Software developer jobs are quickly on the rise and we all want to know how to land a job that pays $93,350 a year on average1. The good news is that whether you are an aspiring or self-taught software developer, a recent college graduate, or looking to switch careers, there is enough room for everyone. Here are two quick steps you can take to not only get your foot in the door but also position yourself as a competitive candidate:
Step 1. Work backwards: Target job first
With the abundance of online courses, the toughest call is often in making the right choices that will lead to the dream career. What courses do I take and in what order? When the eye is on the prize – the job – working backwards from available positions to interview preparation to demonstrating and mastering skills can help chart a path. Identifying a reliable source of information and learning that is approved by industry experts would be the ideal way to build towards your desired job. Who can better prepare you for the job than employers themselves? Produced in collaboration with AT&T, Udacity’s industry recognized nanodegrees explore job requirements with hiring managers first, and then guides candidates through the creation of projects. Current nanodegree offerings include front-end web development with more to come.
Step 2. Create a portfolio: Tell your story
“Building a portfolio allowed me to tell stories about how I applied my learning, the experiences I gained, and how I brought an idea to life. I didn’t just list off a series of courses I took during my interviews,” remarks Caroline Sun, an associate business analyst in the IT department at Oliver Wyman. The projects Caroline built during an internship and in her computer science classes provided examples to draw upon when answering behavioral questions during an interview. If you have created a project or are simply working on one now, show it off on Github or add it to the Projects section of your LinkedIn profile.
Equipped with these two guiding principles in your job search toolkit, you can now tackle the challenges that lie ahead for a software developer trying to land a job:
Recent vs. Experienced college graduates
In my years of experience as a career counselor, I have often heard recent college graduates’ woes of not being able to compete against experienced candidates. While unemployment rate for recent computer science college graduates does indeed drop from 8.7% to 4.7% in experienced graduates2, the differentiation lies in more than just years of work experience. You can demonstrate to potential employers that you can do the job. By creating a portfolio of projects that showcase your skills, you can move from recent graduate to the experienced category, improving your chances of landing a job.
Lack of confidence: The impostor syndrome
Without a vetted process to learning, the self-taught software developers often experience the impostor syndrome and are hesitant to acknowledge their skills. A validated source like the nanodegree and formal approach helps provide guidance as well as builds confidence in your learning while providing trust in the material.
While you stay on target to gain necessary skills and demonstrate what you can do, the job outlook for software developers remains very promising. Opportunities in the computer systems design and related services industry are projected to keep increasing at 4% annually compared to 1% for all other industries3. A strong commitment to learning, and a guided path to mastering the necessary skills are what you need to present to potential employers that you can and will do the job.
Salwa Nur Muhammad is the Student Services Manager at Udacity. She works on a team to provide quality coaching support for Udacity students taking online courses and prepares them to enter the workforce in the technology industry. Previously, as a Program Director at the Center for Work and Service at Wellesley College, she provided career counseling to students and recent graduates. Salwa received a master’s degree in Technology, Innovation and Education from Harvard University.