It is commonly known that IT job market is somewhat overheated and IT companies will do anything to keep talented people on their payroll. Thus IT companies have become frequent visitors on top of almost any competition determining employee happiness and employer superiority. Employees are treated with free beverages and food, annual budget for furnishing one’s workstation and they even can be paid for contributing to open source projects on free time.
I’m not saying that they shouldn’t, as the market will decide fair price for each developer and the price for keeping them in house, but looking from outside you might become a little jealous about all those perks the nerds are enjoying at the moment. Luckily for you the situation is not going to change in a while. There have been reports that Finland alone faces deficit of 7 000 software developer and the shortage is growing approximately 3 000 developers a year.
So if you ever wondered what it would take to make a living in IT business, you can consider this article as a go-to long term plan for landing a job in IT company. People who already have experience from existing jobs probably get most out of this, but certainly it can help new grads/students too. But beware: it won’t be fast, and certainly it won’t be easy.
CV and Portfolio
First things first: you should definitely brush up your resume and make your existing jobs and history seem as technical as possible. Even though you were the department manager at your local K-supermarket you can find tasks that sound more like development and less like browsing Excel sheets. If you ever optimised any processes or analyzed data, and especially if you used/wrote any scripts for that, it’s really valuable experience in your CV.
There’s definitely more skills needed as a developer besides programming, many of which you probably already possess. You might, for example, have an eye for UX improvements or you can estimate workloads very accurately. Those are totally something you should mention. More definitive (but not complete) list can be found here: http://arches.io/how-to-be-a-developer/
Your portfolio becomes less critical when you gain more experience, but as a total noob you must keep online portfolio about the things you’ve done or studied. Having and showing your programming skills are important even though you would be applying for a manager position. Github is a popular platform to share code, and you can use Github Pages to host your project online.
Finding Jobs to Apply
According to Duunitori, only 1/4 of Finns found their jobs via open job advertisement. There are many great job boards out there and many IT companies have their own careers site, but the majority of the open positions won’t ever end up public. And talking about those job advertisements, they mostly are just advertisements, or actually, wish lists. They might be requiring 5+ years of this and 3+ years of that, but you should read it like required === negotiable. If a job seems interesting, you should definitely apply and let the company decide if you’re qualified.
The only thing that should stop you is “senior”, as it usually means that the company needs someone who can work independently and does not need any guidance on this position.
Also, you should be looking outside of common IT companies, as almost every company these days have their own IT team or at least they are building one. If there’s a company you love or business you find interesting, look for their careers site and if it looks like they’re searching anything technical, reach out. Companies like Talented are also happy to help you with your search process and can help with portfolio building and such.
The interviews are mostly done in two parts. The first interview is usually done by HR people and they’re trying to figure out your cultural and social fit to the company. It helps if you learn about the company, their products and culture before the interview, but the most important thing is to be honest about yourself. You can’t fake it ’till you make it when you are working with people eight hours a day.
The second part of the interview is mostly focused on the technical side and usually there are technical people participating or leading the conversation. It’s OK to confess if you don’t know answers to some of their questions. If everybody is on the same page at this point, they won’t expect you to be superhuman and know everything about software development right away. Just stay cool and put the things you know on display and don’t forget to ask questions.
You should absolutely follow up even though you are not sure you did well during the interview. It’s a good practice to send an email to the interviewers and thank them, and you could also offer possible solutions for problems that you couldn’t nail before. That way you can leave a good impression even after the interview.
After landing your first job and having a foothold at IT business you should maximise your chances of staying there. Don’t get stuck with grunt work just because you’re the new guy. Push your knowledge when there are more experienced people to help you. You will learn much faster when you ask questions from senior developers and/or take responsibility of a project or a feature.
One of the hardest things in software development is focusing on constant learning. The tools are constantly in flux and best practices become even better. Be ready to learn things the hard way and work your ass off, and you are on the path to enjoy the fruits of the overheated job market and digitalization in IT business.