When leaving the workforce, whether it be to raise a child, take a break, or take care of a parent, the employment gap leaves hiring managers with questions.
One of their biggest questions: do you still have what it takes to be an integral part of their team? The answer often is yes, but how do you convince the employer to take a chance on an interview and potential career transition?
In today's video, we are going to talk about what programmers can do after a long time out of the workforce and how it can help you land your next job!
Transcript Of The Video
What's up guys? Antonio here. Today, we have a question from someone. The question says, “I'm told the best way to get a job is through a referral. I'm in a small town, and there are no meetups or anything nearby, and I've been out of the workforce for eight years. I just graduated from a remote, full-stack, bootcamp. In 2002, I got a degree in Computer Science. I have never had a professional programming job, so I had been going to job sites and applying to jobs. I haven't had any success yet. Any tips? I'm working on an Android app, and getting a personal blog.”
First off, good job taking some initiative, and starting the Android app, and starting your personal blog. Now, let's talk about the two different ways, I think, that you can get into the job market, and first it will start with improving your skillset, and second is your marketing.
The first thing I would do is list out different areas of programming that you enjoy, things that you've tried before, things that you find interesting, list them all out. Second, eliminate the ones that are too competitive, for example, becoming an Android developer. That might be too competitive. There's probably tons of them. Instead, you might want to pick something more niche. If you wanted to do web development, then maybe you need to niche down into back end development, and then from there niche down even further to just simply API development. That's what you are the core of. So, try to lower to either eliminate your competition by reducing your scope of what you're actually doing. Take that big area of development, and reduce it, and reduce it, and reduce it.
For me, what I did was, is I took web development. I didn't really like the front end. I enjoyed the back end, so I chose back end development, and then from back end development, I ended up choosing chat bot and voice development, because I really enjoyed developing things for Amazon Echo, and Google assistant, and Facebook Messenger.
What you need to do now is learn everything you can by doing projects that help you learn everything in that area. So, for example, for me, once I realized that I wanted to be a chat bot/voice developer, I started learning how to develop an Amazon Echo skills. I started building on my GitHub. I started learning on the side, whatever I could do in order to get into this new area of web development that a lot of people did not have expertise in. The goal with the learning aspect, and improving your skill set, is to become the big fish in the little pond. So, when someone is looking for a job in your area, specifically for that thing, instead of just being one of the thousands of web developers, or millions of web developers, you now become the only and the most experienced API developer, or the only and the most experienced chat bot developer.
The second thing that you need to do is focus on your marketing, how you show your skill set to other people, because you don't show your skill set, then no one will notice it. So, you're doing the first thing right, and it's creating the blog. Okay? That's one step that you can do. By teaching people online of how you have learned these things, and teaching other people how they can implement them, you now become an authority, a figure where other people look up to and say, “This person knows how to do this. I see it on their blog, so I'm going to hire them, because I can see that they can teach other people, which clearly means they can do it themselves.” But, a blog is not the only thing you can do. Start an Instagram. Start a Twitter. Start a Facebook page. Start a YouTube channel where you can teach other people.
All of those online platforms are there for you to build expertise, to show your expertise to other people that may be looking for this stuff, looking for jobs, for example, or looking for how to build something, and maybe you join them on their projects. That is a great way to get involved, by building yourself an online presence where people come to you and see that you know about this.
The second thing is to participate in open source on GitHub, Bit bucket, whatever it is. If you see something that needs to be added to an open source library, add it yourself. By being able to add it, you will not only improve your own confidence in your abilities of programming, but you'll also be able to show the other programmers that have worked on the open source projects that you are capable of adding to it, so now you've gotten their approval as well.
Then, when a developer that is interviewing you sees that you have worked on this open source project before that they have used, there are going to be like, “Wow, I love you. This is amazing. How did you do this? Great job.” Participate in online communities that are related to your niche. There's probably a subeditor somewhere. There's probably an online forum. There's probably people on Hacker News that are talking about your idea.
The next thing that you could do is send emails to people in hiring positions at companies that you want to work for, where you have built a project for them using the exact skill set that they are looking for that solves a problem that they have. If you're looking for a Python developer that knows AWS, and uses React on the front end, for example, and you know that the company needs to build a single page web app that does X, and you build a single page web app that does X, that uses React, AWS and Python, and you send it to someone that is in a hiring position, what more do they need to know that you need to get in there for an interview? Nothing. You have already proved to them that you can do the job. That is a huge aspect of marketing.
Now, this takes a lot more time than sending out job applications, but I promise you that you will come in with such a higher foot in the door than anyone else who's ever applied, because no one does this. You mentioned in your email that you don't have any meetups in your area, but I suggest maybe traveling to an area where you can meet new people, or going to a conference across the country where you can find new people, or another country where you can find new people, and get a job in those areas, and network in person.
Other than that, the last thing is to apply by keeping the company's perspective in mind. If you keep the company's perspective in mind, and understand what problems they need to solve, and what skill sets they're looking for, you can use your previous skill sets from the eight years that you were off of your job. You probably have learned something. You can use some of that. Also, you can now use all the experience you have on GitHub and open source projects that you haven't had before.
Look, getting a job in software development is harder in some ways and easier in other ways than other jobs. Easier because you don't need to have a job in order to get experience. You can get the experience you need all with your computer. Here at Simple Programmer, we make the complex simple. Catch you all on the next one. Peace