Getting your first software job is hard

137 applications. 75 days. 12 interviews. And I finally got an offer last week.

This sounds like a lot (and it is), but it shouldn’t be surprising. It usually takes a lot to get your first gig in a new industry. (Six months ago I worked in marketing. Now I’m a software nerd, with the help of General Assembly.)

Last week, an experienced developer told me when his company posts an entry-level position, they get 100+ applications. When they post a senior position, they might get 10. The job I accepted was the 93rd application I sent, so my own datum fits right into his model.

Software is a small door, but a big room. It’s hard to get in. But once you’re in, you’re in pretty good shape (if you don’t stop learning).

I had an interview on Thursday, received an offer on Tuesday, accepted it on Wednesday, and started on Monday. The starting date was quick (for company-specific reasons) which gave me less than a day to accept the offer. The speed of this interview process was the exception, not the rule.

Most of my other interviews took weeks or even months, and most only expired because I took the offer I had in hand while the others were still deliberating. “A bird in hand is worth two in the bush” was an apt truism in my life. I interviewed with several companies that I’m sure I would’ve enjoyed working at, but I’m glad I’ve got what I have now.

My job hunt now was much more focused and measurable than my previous effort at the end of college. This time, I had a spreadsheet of where I was applying and the positions I was targeting. I had an experienced career coach giving me feedback on my resume and portfolio, and providing a framework for the job hunt. Everyone should hire a career coach. I didn’t know how valuable it was until I had one.

For my friends currently on the hunt for work: it’s not easy.

  • Applying for jobs is your full-time job
  • Expect more rejections than interviews
  • Rejection sucks, but it will only bother you as much as you allow
  • Always ask for feedback
  • Don’t blindly accept every piece of feedback you get—look for patterns
  • Relationships > job boards
  • Respond quickly when someone sends you a message

And years from now when you’re a big-shot senior engineer, don’t forget the struggle to get started.

developer, writer, marketer, optimist

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