A beginner’s guide to entering the technical world.
There are various ways to do so, which can be split into 2 major categories.
The voluminosity of beginners entering the tech space to make an identity is not hidden from anyone. And when this number is going up as the days pass by, it often seems exhausting to weigh out the options in front of us and decide which one best suits our aims and goals.
Moreover, the frustration is only enhanced when there are so many resources out there promising to get you a job or a project, just to lure you into competing with 400 other people for a single opening.
But let me point out, I’m not against these sites. And that’s because if a person knows what he is doing, he is very likely to end up among the top few from the 400 people for that particular job. But again, the question is: What does he need to know?
Such questions are important for anyone trying to solidify their presence in the industry, whether it be a budding entrepreneur or a job aspirant because none of them have the option of ignoring the aspect of real-world experience.
I was in a similar place some time ago, pondering over the same questions. But luckily, I got pointed in the right direction by pure luck, while having no idea about it. And the answers to these questions are what this article is aimed at.
Before we start, let me point out that it is not necessary that every person will face every one of these problems. You might face only one, two or all three too, there’s no rule. That being said, let’s get to the things you need to know. The way we will approach this is by listing out the issues one by one, along with their solutions.
This, of course, is the most obvious and common hurdle one could face. So much so that even the beginning of the article talks about this problem itself. In today’s date, no matter what level you are on, you are bound to find thousands more by your side having the same goals as you and fighting you to reach them.
But the thing that needs to be understood here is that one cannot avoid competition. He can only conquer it. And how do you do that? There are various ways to do so, which can be split into 2 major categories.
- Gaining experience: I know this seems vague. Here we are, trying to counter the hurdles to getting experience by getting experience. But the catch here is that there are various ways to do so. It is not always necessary to start with an internship or a job with some employer, especially in tech. There can be other ways in which you can gain real-world experience, while also working according to your will. Two major ways that lie in this category are open-source and self-made projects. I cannot emphasise enough on the power of these two, the value they add to your resume and the knowledge you will gain by indulging in them. The biggest reason behind their effectiveness is the fact that they are full real-world projects which nobody can stop you from doing. You would be gaining the kind of experience the industry needs without actually being there. So what are they? A self-made project is something that does not need any explanation; you can go online (or use your own innovation) to decide on a topic, and simply work on it by yourself. Starting with open source is equally easy, but due to the specificity of the term to tech, it is often seen as something scary by beginners. That requires a lot of explanation, and instead of writing all of it here, I would suggest you check out this article which covers everything about open source in detail:
2. Having discussed that, let’s move on to the second method of countering competition and getting a project: Use your professional network. This seems pretty obvious, but still extremely underrated. Probably the best way to land an internship is to use your contacts, or simply keep a look around you and keep track of what the people there are doing. In 10/10 cases, someone around you already has a necessity that you can fulfil. If you are active enough to find that, you’re good to go.
But what if there’s not? What if you are in a position where for some reason nobody around you needs your help? The simple solution to that is to expand your network. You could do that by connecting with like-minded people through Facebook groups or over LinkedIn — and being active there.
Or you could take the non-digital route and meet people offline. That has become extremely easy today due to the invention of concepts like meetups.
To say that indulging in popular meetups around you, or hosting your own, is one of the best decisions to take is an understatement. Why? Because such events are often attended by people in high positions too, and there is a great chance someone will recognise your skills and find you suitable for a project or an opening.
Fact: Contacts through some medium is actually the way I found my first internship, and it has been a breeze ever since.
Now, let’s move on to the next hurdle you might face.
Inability to find a suitable position
This problem might not be as common as the one mentioned above, but is still common enough to be listed here. What I aim to imply from this point is that often people are unable to find jobs suitable to their level, and are hence stuck in a place where the experienced people are advancing but the beginners are stagnant.
However, the good thing about this hurdle is that it is much easier to conquer than the other ones we are going to see. To see how, let’s list out the various reasons this might happen, along with the ways to get out of them.
- Insufficient knowledge: This can be a huge setback for any person trying to get started. And by knowledge, I do not wish to imply knowledge about the field you are in. I am referring to the knowledge of the places where you can look for opportunities. The previous point, about countering competition through personal networks seems extremely obvious but is still ignored by a large number of people. Apart from that, even if you want to take the conventional methods of sending out 100 resumes and getting selected in some of them, not knowing about places where you can actually find the listings is a big issue. My suggestion would be to look at people around you and see how they got their first project. Or, if that is not possible due to some reason, then you should first focus on finding answers on sites like Quora and Medium, and then proceed to the step of applying.
Suggestions: Internshala, Upwork, LinkedIn.
2. Too many resources: This is the exact reverse of subpoint 1. Often, when looking for resources, one might get exposed to too many of them. Now, this would normally be a good development, but the mistake here is spreading the attention to a lot of places, while not giving enough focus to any. I have found appropriate postings on the second or third pages of websites, which I got selected in and got to learn a lot. Hence, if you master the art of choosing the best resources for your need, you are already miles ahead of everyone else.
3. Exaggerated demands by the employer: This cause differs from the other two, because here the person has apt knowledge about the places where he should focus his attention to, and is browsing the sites in an extremely appropriate manner.
However, employers usually have the habit of exaggerating their demands, in terms of years of experience or number of projects while posting a job or an internship. And while they do this to get better developers into their company, this actually increases the chance of a fully competent and suited aspirant not applying for the posting.
The simplest solution to this can be to apply whatever you feel you are fit for and can fulfil, even if the statistics tell you that you cannot (However, make sure to describe in detail in your cover letter why you think you can do it, even when you don’t meet the statistical requirements).
This way, if your arguments are valid enough and your knowledge seems apt, there is a chance that the employer might consider lowering the bar for you. And don’t be afraid of rejection. After all, you only need one of those 10 jobs you applied for.
Great. That being said, let’s now move to the next and final hurdle in the process.
This is actually an issue which almost every beginner has, without even knowing its name. And while it does play some part before getting into the job, it continues to play a major role after him getting it. In easy terms, this can be described as the habit of believing that you do not know as much as the employer needs, even when you exactly match his requirements.
Why would you think that? Most of the times the reason is that the person tends to think that he isn’t what his resume says he is. Maybe everything he has achieved till now, some award, or passing a course, all of it was just luck, and when he/she gets into the job, they will be unable to stand up to the expectations put up for them.
Hence, this can be seen as a fancy name for doubting yourself and your capabilities. It could stop you from applying to even those jobs that match your level, hence narrowing down your opportunities further.
Now let’s get to the solution. That’s where the problem is. This is an issue that I cannot help you solve. Only YOU are the one who can work on this and get away from this. However, I would like to quote something I read a few days back
You are only an imposter until you think like one.
This line is actually the whole key to getting out of this syndrome. The thing which helped me get out of this trap was the realisation that I have been interviewed and selected after rigorous procedures for this job. The employer already knows what I am capable of doing. And while I need to push myself as much as I can, it is not my fault if he wishes to get unrealistic things done in terms of time or maybe code targets.
Moreover, if we look at this from the programming perspective, if there is one thing I can tell you from my limited experience in the field, it is that nobody knows as much as you think they do.
Every developer in this world is referring to Google every 5 minutes at the most. Hence, if you have been able to pass the procedures for entering the job, you have already proved your worth and all you need to do is give your best, and you will not be disappointed.
An extra tip
Having finished all the points that were there to discuss, I would now like to talk about an optional but one of the most important steps of the process: building a LinkedIn profile. Until you are an extremely seasoned developer with years of experience and a loaded resume, a well made LinkedIn profile is the thing that will be introducing you to the industry.
And due to this fact, investing your time in building one can work wonders. And while it might seem that it is impossible to make your profile stand out without having some experiences in it, that is not the case.
This is where the open-source and the self-made projects come on it. Be sure to put them up there, along with an impressive description of what they are. Also, adding recommendations from people you met through open-source can add a lot of legitimacy to your profile.
My Perspective on the ideal steps to start
So, after looking at all these solutions and the various points listed out inside them, I will try to make a list of steps that could be considered ideal by a lot of people.
- First, of course, is to learn the skill to a level where you can at least work on the most basic project your field has (for instance, a blogging site is the best way to get started in the website development domain). We haven’t focused on the learning part a lot in this article, but that is equally important.
- The next is the step which a lot of us might already be doing: register yourself on job finding sites and start applying. The takeaway from this article for this point? Don’t restrict yourself to online modes. Keep an eye around for requirements around you that you might want to work on and actively indulge in discussions around you.
- This point needs to be done alongside the second one and can help speed up the process to a large extent: working on open source and self-made projects. Although this is not compulsory, it is definitely essential. Not focusing on this enough can be a big setback for the person.
Excellent. I believe I have listed out everything there was to say in this matter as far as my knowledge goes. I know a lot of this feels like it will not work, but the facts I have written are not just from my experience, but from the experiences of a lot of people combined, including my friends. I hope you will get some good takeaways from this article and will soon find what you are looking for. Signing off.