When to Start Applying for Jobs As a Self-Taught Programmer

In today’s article I’m going to answer the question, how do I know when I’m ready to start applying for jobs when you’re going the self-taught route.

I get asked this question so much and as they say if I had a nickel for every time somebody would ask me that question, I would have a very fat savings account.

But unfortunately, I don’t!

I’d love to answer that question but before I do that let me address one of the main problems, I see out there for everyone who’s in this field.

Most people want to have everything to be a nice, neat black and white cut. The dry answer is that you want to know what’s the best programming language to learn.

You want to know what’s the best tutorial to learn a programming language. You want to know what’s the right time to apply for jobs.

It’s nice to think that there’s just like a clean-cut answer but the fact of the matter is that it’s not an exact science.

It’s really an art.

Getting a job is not that straight forward.

The only thing that you can actually do while trying to get a job is to increase every chance that you get for a job.

You want to make sure your social media, resume and cover letter are all on point. You want to get more casts as many nuts as possible.

Beyond that you have no control. There’s nothing you can do except to just increase the odds that something is going to happen.

When people are looking for cut and dry answers, I try to tell them there’s no 100 percent correct answer.

For example, if you want to know what’s the best framework to learn, it really depends on where you live.

Some people may say learn Angular or React but the fact is it depends on where you live. For instance, West Coast is all about React while where I live it tends to be more Angular.

Such questions depend on a lot of factors.

What you want to think about is something like, what can I do to increase my odds in this situation or when do I know if I’m ready to start applying.

The question I usually ask someone is like, how long have you been coding? How long have you been actively coding? How long have you been consistently coding?

Then I ask them, how long have you been seriously coding? Meaning not just playing around!

This is because there’s a lot of people who say they’ve been coding but they only tried really hard for two weeks and then took two weeks off because they got stuck with the application they were developing.

And they do it again and again. So, when they say a year that’s different from someone else who’s been hammering away hardcore for a year.

If you haven’t even hit the six-month threshold, I’d say you’re probably not ready although there are certainly people who have gotten a job within four months.

I’m not going to say that you’re not 100% ready but six months to me that’s like the minimum threshold.

If you’ve been killing it for six months and literally showing up every day, working your ass off trying to learn building applications and really studying your craft then it’s very possible you could be ready.

For a lot of people who are consistent but not hammering it out it’s probably going to be a lot longer, anywhere from nine to twelve months.

These are not hard fast rules but general rules of thumb that I’ve seen and there are tons of exceptions.

Most people who are on their own, doing self-study or they don’t have a ton of friends who are in the field to mentor them are typically going to wait a lot longer, usually one and a half to two times longer than they need to go out and get a job.

Why is this?

Well, because people who get into this field are typically over thinkers. They’re typically too smart for their own good as I hate to say.

I’m no exception to this by the way. I was lucky to have a mentor and by the end of my study year I asked him, how do I know if I’m ready?

And he said, let’s meet up and I’ll walk you through some coding exercises and I’ll ask you some coding interview questions.

After we did that, he was confident I was ready. I was completely shocked. I remember sitting there and I asked him, are you sure that I’m ready.

Like there’s no way!

I don’t know this; I don’t know that. I had this feeling I could barely do anything in JavaScript.

He said I was doing great and all I had to do is practice some white boarding challenges and white boarding problems and shore up my interview questions more.

And just go out there and apply for a job and continue to do all the things I need to do.

And I just blindly trusted in myself. My mentor has been in the field and he was so confident in me. I just followed what he said.

If he’s wrong, he’s wrong, so what!

So, I did it and I went out there and I did exactly what he said and it ended up working out for me.

He was 100% right.

If I’d have applied to Google I might not have made it because I wasn’t prepared for everything that was required to be a software developer at Google at that time but just to get hired as an entry-level developer at a small company I had everything it took.

There are more than just my technical capabilities that got me a job. For example, when I showed up, I was talking about my passions and my projects.

And they brought me in as a potential talent more than anything else.

So, keep that in mind. But for most people they’re going to wait a lot longer than they necessarily need to.

And that’s normal.

So, if you can basically put yourself out their way before you’re ready and in a lot of cases it’s not going to be harmful to go out there early but you don’t want to burn too many bridges as they say.

For example, if you’re going to reach out to recruiters which is unorthodox but I highly recommend at least from my perspective and you’re really not ready, and they happen to give you a shot but you bomb the interview, guess what, they’re not going to call you back.

They are not going to give you offers because the recruiters are interested in one thing and one thing only unfortunately.

It makes total sense from their perspective. They’re interested in placing you in a job but if you burn that bridge early on, you’re not going to be able to use that later on.

To me as far as just shooting out your resume to random places like Indeed, Monster and all big job board sites there’s no harm in that to a certain degree.

You can start doing that slowly. Get a few interviews, try it out and see if you can get any feedback about where your skills are.

That’s always a good way to do it when applying before you’re probably ready.

But those rules of thumb that I gave are a pretty good indicator. I would say it really depends on how hard you’re working at the end of the day.

Put in the work constantly, strive to be better, get mentors and try to meet with all the people who are just as passionate as you in this.

You’ve to be immersed in it that way when you step out there and you start applying for jobs, you feel that you deserve this.

If you’ve been messing around for a long time, of course you’re not going to feel like you deserve it since you haven’t really been stepping up to the challenge.

I know that I didn’t give you a direct answer but the fact is there’s no clear cut and dry answer to this.

I hope at least you get a little more clarity and understanding on how you can approach the subject when you’re making the decision to actually go out there and apply for jobs.


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