How Do You Find a Programming Job with No Industry Contacts or Network?
When you’ve spent years earning a degree that qualifies you to code or months at a coding boot camp, you probably feel, after all the hard work, that you deserve a programming job right away — one that gives you a reasonable pay and benefits. You do have the skills — you do deserve one.
If your plan so far has been to send your resume out to any company with a programming job that you can find, you’re already aware that they don’t respond well to this kind of approach. The problem is that you aren’t going in through someone who’s already with them, someone they trust. In the software industry or anywhere else, employers feel that it’s much more efficient in time and resources to find employees through people and/or companies they trust, rather than through applications that just show up. This way, they need to invest less in human resources personnel; they are able to simply hive off much of the vetting process to those people.
What You Don’t Do
If you’re like most people in this situation, you’ve been tempted to go on doing what you are already familiar with: sitting at home staring at your computer and endlessly polishing your coding chops. You tell yourself that you’re simply getting better at coding while staying within your comfort zone.
In reality, polishing your skills in isolation doesn’t work well. You don’t know what specific skills your future employer will need. You’re probably polishing the wrong skills.
What You Should Do: Go Out and Network
Ideally, you should have begun building your network of contacts when you were in college. If you never did that, then start now, because there is no getting around the fact that employers almost exclusively hire through employees and other people they know and respect. If you don’t know those people, you aren’t getting close to an employer.
While it might seem like it could take forever to know well-connected people, it isn’t as hopeless as it sounds. You can get your foot in the door with a reasonable job with just a few contacts and then work your way up from there. It won’t feel as if you’re simply waiting around for your network to build.
How to Get Started: Use Your Resources
Whatever programming technology or language you are interested in, you’re likely to find a group devoted to it within 20 miles. Once you find something, go there every chance you get for a couple of months.
You want to be a prominent member of each of these groups. Come in early, offer to volunteer setting things up, tearing them down later, and if needed, and cleaning up.
When you’ve caught the eye of the event organizer often enough, you’ll have reasonable cause to walk up to, and talk about an opportunity for yourself — giving a presentation at a future gathering, perhaps. Needless to say, you should think about and read up on some kind of topic ahead of time. If you are able to offer a reasonably interesting talk on a couple of occasions, you will have made serious steps towards getting your name out there.
Work them through LinkedIn
While you’re doing all this, there is another direction that you can begin to build your network in: with respected employees at companies where you would like to work. Look up other coders at these companies on LinkedIn and begin messaging them. Don’t come on too hard; don’t ask for a job.
Instead, take your time and build a reputation with them. LinkedIn has plenty of information about everyone out there. Finding an area of common professional interest is the way forward. If you find that you and a certain employee have similar interests in a coding philosophy, for instance, or if you’ve read an interesting blog that they’ve written, you can message about it or ask a good question. If you are subtle enough and take your time, months maybe, you will almost always build good contacts in this way.
Pick up information on what you need to specialize in
However you may have come by your knowledge of coding, it is probably not good enough to make you useful to an employer. With formal education, you obtain general and basic knowledge of your trade, not the specialization that allows you to do things in the real world. As you build up your network, you need to keep trying to find out about very specific areas where you need to build your skill levels and go after them.
The idea to go by when you build a network is that you need to offer people things that they are interested in, even if it’s just a good observation or question. Simply going around and asking for help or advice doesn’t get people interested. When you keep working at it, you will have your network before the year is up, a network that you can tap for actual information on programming job openings.