How to Get a Programming Job With No Experience
Believe it or not, you don't need a professional degree or multiple online courses to get a programming job with no experience.
The reality is I wouldn't recommend either a degree or online course based on my experiences. They are usually very expensive and teach out of date practices that could easily be learned from a free online source.
So you might ask, how is it possible to get a computer programming job with no experience? The key is to re-think what is meant by experience. You do not need work experience with previous companies to get hired, but you might need programming experience along with social proof.
The good news is you can build up programming experience from the comfort of your own bedroom. Let's dive in and look at how to get a job in programming with no experience.
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Firstly, let's look at the hiring process
I have been lucky enough during my career in programming to be on both sides of the table, hiring and being hired. Do you know what my biggest fear was when hiring for an entry level coding job? Hiring someone who didn't know how to code (even though they said they did).
Hiring someone who doesn't have much programming and development experience can be a disaster. For example, if a new hire messes up a coding project it can cost the company more than the salary of this employee to fix the damage.
This is why companies are paranoid about hiring inexperienced programmers. I have been in hiring positions where I would have a bunch of portfolios from programmers with degrees, course qualifications, etc. These developers would be looking for a junior web developer salary. I would ask them one simple programming question and watch as they struggled to answer.
Sometimes I would ask them to have a go at fixing an outstanding issue, and let me know what they thought the problem was. They would have hundreds of excuses as to why they couldn't do it.
These were programmers with amazing resumes, made it to the interview process, and trying to fluff their way into a job.
So why do I bring this up? I wanted to use my hiring experience to raise two points.
- Companies are paranoid about hiring inexperienced programmers.
- Degrees and courses do not make you a good programmer, actual development experience does.
So how do you get real-world development experience from your bedroom or home office that allows you to get hired for entry level programming jobs? Here's how:
(1). Create an amazing portfolio website
The first and more important step when considering how to get a programming job with no experience is to create an amazing portfolio website.
Social proof is very important in the hiring process and alongside references, recommendations, and examples of work, you need a portfolio website. Crafting a website that shows your abilities will help you infinitely when looking to earn a junior web developer salary.
In my experience it helps to keep your portfolio website short and sweet, showcasing only your best projects. As a new programmer, you will not have a lot of work to show, so use what you have and spend time explaining exactly how and what you did. When applying for entry level programming jobs you can then send this portfolio website as part of your application. You can be sure that 90% of applicants won't have gone to the same effort.
A critical part of your portfolio website is making sure it loads fast and is never down. Portfolio websites tend to be image-heavy and this can make them very slow, this would be a big turn off for someone looking at it when considering to hire you. If they also go to view your portfolio website for a part time programming job and it's down or not working, again this will move you straight to the bottom of the list.
(2). Start by contributing to open source (and also network)
This is something you can start doing right now. Head over to GitHub and find a project that is open source, and start contributing to it.
On GitHub you will find open source projects of varying complexities, so pick a few that are in line with your current abilities.
The key to getting programming jobs from home is proving to prospective employers that you have the experience they want. The best way to do this is to demonstrate it on a public project for all to see.
Even better, once you get into the GitHub flow, start contributing to projects that might have the highest leverage with your job search.
- Does this project have anyone from the companies you would like to work at contributing to it? They might see your work and recommend you.
- Is the open source project one managed by potential companies you would like to work for?
If you contribute and get to know these people, they can not only get you introductions but also personally recommend you.
So to do that, find some people on GitHub that work at the companies you would like to get hired by. Then prove to them you have the experience they need for any potential entry level programming jobs.
(3). Build your own projects
I used this method to not only get hired early in my career but also to get clients as a freelancer. If you have the time, building your own software is the best form of social proof.
This will require more work, effort, and planning though. If you build something that nobody notices or cares about, it won't help your chances of getting an entry level coding job. Just because you have a project online, or some code on GitHub doesn't mean that an employer is going to come across it.
If however, you manage to build something that people actively use, then you will put yourself in a great hiring position. The key is to build something that fills a gap in the market. I would recommend building something that other developers want and need. Think of APIs, libraries, development tools, or services. At the end of the day you want to impress other developers so they recommend you, so you should build something that will get you noticed by them. This is one of the best ways when considering how to get a programming job with no experience.
(4). Blog about programming
Want to get noticed as a developer? One option is to start a programming blog. As you use the methods above, contributing to open source and building your own projects, why not blog about the process of doing so. You could also throw in some tips and tricks you have learned, or dive into a new framework you are studying.
The idea is to get your name out there as an authoritative person in the programming world.
Just like building your own software, this is method takes a while. If I put myself in the hiring shoes again and you came along to an interview with no experience but a small-time blog, I would quickly send you packing.
But if you share your experiences in posts and start to gain a notable following, not only will you start to network with developers who can put in recommendations for you, but also make your "big time" blog open more doors when looking for entry level computer science jobs no experience.
(5). Apply for a "programming-adjacent" gig
If you are looking for a method that could immediately help you get entry level programming jobs then you should get yourself a non-developer related gig that will help you transition into programming.
Here are a few kinds of jobs that might help you transition to entry level programming:
- Tech support
- Software tester
- Junior project manager
- Data entry
- Software documentation writer
These are only a few that fit the "programming-adjacent" bill. In the software world, you will find thousands of job roles that could allow you to transition to entry level computer programming jobs.
Expand your search for potential jobs that include positions that let you get noticed as a programmer.
(6). Invest in an online course
As I have mentioned, if you are wondering how to get a programming job with no experience I don't recommend many courses available online. That being said, if you don't have the time for any of the methods above you can always take an intensive training program.
Although you will learn some coding skills, the main reason for taking these is to get validation in the form of a certificate you can add to your resume. If you just need training without a certificate you can find amazing courses on YouTube for free.
Make sure to pick a course in the same tech stack as any of the entry level programming jobs you will be applying for. That way at least you will be learning and broadening your skills while doing the course.
Once completed you will have a tangible certificate that will help when it comes to getting hired for entry level coding jobs. A lot of these courses can be done online helping you get programming jobs from home.
Focus on relationships, not qualifications
Getting a programming job without a degree or qualifications is not easy because companies are scared to hire someone with no experience for entry level programming jobs. The main aim then is to make yourself seem more experienced and knowledgeable when it comes to programming.
I have mentioned a few tactics here, but the main thing to focus on is relationships. Yes, you may be able to program but many companies won't just take your word for it. A degree, certificates, or qualifications can help stand-in for that proof, along with a blog for social proof, but at this stage, you might have neither. Therefore the best way to spend your time is to build relationships with fellow developers who will vouch for you in the form of recommendations or referrals. This is the best way when considering how to get a programming job with no experience.
The sooner you start the process of building those relationships, the sooner you will be able to earn a junior web developer salary.
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