By John Sonmez October 25, 2018

How To Get A Programming Job Without Experience! (First Programming Job?)

As a Simple Programmer coach, I've coached lots of developers (and aspiring developers) on getting a programming job without experience.

During all these years, one of the most difficult things to coach is teaching newbie developers to get a programming job with NO experience. You could be a recent graduate, an aspiring developer, you could've just finished a coding bootcamp or you're aiming for a career change… Chances are you've heard this a lot: “All of these job postings say 5+ years of experience is required, but I’ve been studying this whole time…how am I supposed to have years of experience?”. This is something that lots of newbies and aspiring software developers face.

And that is definitely not an easy thing to handle, especially if you want to go through the traditional route. Thankfully there are alternative routes you can use to get around this lack of experience when starting your career.

Think about that: You don't have job experience yet but you need to show your employers that you can write code in order to get the coding job you want. But… How do you do that?

In this video we'll explore the BEST and MOST EFFECTIVE ways to get a programming job without job experience, how you can apply it to your career and how it can drastically transform the way companies see you when you apply for their programming jobs without experience.

Transcript Of The Video

John Sonmez: Today I am going to be helping you to figure out how to get a programming job with no experience. So if you're just starting out, you don't have any experience yet, just getting into the field and you're looking to get a job, I'm going to outline in this video for you exactly how to do that, what the best method is. I know a lot of people struggle to do this, because … Yes, you've learned how to program, but there's kind of this catch-22 of once you know how to program, how do you actually get a job when you don't have experience?

Hey, what's up? John Sonmez here from simpleprogrammer.com. So let's talk about this situation a little bit, right? Maybe you've just graduated college, maybe you are self-taught and you're just learning programming on your own and you don't have a job yet. Or maybe you've gone through some kind of a coding boot camp, and even though you've gone through their program, you still don't exactly have that job because it's kind of hard to get a job without experience.

There's a lot of ways that we could approach this subject, but before I get into the specifics and the details, I want to talk to you about something that's really important just in general, that's going to help you in life, right? Because at Simple Programmer, I don't like to just talk about just the career and technical side of software development, because you can find that a lot of other places. Instead, it's more about the philosophy and strategy that you use, the life skills, the soft skills that you need to develop in order to become better at everything that you do in life.

One of the key things to think about when you're in situation like this, is what is the process, or what can I do that's going to ensure that I'm going to be able to achieve the end result that I want, right? I call this concept trusting the process, okay? And what this means, is that you come up with some kind of process, and then you're going to follow and trust that process. The second principle here is this idea that you have to not necessarily go about things the same way that everyone else does, right?

You could call this thinking outside the box, I think that's a pretty generic term, and it's overused. But I like to say that, especially for getting a job, that what you want to do is not try to go in the front door, but try to go in the back door or the side door. This is the best way to get a job. In fact, you'll find that most programming jobs are not actually advertised, because they get filled internally, or they get filled through referrals, right? So the jobs that you see advertised are only a very small portion of the jobs that are available out there.

And it can be kind of frustrating, right? Because as a software developer, especially when the economy is good. Right now unemployment is extremely, extremely low, at least at the time I'm recording this video, and still, it's hard to get a job as a programmer for some programmers, for ones that are starting out, right? For experienced programmers, the market is great. They can get a job just like that. They've got job offers lined up, they can make a huge amount of money. But if you're just starting out, it can be a challenge here.

Let's talk about combining these two ideas, right? This idea of trusting the process and coming up with a process that is going to help you to be able to get a job very quickly, and this idea of not necessarily going in the front door, right? Thinking outside the box, going in the side door we'll call it in this case. The first thing I want you to do is look at the basics, okay? The very basics of what you should be doing if you're trying to get a job without any experience, is that you need to have all of the material that you need, that's going to help market you as best as possible, available to you.

First of all, do you have your resume? Okay? Not only do you have your resume, but is it good? Is it quality? Now yes, you're not going to be able to put job experience on there, but you can be creative with your resume, right? There's a lot of other things that you can put on there. Projects, websites … Do you have a link to a YouTube video that introduces you, where … kind of a video resume? Do you have something that is going to stand out? Because you're going to need to stand out if you don't have experience.

Can you formulate some relevant experience? One great way to get experience is to form your own company, okay? And to build some kind of app or software. Especially, you could build an iPhone app or Android app, or even just a web application, okay? And you can be the lead developer of that project, and you can hire yourself, right? This is all legitimate and all perfectly fine and legal, okay? And you can build that app, and if you can sell that app out there, you could give it away for free … But you can build your own software company, and then you will automatically have experience.

If you get asked about this in a job interview … Remember, you're not going to lie. You're just going to say, “Yeah, I formed my own software development company, and I built these apps and published them out here. That's what my experience was, that I was the lead developer of this company.” Or you could forma company with several friends, and then you won't have to say that. Then you can say, “Yes, I worked for this software developer company, I was actually one of the founders of this company.” That's pretty good, right? Is that a great thing to have on your resume? That's probably better than having a regular job.

So this is one of those things, of thinking outside the box, of being creative, right? Which is not lying, right? Being honest, but being smart, okay? Being wise about how you go about things. I always recommend … Okay? That you have a resume professionally written, okay? I've got a book that I published that you might want to check out as well, called The Complete Software Developer's Career Guide, okay? You can find that on Amazon, there'll be a link in this video, in the description, as well.

In that book, I talk about having a resume professionally written, and I give some tips on that, and I tell you how to get started. And some of the advice that you'll find here, it's some different pieces, but you're going to want that book probably if you're starting out in your career, because I designed it for that. I don't want to make a big pitch for the book, but it's going to be something that's helpful and useful to you.

You're going to have your resume, right? Hopefully you have a website that has portfolio of your work, okay? This could be apps … You got to have some kind of work portfolio if you're starting out, right? If you don't have that, you need to build this stuff up. They need to be polished, well polished, okay? It needs to look good. Because people judge by appearances, okay? Appearances are more important than the actual substance, unfortunately. In this industry, in this field, especially with so many people applying for jobs, and when you don't have experience, they're going to look at appearance … And people in general … Just a good general life lesson, is that people pay attention to appearance first.

Get your portfolio together, okay? Have your collection of your apps, your websites that you've developed, anything that you've got there that can demonstrate your skills. Again, have your resume online on that website. Also, have a nice YouTube video that is an introduction, where you talk about yourself and you talk about your passions and the work that you've done, so that you can be very personable, right? This is going to be things that are going to set you above and apart from other people.

People do not hire the most qualified person for the job, okay? If you've been there, and you've been frustrated, and you said, “I know all of this. I'm better than the person they hired.” That's fine. People hire people they like. They justify why a person they like is qualified for the job, okay? Even though they might not be as qualified. There is obviously some degree to this, it's not a hard and fast rule. But in general, the bias … Right? The bias is towards people that we like, okay? And people that we don't like, what they do, is they will basically come up with reasons why this person is not qualified, even though they are.

And this is just human nature, there's nothing malicious about this, okay? You probably do the same thing and you don't even realize it. You need to understand this, even though this is not fair, even though this is not a meritocracy in that respect, you need to understand that's why it's important to develop social skills … Okay? And what I call the soft skills. That's why I said the video … That's why becoming personable and likable, and not lying, and being authentic and genuine and vulnerable, to some degree, is important in presenting yourself, okay? And we'll get into some other things in some other videos about the interview process. I just want to give you kind of the basics here of what's going to help you to be able to get your first job without experience.

What's the next thing that we need to do here? You need to come with a process that can't possibly fail, that will get you there and will give you incremental progress towards whatever goal you're trying to achieve. Again, I'll say it one more time, because it's so critical. When trying to get to A to B … from A to B, you need to come up with a process that can't possibly fail, that will give you incremental progress towards the goal you're trying to achieve.

When I'm coaching people on getting jobs, what I will tell them, is I'll say, “Look. Here's the thing. When you don't have a job, you do have a job. Your job is to get a job.” Why do I say that? Because you need to treat getting a job like it's a job. It means that you need to put in your eight, 10 hours a day worth of work on getting a job. And this is aside from learning, right? You're going to continue to learn, but learning … Right? Improving your skills is not actually helping you to get the job. It's going to help you be more qualified for the job, it might help you on some interviews, but you're done at this point.

If you're looking for the job, at this point that's not your job anymore, right? Your job is took for the job, and then, on the side, you still have to keep up your education and continue learning as your side job. Does that make sense? If you focus all of your effort and energy on getting a job, on doing everything you can to figure out how to get that job, do you think that you will get a job? How likely do you think it will be?

So when you know … If they spend eight hours a day working on getting a job, or 10 hours a day focused solely on getting a job, how long do you think it would take them to get a job? A week? Two weeks? A month? Okay? Even … Let's say a month. Right? Or even two months. It's almost guaranteed that that's going to happen if they did that, and they did that every single day, okay? So that's what you're going to do.

Now what are you going to do during this time? What you should be doing, is having a quota of how many jobs that you're going to apply for each day. And I recommend usually five jobs a day that you apply for. I depends on your market and how much saturation there is, and how many jobs there are available, but typically you're going to be able to do that. And you might say, “Well, I can apply for 50 in a day.” No. You could apply for 50 in a day if you go to monster.com and just click, click, click apply.

What you need to do when you apply for a job, is you need to customize the application. You need to write a custom cover letter. Yes, you should have kind of a template that you use, but you need to write one … You need to go research that company, you need to go research that job, okay? And you need to write a cover letter that is going to be valuable and relevant to that position. You need to modify your resume slightly, so that it reflects the skills that they're looking for in that position, and highlights those skills and that relevant experience if you have some, okay?

You need to really customize everything that you're doing to apply for that job. Maybe you even record a custom video, right? You're going to put some real work in. You want to be the person that, if they go through all the resumes and all the applications they got for the job … You might not be the most qualified person, but you are going to be the most detail-oriented, okay? And have the best looking application.

You're going to want a spreadsheet where you're going to track … Okay? You're going to start tracking this … You can get it free, for the download for there. But you're going to track, basically, in columns, the jobs that you applied for, on what date. You're going to track things like whether you got a response back and when, okay? Whether you followed up, and when, the first time. And if you follow up the second time, the third time. Did you get an interview? When? How did the interview go? Did you get a callback from the interview? Did you get an offer? Did you get the job?

You're going to have all of that stuff in there, okay? And the reason why you're going to do this, is because ultimately, getting a job is a numbers game. Depending on your skill level … Right? What your experience is, and your presentation, and your ability, that's going to determine how many leads that you need in order to get the end result, right? This is a sales funnel. If you've been involved in sales at all, or understand sales, it's the same thing.

100 jobs you apply for, you get an email back on … Let's say 30 of them. You get an interview for 10 of them, and you get offers for three of them. So if you want three job offers, you need to apply to 100 jobs. If you're really skilled and really sought after, you might apply for 10 jobs and get three job offers, right? Through that funnel. But if you start tracking these stats, and you know about how many jobs I have to apply for in order to get an interview, that's a good ratio to know. If you know every 10 jobs I get one interview … Again, it tells you if you're better or not, if you need to improve things of change things.

You'll be able to see how changing things improves that ratio as you track that, right? So you'll be able to do something like test, “What if I make a better resume? What if I change the way that I'm doing this, or change the way I'm applying for jobs. Do I have a higher success rate?” And you'll be able to develop that over time, right?

We talked about going into the side door or the back door. So we need to start networking, okay? And really, you should have networked a long time ago, six months ago, right? Before you're looking for a job, a year ago, six months ago, is when you go to networking events and network. Because you don't want to network trying to ask people for stuff.

So what you're going to do, is you're going to and you're going to look up all the meetups for software development in your area, okay? And whatever kind of groups that they have. Meetup.com is probably the best place to find these kind of things. But there's user groups, there's all kinds of stuff, right? And you're going to start attending every one of those, okay? Now, when you attend them, you're not going to go up and ask people for jobs. Do not do that. Just make friends, just talk to people.

See if you can do a presentation at one of these meetup groups. This is networking, it's going to take some time to do this, but this is going to be part of your job, is you need to go and you need to do this and just meet people and just offer value to them. That's it, okay? Eventually, they will ask you if you're looking for a job, or what your situation is, okay? But you don't want to come off as needy.

Number two … You're going to be looking at the companies … Okay? That are in your area, that you want to apply for jobs for. And you're going to look them up on LinkedIn, and you're going to look up their employees on LinkedIn and their developers, and you're going to look for their developers' blogs, and you're going to look for their developers' social media accounts, okay? And you're going to start making friends with people who work inside companies that you want to work at. This is a long-term process, but it's really important to start following this process, because eventually, it's going to lead to results, okay?

And if we could back up in time, I would have you start doing this six months ago, so that you're ready. But I realize that that may not be the case, but it will eventually get you a job. You're going to reach out to some of these people, reach out to them in LinkedIn, comment on their blogs, okay? And say, “Hey, I really like this.” Or add some value to their blog, so that they get to know you. And just … Maybe send an email, send an outreach to people. Send whatever you can to try and get them to just have coffee with you.

Just be like, “Hey, I'm a new kind of developer in the area, I'm just starting out my career. I would love to work for the company that you work for.” Or, “I love your blog. I love … ” Whatever it is. “Could I buy you coffee? Could I buy you lunch?” Okay? I know you don't have money, but do it anyway, this is an investment. And, “Could I just chat with you? About the company, or just about development? Or is there anything I can help you with?” Right? Think about things that are going to get people to want to talk to you, and you're just working to build a relationship with them, okay?

When you apply for jobs, when jobs are open, they're going to recognize your name. Or you could refer … You could say … You could ask for a referral, right? So if you … Let's say that you met some developer at XYZ company, and you have coffee with him, and then you saw him at the meetup, right? Or at the code camp. And then a job opening opens up in his company. Then you could email him and say, “Hey Bob, would you mind giving me a referral? I know you don't know me super well, but I feel like if I … I respect you, and if a referral came from from you, it would definitely help me, I'm looking for a job.”

Other things that you're going to be doing are going to be things like working on feedback from specific interviews that you've had, once you've had interviews. Or feedback from applications where you're able to get a reason why are application was denied, or you didn't get the job. And so that might be doing some mock interviews, which you should probably be doing anyway, okay? Get in front of the camera, get someone else to interview you, right? Research the questions that you've been asked in previous interviews, or some of the technologies that … Maybe if you had a phone screen or a technical screen, right? You want to research all that information … Right? And try to improve there.

Things that you can do. What can you do to reach out? What can you do to be able to build your network more, to be able to have access to more jobs that you're looking for, to make your resume better? All of these things you're basically going to figure out. And I've given you some things, right? The basic things that you're going to do. But you're going to have customize this to yourself and just say, “What are the things that I could do right now, that will move me closer to getting a job, that I can work on every single day?” And you're going to start doing those things.

It might even be going up to companies and knocking on doors, essentially. Going to offices and talking with people face-to-face, right? There's a lot of things that you can do. You can come up with a lot of creative ways to do this … Okay? That are going to benefit you.

Okay, so I think that's probably about all that I'm going to give you for right now, right? Because if you get this, you'll get the rest, right? We could talk about job … going to the interview and passing the interview process, which, honestly …. If you do a good job here, especially if you can get connections and you get referrals, that part will become a breeze. But that's … And maybe another subject to talk about, we're already running pretty long on this video.

So I hope this has helped you. I hope you found this useful, okay? If you have any questions, leave comment below and I'll try to address some of these questions maybe in some later videos. Like I said, I've got the two books, The Complete Software Developer's Career Guide and Soft Skills, both of those will help you in looking for a new job without experience, and in just getting a job in general. And check out the Simple Programmer website, subscribe to the channel here, and … Yeah, I wish you the best on your job search. Yes, I know it's kind of frustrating to try and get the job without experience. But like I said, hopefully some of these tips that I've given you here will help you to do that. And I will talk to you next time, take care.

About the author

John Sonmez

John Sonmez is the founder of Simple Programmer and a life coach for software developers. He is the best selling author of the book "Soft Skills: The Software Developer's Life Manual."