If you’re here, you want to land a technical role, but you’re not sure what to do next. Do you get a specific certification? What tools or software do you need to pick up? You want to know you can land an incredible job that pays well, allows you to learn, and stand among fellow techies. Yet, you’re uncertain right now and unsure if your technical skills are at the level companies want. The last thing you want is for a hiring manager to look at your resume and immediately toss it out. Even worse, he might laugh at how bad your technical skills are.
Right now you’re most likely dealing with impostor syndrome, uncertainty, and a bit of intimidation-that’s okay. The path to learning a technical skill is difficult and laborious. But it’ll be worth it. Here’s something else you need to know:
Your self-doubt and uncertainty aren’t “part of the journey”, they also convey you know you have more to learn, you’re humble, and you’re open to constructive criticism. Your self-doubt and uncertainty indicate forthcoming success.
Right now, your greatest obstacle is overcoming impostor syndrome. The rest of this article unpacks how to gain more experience, but those tips will sound like fluff if you aren’t able to effectively manage your self-doubt.
You’re hard work speaks for itself. You’ve mulled through and completed several programming courses, you’ve become a regular on Stack Overflow, and you’re genuinely interested in building a technical skill set. You are willing to do whatever it takes to land that technical role.
Here are two questions to ask yourself if you want to know you’re headed in the right direction:
Have you solved problems outside of your learning context? Can you communicate what you’re learning in the simplest of terms?
Results don’t lie. You’re on the right path if you’re producing results outside of a tutorial and you feel comfortable talking through your subject matter.
The First Job: Here’s How to Get There
You’ve put in the hard work and you’re ready to land your first technical job offer. The only foreseeable problem is that you have zero years of technical experience. Here are three practical ways to overcome the “0 years of experience” obstacle, garner interviews, and land your first technical job:
Create Your Own Role
I want you to think about all the hard work you’ve put in thus far. You’ve internalized syntax by completing courses, you’ve increased critical thinking and business acumen by solving real and interesting problems, and you can speak to a diverse number of stakeholders because you understand your subject matter. The hard work you’ve done up to this point has been a job, but no one has paid you for your work. But that’s about to change.
Find a Temporary Contract Role
Temporary contract roles are one of the most overlooked means of gaining experience. Many companies don’t have enough work or resources to hire a full-time software engineer, analyst, or data scientist so they look to hire a short-term contractor. I encourage you to use this to your advantage. Contract roles are perfect for people who want to gain experience because companies who hire for contract roles have very specific end goals in mind. As a result, you will work on very valuable and high-impact projects with clear deliverables. The best part? You also get paid.
If you’re interested in a contract role, visit LinkedIn, Indeed, or ZipRecruiter and look for roles listed as “temporary”, “six month contract”, “contractor”, or “temp”. You’ll find many contract listings mention the contract can turn into a full-time position. Either way, when the contract ends, you will walk away with valuable experience.
Pay Me, Dustin Moskovitz-Style
When “the” Facebook started out, Dustin Moskovitz was one of the company’s first employees and didn’t get paid. He worked completely for free. During the start of Facebook, he picked up PHP and hustled his way towards adding value to “the” Facebook. Moskovitz defined the meaning of “sweat equity.” Now he’s a multi-millionaire.
In a world that worships the full-time salary, benefits, and perks, we forget about the quintessential startup staple: the unpaid hustle. Would you be willing to work for free if your unpaid work meant invaluable experience?
Some of you will hesitate and some of you will jump at the opportunity. I understand that you have to pay the bills and making money feels good. But if you can afford to work for free at a promising startup, at least for a bit, you will walk away with experience more valuable than working at the Facebooks and Googles of the world.
Impostor syndrome and a lack of experience is difficult to manage. You’ve done a profound job of learning, pushing through adversity, asking relevant questions, and doing whatever it takes to land your first tech job. You heading in the right direction. The road ahead doesn’t get any easier, but you’re closer to a job offer than ever before-it’s only a matter of time until a company sees that and sends you a job offer.
Your next opportunity awaits you. Go get ’em.