Wondering if it’s worth getting into web development? Check out these numbers:
- 121,000 people working as web developers right now in the U.S. alone
- 20% growth predicted for the industry through 2020*
*Bureau of Labor Statistics
- 25,785 web developer job vacancies on Indeed
- Average salary for a web developer of $87,000
Pretty impressive numbers! But are you thinking… “It’ll be YEARS before I, a tech newbie, can start to dream about a job like that!” Well, think again! You can learn the fundamentals of web development faster than you think. And once you do, you can start looking for junior web developer jobs.
“Junior web developer” is the term commonly used for people starting in the web development industry. But don’t let the tiny-sounding title fool you! Entry-level web developers bring home an average salary of $71,000 and there are 4,869 junior web developer job openings on Indeed as of April 2, 2015!
To get started as a web developer, of course you’ll need these programming languages:
(You can learn them—and much more more—in the Skillcrush Web Developer Career Blueprint. Hint, hint!)
Then, once you’re armed with those digital super powers, you should also look at getting to know these often-asked-for extras:
- Web design / UX / Photoshop (more skills you can learn with us in the Skillcrush Web Designer Career Blueprint)
- Version control (Git / GitHub)
- Cross-browser compatibility
- Responsive web design
But is that enough?? When you’ve got the coding basics and some bonuses down, are you REALLY ready to start your job search? Maybe the idea of trying to get a web developer position probably makes you feel like an imposter, and you’d be less nervous about a full root canal than an interview at a development agency.
It’s understandable. How can you feel confident in a job interview when you aren’t completely sure what all the job requirements actually are, or if you’re really and truly up to the job?
That’s perfectly normal at this point, but you don’t have to stay paralyzed in fear and miss out on your dream career.
You’ve already conquered the hardest part of the process by getting those must-have skills. But if you want to be sure you’re a TOP candidate, there’s plenty you can do to prepare.
Here are 12 ways to get your phone ringing or email box filling up with invites to interviews. Get started with them today. The sooner you do, the sooner you’ll be a happily-employed developer!
12 must-dos to land your first web developer job
1. BUILD YOUR OWN PORTFOLIO SITE
Creating your portfolio is JOB ONE if you want to get a developer job. As Skillcrush instructor and tech consultant Dee Kapila says, “When I hire junior devs, I look for an impressive portfolio.”
Your portfolio is the first thing potential employers will look at when considering you, so it needs to be a real reflection of your skills and yourself.
You can get ideas about what to put in your portfolio in step #2. But, before you can load up your portfolio, you need to code it and launch it on the wonderful World Wide Web.
2. FILL UP YOUR PORTFOLIO WITH PROJECTS
Now that you’ve got your own site built, it’s time to load it up with all the things. Of course you’ll include any work you’ve done for companies or clients (with their permission). But no need to worry if you haven’t done many—or any!—“real” projects.
Check out How to Build an Impressive Portfolio When You’re New to Tech to find out about the 14 things you can do to build a portfolio that will get you hired, even if you’ve only been coding for months.
3. DO FREELANCE PROJECTS
Speaking of projects, a great way to get some for your portfolio is to do some freelancing on the side. It’ll give you the chance to build your experience AND beef up your bank balance while helping you round out your portfolio.
The projects don’t have to be huge ones. You can offer, for example, to re-do the navigation for a local restaurant’s website or to create an HTML newsletter for a charity organization.
And you might consider doing some charity yourself—in the form of pro bono projects. You won’t be bringing home any bacon from them, but they’ll be a great addition to your portfolio, and you can actually make unpaid projects pay off for you in lots of ways that will boost your job search and your career.
4. PUT YOUR CODE ON GITHUB
Github is the industry-standard for version control, so many companies want to know that you already know how to use this tool. You can prove that AND show off your best code by creating your own Github account and using it as a repository for your projects.
After you get it set up, try to make regular contributions to your GitHub account to show that you’re consistently working on your skills. Even if they’re only for “imaginary” projects, keep your code clean and organized and include clear and concise README documentation so that employers know that you’ll be able to jump right in to collaboratively coding on their teams and projects.
5. CONTRIBUTE TO AN OPEN SOURCE PROJECT
If most of your coding so far has been for your classes, mock projects, or solo gigs, you can also increase your teamwork cred by getting involved in an open source project.
Getting involved in open source projects will:
- Strengthen your development skills
- Get you hands-on experience working on teams and projects
- Let you meet and network with other developers
You can look for open source projects of all kinds and sizes on Explore GitHub. And once you find a project you’re interested in and have explored it more, don’t be afraid to jump in and help! Some easy first steps you can take are reporting bugs, helping prioritize issues, beta testing, working on the project’s website, or improving documentation.
6. PARTICIPATE IN A HACKATHON
You can’t turn around nowadays without bumping into a hackathon! And they’re a fun and exciting way to get to know people with the same interests, tackle interesting problems, test your coding skills, learn from others, and maybe win prizes like gift cards, gear, trips, and CASH! And, oh yeah. There’s that thing of making you look good when you’re looking for developer jobs…At a hackathon, you’ll end up coding on a team, and if you’ve been learning to code on your own, proving you can hack it (get it?) with a team of coders makes you a lot more appealing to hiring managers at web development agencies.
To find hackathons near you or online, try searching sites like:
And remember to keep your eye out at the event for sponsors and recruiters. Many a web developer has gotten noticed at a hackathon and offered a job right on the spot!
7. MEET TECHIES ONLINE AND IRL
In addition to fame and glory, hopefully you’ll also get contacts in tech from those hackathons, but don’t let the networking stop there. Keep reaching out and learning more about the industry by meeting people online and in person.
The easiest way to do this is through tech meetup groups. Almost everyone city has them, and, if yours doesn’t, you can set up your own. Just pick the focus, find a place (even a coffee shop or local park will do!), and spread the word.
Or, if you’re really not in a location that lets you get together with other techies, look for communities online. Answer questions on Stack Overflow, comment on Reddit threads related to development, or help out on the WordPress.org forum.
Whether you meet in person or on the Internet, you’ll be expanding your horizons and getting to know people who can turn out to be your future co-workers or superiors.
8. FOLLOW INDUSTRY NEWS
To keep from freezing up right at the small talk phase when you meet all those techies OR during your first web developer job interview (!), start keeping up with what’s happening in tech.
You don’t need to be an expert on every story or topic out there. Just get to know what’s hot and what’s happening. And that’s beyond easy to do: You can read blogs or tech news sites over breakfast, listen to podcasts when you’re walking your dog, or scan Twitter lists while you’re waiting in line at the store.
9. LEARN MORE!
Besides keeping up on the news, you should also keep up with learning new skills and tools of the trade. As a web developer, knowing these will make you that much more in-demand.
A few that are most requested are:
- CSS preprocessors like Sass or Less
- Frameworks like Backbone.js, Angular.js, or Node.js, etc. or Ruby on Rails
- A CMS (Content Management System) like WordPress
And you can explore the wonderful world of Ruby through a number of resources or try the WordPress Developer Blueprint to learn the world’s most popular CMS.
10. REFINE YOUR RESUME
Even though your portfolio is where you’ll show off your skills, a lot of companies still ask for resumes and use them to “weed out” candidates. That means yours needs to be as polished and professional as your portfolio if you want to get noticed AND hired.
Of course you’ll want to update the information on your resume to fit web development. Also make sure you highlight your core skills, play up any tech-related experience, and give specific details to prove your achievements and strengths.
Try out the tips in “15 Steps for Updating Your Resume” to give it a good general refresh.
11. CHECK OUT THE JOBS
Now that you’ve made the extra effort with these must-haves, it’s time to dive into some actual job listings. Start by just searching for “junior web developer” and not worrying about the company or the location. The idea is for you to see what employers are looking for and what kind of options are available for you in general.
Keep in mind that job ads tend to list more (sometimes WAY more!) requirements and “nice-to-haves” than are really expected from candidates. Never hurts to ask, right?! Don’t let this discourage you though. If you can handle most of what they’re looking for, you’ll probably be at least considered for the role.
Once you’ve gotten a feel for what’s out there, go ahead and send out your resume for some jobs you’re really interested in. Be realistic but don’t be shy. Nobody’s going to come knocking on your door with a web dev position in hand. You have to put yourself out there.
And don’t forget the good ol’ grapevine! Let all your friends, family, neighbors, and—of course—hackathon/meet-up/online friends know that you’re actively looking. You never know who has a friend who has a friend who knows just the job for you.
12. INTERVIEW FOR A JOB – EVEN IF YOU’RE NOT SURE YOU’RE READY
When that shiny happy moment happens and you’re asked to go for an interview, go for it! THIS is the moment you’ve been waiting for! You can never be 100% prepared for any interview, but you know how hard you’ve worked for this so show them what you’ve got.
In Dee’s case, for example, she asks junior dev candidates to “whiteboard wireframes as part of the interview to see how they dealt with pressure and to gauge their thought process.”
And Skillcrush lead developer Emily Davis looks for “a candidate’s ability to break down a problem into small pieces that can be worked through step-by-step. This means she is likely able to identify the root cause of an issue and work from there, rather than having little or no idea where to start.”
No matter how it goes, you’ll have survived that nerve-wracking first interview, which will make the next one that much easier. Plus you’ll have a much better idea of what future interviews will be like and what you need to work on for them. And maybe not surprisingly, there’s no better preparation for a job interview than a job interview. In no time at all, instead of just applying for junior web developer positions, you’ll be accepting your first one!