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8 Tips for Getting your First Job - The Junior Dilemma

Updated: Aug 23, 2022

The job market in the IT industry is boiling hot, with a huge shortage of tech workers. But this shortage of tech workers is not absolute. Some people claim that there are plenty of software engineers that are looking for a job, but they are not experienced and it is very difficult for them to find jobs because they are not given a chance.

This is precisely the problem. The IT shortage is actually for experienced software engineers. You see, companies are trying to solve many difficult problems and to solve them they need experienced people to lead these efforts, people who know how to avoid problems, that saw a thing or two in their career, that can lead projects and have the intuition of what can work and what can’t.

These skills can only come from real life experiences, these are not things you learn in universities.

But now you can claim that everybody needs somewhere to start and that the seniors of today were the juniors of yesterday, and the juniors of today will become the seniors of tomorrow. This is all true, however it does not help companies to solve their current problems. They need someone today because if they can’t solve the problem today these companies will not exist tomorrow. So the claim that there are enough engineers out there to fill most of the positions is not true, because they are not the people with the skills that companies are looking for. In order to recruit juniors, you need seniors to train them.

Having said all that, it is important for a company to have a healthy balance of seniors to juniors. There is a lot of value in having juniors at your company since they ensure the future of the company, some that stay will become seniors. Juniors are also hungry to learn and come with a lot of passion to succeed. The success of having successful juniors is to have a seniors mentor, teach and support them in their journey.

If you are just starting your journey in the IT industry you know how hard it is to start, the competition is stiff as there are many juniors competing for the same positions, and the question arises, how can you stand up from the pack ?

Grades are not enough: As a junior who is just starting your way, there isn’t much recruiting managers can rely on. While grades are an indicator, the fact that you can learn in an academic institution is not necessarily an indication that you are going to be a good employee. You see, companies invest a lot in training a junior engineer and you need to show them that you are the one they should be betting on.

As a manager who recruited and interviewed hundreds of people here are some tips that might help you get a foot in the door.

  1. Experience means a lot. While you are just starting out, it does not mean you should have zero experience. Hiring managers looking for something more, show them what you can do. Find ways to do extracurricular work and gain some experience in the real world. Contribute to open source projects, create your own projects for family and friends and also for fun, try to find internships, start looking for student jobs or do some voluntary work for non profits or your community.

  2. Passion: Especially in juniors, managers are looking for passion. The best candidates are the ones who have a lot of passion and are hungry to learn: Participate in hackathons in your area of interest, keep updated with the latest trends and news. Read technology blogs and whitepapers, listen to podcasts, go to tech conferences or and online talks; many conferences publish tech talks videos after the conference that you can watch and learn (you can also try to get a job at a tech conference and get in for free).

  3. Get your foot in the door: When you are looking for a starting job you have several paths you can go:

    1. Get the job you want at the company of your dreams. This is probably the hardest one to get. I want to be a developer at Google/Facebook/Wix. - You nailed it!

    2. Get the job you want at any other company. I want to be a developer, gain a couple of years of experience and then try my luck at the company of my dreams.

    3. Get a different job at the company of your dreams. While I want to be a developer at Microsoft, I can start as a QA or support and get into the company I want. After a year or two I can apply for a developer position within the company. For most companies internal candidates are preferred and have advantage over external candidates so you increase your chances of getting hired from within the company.

    4. Get a different job at any other company, but also with a chance of getting promoted after a while to the job you actually want. Then you gain some experience which will help you in the future to seek the job you want at the company you want. And who knows, maybe you will actually like the place you went to and don’t want to leave after all :-)

  4. Prepare for the test: During a technical interview, many times you will be asked technical questions. Prepare for such questions and how to solve them. There are plenty of interview questions, websites and books you can learn from. Here is one example for a well known interview question book, Cracking the coding interview you can try out.

  5. Learn how to interview: Doing the job and getting the job are two different skills. Impressing someone at an interview takes practice. Do some mocked interviews and practice your answers. If you didn’t interview before, cast a wide net, go to many interviews, even at companies that you are not interested in (maybe you’ll get lucky and you will like the place. If not you can always politely decline the offer). Gain experience interviewing, know what to expect in an interview. Once you feel comfortable in an interview you can now target companies on your short list. And who knows, you might get other offers on the way.

  6. Be active in the community: Create LinkedIn and Twitter profiles, participate in discussions on social networks and engage with people in the industry. Write blog posts, participate in meetups.

  7. Look for junior programs: Many companies have junior programs where they recruit many junior developers for a centralized training effort. For instance Wix has such a program called Wix Kickstart. Look for these programs at companies websites, follow them and once they open try to get into one.

  8. Internal reference: If you can get a reference from a friend who works at a company, her word and recommendation can give you an advantage over other candidates. Since you are being evaluated together with other candidates, a warm recommendation from a person within a company goes a long way, since usually they are more trustworthy than any external reference you can bring.

One last piece of advice, don’t be discouraged, finding your first job may take a long time but it will eventually come. Landing a job takes both skills and luck. Yes luck !!

You see timing is everything, companies have different job openings for different positions and types of people. Especially for junior positions, companies have many candidates to choose from. It is not only how good or impressive you are, it also matters who you compete against for the same position. So don’t be discouraged if you don’t nail the job, it could be just bad luck because there was simply someone else that is better qualified than you, it doesn't mean you are not qualified (although it can also be the case).

In case you didn’t get the job, you can ask for a feedback, but know this, that not all companies will give you a genuine feedback if at all, this is because there were cases where they got a lawsuit because candidates did not like/understand or agree with the feedback, so some companies may simply not give feedbacks because they don’t want to take the risk of a lawsuit. Another reason for companies to refuse to give feedback, is because it can be overwhelming and cost a lot of money (time) to give feedback to all candidates, especially for popular companies who get thousands of candidates and it is simply too costly for them.

However if you can get feedback you are in luck, take notes and apply them towards your next interview.

And remember, since timing and luck are a big factor, don’t be afraid to apply again after a while for the same company you got rejected before, maybe you’ll get lucky next time.

Good luck !



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