My ultimate goal is to one day be employed as a web developer. I don’t expect that to happen today, or even within the foreseeable future. It is the end goal, though, so I continue to work towards it.
As it turns out, learning to code is only half the challenge. I’ve read stories from some recruiters saying that they do not advertise for junior web developers anymore, because the second the ad goes up they get 1000+ resumes. I can’t imagine anyone wants to go through 1000+ resumes to find the perfect candidate, and I really can’t imagine what I could do to stand out in a field that size.
So nobody advertises for juniors anymore, but they still need to hire juniors. This is where the soft skills come in.
What The Crap Are Soft Skills?
Well, I guess Wikipedia says it best:
Soft skills are a combination of interpersonal people skills, social skills, communication skills, character traits, attitudes, career attributes, social intelligence and emotional intelligence quotients among others that enable people to effectively navigate their environment, work well with others, perform well, and achieve their goals with complementing hard skills.
I know the stereotype about coders. We’re all a bunch of anti-social shut-ins, more comfortable with email and message boards than face-to-face interaction. While this is mostly false, there is a kernel of truth here. I myself do not look forward to social interaction. Rarely do I find myself thinking, “Yay, I get to talk to people! Maybe even strangers!” I’d like to think, however, that I possess the skills to get through those situations and leave a favorable impression.
Soft skills are learned skills, and they require practice. I know it sounds silly. We’ve all been talking to other people our whole lives, why would we need to practice it? I’m fortunate to have a job what requires me to interact with people daily, both inside and outside of my company. When I first accepted my current position I didn’t realize just how much of it involved dealing with other people, but having to use those skills has given me a chance to grow those skills. How does that relate to finding a job?
The old saying goes, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” This is pretty accurate, as I understand it, when looking for a junior position. You do need some coding skill, but the way to land that junior dev job is to know the people who are looking for junior devs.
Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to find a simple, lazy way to meet hiring managers or recruiters. There is not (to the best of my knowledge) a Tinder for junior web devs, nobody is going to be swiping right on your profile looking for a match. The best thing I’ve found is to go where I know I can find other people already working in the industry.
Slack, Discord, and Meetups, Oh My.
The big one here is the Meetups. Meeting people face to face, and having the necessary soft skills to make a favorable impression will take you a long way. I’m not suggesting going to these things in full-sell mode, approaching each individual as though you were a time-share salesman desperate for commission, but do be aware that the situation is a bit more than casual. If you make a bad impression here, people will remember that when faced with the prospect of seeing you every day at work. When you put someone down as a reference, you want them to tell the recruiter that you’re a super okay person who doesn’t smell and can form coherent sentences. Okay, maybe we should set the bar a bit higher than that. When I go to these meetups I ultimately want to meet people with the same passion as I have. I enjoy reading about code. I enjoy writing about code. I enjoy writing code and I really like talking to other people about code. These meetups give me a chance to do just that and the fact that some of these people might one day be coworkers makes it even better. Always, though, remember to present yourself as someone others would want to work with.
Slack and Discord are great ways for me to stay in touch with the people I meet at these meetups. Again, in these public settings it’s important to act professionally. It takes very little effort to ruin a good impression and an awful lot to improve a bad one. Even though I am not currently trying to “sell” myself to potential employers, it’s important not to tarnish the brand before the product goes to market.