5 tips for getting a job in IT without commercial experience
How do you kickstart your career in IT in under a year with no prior commercial experience in tech and no relevant education? Start with this article!
Mar 27, 2022 | 8 min read
Any newcomer to IT faces a chicken-and-egg dilemma. On one hand, you need commercial experience to get a job in IT. On the other hand, you have to have a job to get commercial experience.
Does this sound familiar to you? This vicious circle is very true for most juniors in tech companies, including developers.
It can be particularly painful to become a software engineer without a solid resume and relevant education. When you are pursuing a degree in computer science, or a similar subject, internships and part-time jobs will help further your career and expose you to different software projects.
But when you come from an unrelated field, switching to IT may require some more effort. But the rewards can be huge. The median salary of a developer in Poland varies between 6,400 PLN and 8,800 PLN, with the top 10% earning way more than 10,000 PLN.
I am a front-end developer who took this hard way and today I work with great people in an amazing and value-driven company. If you’re interested in how to kickstart your career in IT in under a year with no prior experience in tech, here are my 5 tips to help you get you started.
How to become an IT professional without experience?
Can you actually get a job without proper IT experience? How do you do that? Here are a couple of tips that should set you on the right path.
1. Set yourself a goal
Many IT-wannabes know only one thing: they want to become developers because it’s a well-paid job. With a high demand for talent in this industry, those entrants tend to think things will happen on their own. But in our dev-world, you can’t “fake it till you make it”. That’s why your transitioning process should be well-organized and thought through.
As someone trying to get hired in an entry level job in IT, you should first set yourself a goal. Find an IT area which is most relevant for you. If you decide to become a developer, choose your programming language and stick to it. The big mistake many people make is that they change their mind too often. Becoming a developer requires skills. And acquiring a skill requires time and dedication.
An interesting take on confidence over time for learners is provided by the so-called Dunning-Kruger effect. According to the researchers who came up with it, the peak of ignorance comes early in the learning process. Right after we start, we tend to think that we mastered our craft and we basically know what we have to know. If we don’t accept the fact that mastering software engineering is a long-term process, we may remain “Mr. Stupid” indefinitely and ultimately fail.
I encourage you to read an article by my colleague Łukasz, who acquired the skills and became a developer after being a welder for many years. It’s an inspiring story for job seekers.
2. Start with the basics
Before you become a seasoned developer, you need to master the essentials. The temptation to jump into more difficult tasks right from the start is obvious, but, as the saying goes - “you need to crawl before you walk”.
The world of software development is full of cool technologies and some juniors are eager to learn all of them at once. Unfortunately, this involves gaining only very superficial knowledge of your core technologies. On the other hand, learning all at once will be distracting. You’ll risk becoming “a Jack of all trades” - and “a master of none” at the same time.
If this is not convincing, put yourself in a recruiter's shoes. Imagine you are supposed to find a developer to join a team. Let’s say you are looking for somebody with some experience. Every job candidate you are screening knows something about everything, but fails to answer the basic questions. You are very unlikely to hire them. Hiring such a person is just too risky.
3. Be independent
Independence, being a self-starter and internal motivation sound a bit like coaching slang. But in fact, they are very important at every stage of an engineering career.
When you are a job seeker with no skills and previous experience in IT, it is hard to find job offers and convince your future employers that you possess the above mentioned qualities, with the exception of saying: “I have them”.
A fancy social media profile coupled with a convincing cover letter and resume is a good start. But as a job seeker, you need proof.
Thus, to get hired faster, start your own projects as soon as possible. Set yourself ambitious goals, and achieve them in your spare time. This will prove that you are actually motivated and diligent enough to deliver. Make sure you know how to talk about your projects to hiring managers. And remember: actions speak louder than words.
But beware: do not mindlessly copy code from StackOverflow. It’s like copying your friends' homework at school. It will do the job when you show it to the teacher, but once you’re asked about your solution - you will fail.
The same can happen during your job search and in your first interviews. When you show a code you copied from the web, it may work as a foot in the door, but you will never be able to answer the basic interview questions about it. Especially in the beginning, you need to be self aware, conscious and meticulous.
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4. Start attending job interviews ASAP
Almost everyone who got their job in software development says that they started looking for an employer far too late.
The reason is simple.
Job interviews are not merely a part of a recruitment process. A job search is an important learning opportunity. If you attend a few of them you will start understanding what is expected of you, both in terms of hard and soft skills. Talking to recruiters, recruitment managers or CTOs is the best validation of your work so far and a source of invaluable feedback.
What’s more, in the beginning, job interviews can be stressful and overwhelming. Even if your knowledge and skills make you the perfect candidate, your emotions may play a negative role in looking for a job. Attending multiple interviews boosts your self-confidence and every subsequent conversation puts you on a different level.
5. Remember - it’s never too late
There’s never the right time for starting a new career. But if you think about time: every moment in your life is equally good.
The reality is that there will always be people younger than you and those who started learning development earlier in their career. But this is not necessarily a problem.
If you look at the stats, by 2030, there will be a global shortage of more than 85 million tech workers! Think about it - if you start learning in 2022, in 8 years you will be a superstar with a choice of millions of job offers and opportunities from around the world! And these are facts.
(By the way, if you decide to look for an IT job in Poland, the best places to start are Warsaw, Kraków and Wrocław - those cities together are home to half of all Polish developers.)
And remember one more thing: the average age of career switch is 39, while the job satisfaction of all software developers is over 75%. So, if you are not super happy at your job - what are you thinking about?!
People who are now senior developers, just a few years ago were at the same point as you are now. Stop looking hopelessly at job postings, with no work experience, no knowledge and no idea how to start.
People switch to IT from being locksmiths, marketing managers, salespeople and many of them start coding after 40. A colleague of mine, now a backend developer, was a dealer of oils and chemicals just a few years ago. He wasn’t afraid to try.
Why should you be in doubt?
Here are a few of my top, recommended resources.
YouTube: Brad Traversy, Fun Fun Function
Books: You Don't Know JS,
Courses: Stephen Grider, Colt Steele
Blogs: Robin Wieruch, Tania Rascia, Kent C. Dodds
Other: freeCodeCamp, The Odin Project, CodeWars
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