online presence
Now that we covered viable alternatives for professional work experience, for your best chance of landing your first job in tech, let's make sure you stand out from the rest by showing them your potential
Having an online presence will not only set you apart from the rest, but it can also open up many employment opportunities for you (I'm talking from personal experience 😉). With that said, let us look at how you can build yours!
The best way to show others your potential is to learn in public consistently.
Learning in public can be as simple as tweeting a short message about something you just learned, or it can be as complicated as creating an instructional YouTube tutorial. The key to success is choosing a schedule you can commit to, whether once a day, a week, or a month.🔑
Creating an online presence by:
- Tweeting & posting
Tweeting & posting
You can show your commitment and your work by tweeting regularly. To help you stay on track and reach a broader audience to support your efforts, you can use the #100daysofcode hashtag.
Posting on LinkedIn is another excellent way to show your work and dedication. It creates a trail of your accomplishments for others to view and follow.
If you made it this far through this article, you should consider writing articles yourself! Writing articles documenting what you are learning will help you enforce what you are learning, help others who are learning about the same topics, and provide proof of your passion to employers, all while building your online presence! 🥳
Employers require 2 to 3 years of work experience for entry-level developer jobs to filter out the top candidates who are readily capable of the tasks and can get up to speed quickly with the team.
As a viable alternative to professional work experience, you can prove your capabilities to employers by having a solid web developer portfolio, working on open-source projects, freelancing, and showing your potential through blogging, YouTube, and learning in public.
Once you have acquired these equivalent skills, be encouraged to know that you have what you need to fulfill the 2-3 years of experience required for entry-level developer jobs to land your first job in tech!