Software development has been the most in-demand job in the country for three years running — yet many coders struggle to break into the industry. Here are eight mistakes that are keeping you from landing your dream coding job.
Landing Your Dream Coding Job
I hear the same complaint come up again and again.
“I’ve applied to hundreds of positions, and I haven’t gotten one interview!”
“Do people even hire software developers anymore? They only want web developers.”
“I’m a great coder, but no one will hire me, because I don’t have experience.”
Does any of this sound like you? If so, there’s a good chance one of these eight mistakes is keeping you from landing your dream coding job.
#1: You Learned the Wrong Stack
A top mistake coders make is learning the wrong coding language stack.
The .NET stack allows you to design web applications, which is the most in-demand position in America, and it’s the number one choice for almost every business with a web development shop.
With its popularity and practical applications, .NET is the first stack you should learn if you want a career in this industry.
#2: You Didn’t Learn Practical Coding Skills in School
A lack of practical skills is a huge problem preventing many coders from being hired.
Employers want coders who can solve real business problems. Unfortunately, many universities focus on theories, not practical skills.
Many universities fall into the trap of teaching a little bit of everything. There’s a class on C#, one on HTML, one on databases, and so on. All these classes are interesting and informative, but the skills are never brought together and connected to full-stack coding projects.
If you didn’t learn practical coding skills in school, you need to develop them on your own.
#3: You Have a Weak (or No) Portfolio
Especially if you’re a new coder, without experience, having a weak portfolio or no portfolio at all is a major mistake.
Without a portfolio, you have no proof that you’re as good at coding as you claim to be, which immediately puts you at a disadvantage. With a portfolio, you can show employers just what you’re capable of.
For your portfolio to be effective, it must include projects that demonstrate skills a business would need. Useless, silly programs can be fun to code, but for your portfolio, focus on projects that show off useful, real-world skills.
#4: You Struggle in Interviews
Many skilled coders struggle to get hired simply because they’re not good at interviewing.
One of the problems is that interviewers often play a “code trivia” game, quizzing you on obscure code lingo and knowledge. If you suffer a brain blank and flub even one question, you can be taken out of the running.
Instead of playing this game, take control of the interview by shifting the focus to your portfolio.
Talking about your portfolio demonstrates you have the necessary coding skills and knowledge, making the “code trivia” questions less important.
#5: You Don’t Have a Recruiter
Not having a recruiter is a mistake that puts you at a significant disadvantage.
In most cases, by the time you apply for a position online, a recruiter has already submitted ten qualified candidates. This is part of the reason you could apply to hundreds, even thousands of positions and never receive a reply back—it’s because a recruiter already filled the position!
The simple truth is, if you want a job, you need a recruiter. Without one, you may never even get in the door for an interview. That’s just how it works.
#6: You’re Too Picky About Your First Job
Many coders’ careers are derailed because they’re too picky about their first job. For instance, many coders don’t want to work in web development, but this is the most in-demand position.
If you turn down your first job offer, there’s no guarantee you’ll get another one, and your coding skills can quickly grow rusty and out-of-date, making you unhirable.
To get your dream job, you first need to build experience. So when you receive your first job offer, take it. You may need to start in web development, but once you gain some experience, you can get a different job.
#7: You Need to Work on Communication
Poor communication can hold you back from your dream career.
To improve your communication, engage in conversations with a desire to be helpful. When your boss needs to know the timeline of your project, give her your best estimate. When asked about your code, explain how it works and how you arrived at your decisions.
Also, try to make your work seem less mysterious to those without a technology background. Avoid technical terms and acronyms, and compare your work to something others find more relatable.
When you can code and communicate well, you become a rock star coder.
#8: You Need to Specialize
To get your first job, you just need to know the most popular coding languages, but if you don’t eventually specialize, you’ll never advance to your dream job.
Web development jobs—the most common coding jobs—most often focus on the .NET stack. However, apps, games, AI, and phone operating systems usually work with different, more specialized languages. If you want to compete for these high-demand jobs, you need to learn the relevant coding languages.
Look up job postings for your dream job to identify the languages you need to learn, and then start studying in your free time.