I owe all of my success to the humility of extreme failure.
Without the extreme failure I’ve experienced, I’m convinced that I wouldn’t understand how little being rejected actually matters.
But I fortunately knew that failure wasn’t the end all be all, in fact it’s just the start… and that is why I aggressively pursued every opportunity I saw.
Why did I think this way? Probably because I got lucky and hit rock bottom.
How can you think this way? If you try enough times, you are guaranteed to have some success. So let’s ask ourselves, “Is it always true that going to a job interview or sending job applications (or doing any tips below) is a situation where we are going to fail at all times?”
The answer is no. Here’s how I know…
I got lucky.
When I hit rock bottom, it impacted every area of my life.
What I didn’t expect, is that 3 years later I’d be walking down the streets of Chicago ducking into interview after interview – all thanks to the fearlessness that hitting rock bottom instilled in me.
I had no idea this would happen, and I didn’t realize it was a part (or cause) of my career success for years and years – and maybe I still don’t.
I started to get more and more confused the more I interacted with our community…
If so many people have NO excuses, why are so many people unhappy and unemployed years after learning to code?
I mean I get they aren’t all lucky like me, and they didn’t all hit rock bottom, but what could be explaining this lack of success?
Well, after interacting with literally 500+ students (who don’t have jobs yet) 1-on-1, I have found that there is a common group of problems facing them.
I finally have some answers.
There are a lot of factors that can affect your chances of getting a job, and all of them are in YOUR control.
If you’re struggling to get a job, I’ve compiled a list of tips that will get you started on the path to success.
YOU’RE FOCUSING ON THE WRONG THING(S)
This is the ultimate slight of hand that is being played on all of us. I see this very often in my interaction with hundreds and hundreds of students. If you want to get a job, but you are focusing for months and months on JUST programming, then you are potentially focusing on the wrong thing.
How do we focus on the right thing, and what is the right thing to focus on?
Here are a few things that I think are important to focus on if your GOAL is to get a full-time job in the industry.
I. Code at MAXIMUM 2 hours per day. If you are spending more time than this per day coding (of course some days you will exceed, but on average) then it’s a sign you are procrastinating on a more important action.
II. Spend time thinking through what your specific job title goal is. Do you want to be a front-end dev, back-end dev, Python dev, Data Scientist, etc? Pick a VERY SPECIFIC goal.
III. Stop making things harder than they need to be. Let’s say you picked full-stack as your job title. This identifies another common problem. That is a very difficult position to land after 1 year in your career, much less as the first ever job. So why are you making things so hard for you to succeed? Set challenging goals that are achievable, that are challenging, but not overtly impossible.
YOU FORGOT ABOUT YOUR “PACKAGING”
You probably know already that you need to learn to code.
But what nobody has told you, is that you need to LOOK like you know how to code – just as much as you need to ACTUALLY know how to code.
How are you going to get invited for job interviews if you don’t look like a good fit?
The packaging of your talent and skillset, is how we mitigate this potential problem. And the packaging is basically a fancy way of saying YOUR WEBSITE.
Here’s how to set up your packaging
I. Set up a basic website using a WordPress theme from ThemeForest (themeforest.net). It’s important to have a pleasant, and clean website. But it’s impossible, as a beginner, to build something visually pleasing – BECAUSE YOU ARE A BEGINNER. So stop trying to do it yourself. Get a theme and be done with it.
II. Write at minimum 1 blog post per month on the career field you WANT to be in! This one is key. Hiring managers weigh this heavily.
III. Set up a LinkedIn, Twitter, and GitHub that all points back to your website with a nice bio. Click here for more info on how to set up Twitter, and how to write your bios on social networks.
IV. Set up an about page, and projects page. We will cover what to put on those pages next!
These steps will get you started in a professional way.
YOUR ABOUT PAGE SUCKS
Hiring managers want to know more about you before they invite you in. They don’t want to invite in random strangers for interviews. A great way to make a positive first impression is with an ABOUT page on your website.
But, so often people do it wrong.
Here are a few ways I think you can do it right.
I. Have 1 or 2 paragraphs about you. Make sure you include some hobbies you enjoy as well. Make these paragraphs “personal-professional”. But, make sure you don’t do the #1 mistake I see ppl doing – don’t be overtly insecure. I see people with blog subtitles and paragraphs about how they are working on their mental issues or working on becoming more confident. Don’t do this. Be professional. Also, here’s an example of a personal hobby that isn’t professional that I wouldn’t put – dog training. Here’s an example of a hobby I WOULD put – ju jitsu. Basically any health hobby comes across great, and is very professional, and makes you seem well rounded. But if it’s a somewhat esoteric hobby like dog training it’s not going to relate to a lot of hiring managers or people viewing your site.
II. PUT YOUR PRETTY MUG HERE! No matter what. Include your image. I get you don’t want to, very few people do. But you must. Don’t worry about buying professional headshots. Just turn on your latest iPhone or Android phone (which has an AMAZING camera) stand under GOOD LIGHTING OR OUTSIDE, and take a selfie or get a tripod to take a shot. You don’t need to spend money on this. Just get it done, and make sure it’s not horribly lit.
YOU DON’T HAVE PROJECTS ON YOUR PROJECTS PAGE
Your projects page needs to have projects that you’ve done, deployed, and worked on. But a lot of people don’t know what to put in the projects page if they’ve never been payed for work.
Here are a few ways you can “kickstart” your projects page, and make it look pleasing.
I. Find 3 “How to build _ web app in _ language” tutorials, after an extensive google search, that walk you through starting a web app all the way through deploying it. Make sure this is in the language of your job title.
II. Finish the tutorials, take screenshots of the most fun areas they taught you – after deployed.
III. Create a /projects page on your website. Then, add the images, add a small blurb under the image on what you learned. Link to the code on Github as well.
It’s about that simple…
YOU HAVEN’T SENT OUT 40 APPLICATIONS
Life is a numbers game, but it’s exceedingly easy to forget this. This principle applies to the next few items.
You need to have done enough of a certain thing in order to have a probability of success, before you get upset about your lack thereof.
Make it your goal to send 40 applications to companies, this target will far exceed the number you need and allow you to have more simple success. It’s funny how in life the easiest way to succeed is by doing the work nobody else is willing to do – except those that also succeed. If you are wondering where I got the number 40 from, it’s basically just a number that is far higher than the amount of applications you NEED to send. By sending more than you need, you can get what you need faster than those who send JUST what they need. The world is variable, everything is fluid and changing, and therefore it’s impossible to know exactly how many of anything you need. So over-promise to yourself. Then overdeliver on your commitments to yourself to reach your goals faster.
Here are a few ways you can optimize how you send applications.
I. Make every application personal. Research the company. Why do you want to work here? Make sure your cover letter is 2 paragraphs and personally explains a bit why this company interests and aligns with you.
II. An IDEAL application package (email) should have: 1 cover letter, 1 resume document, 1 LinkedIn public profile URL, 1 Twitter URL, 1 website URL, and 2 blog posts. Work up to achieve this goal.
YOU HAVEN’T GONE TO 10 INTERVIEWS
Just like the one before it, this step’s success is based on how many times you try.
In person interviews can be incredibly grueling, and there are sometimes 3-5 rounds or types of interviews you will have to go through. But don’t fret, I’ve got your back! It’s not as hard as you think. Our brains are awesome at hyperbolizing every scenario we are about to enter.
Here are a few ways to succeed at the in-person interviews
I. Focus on having an air of relaxed enjoyment. Just enjoy your time. Think of the interview as a new experience, that even if you fail miserably, you are so stoked to get to experience. This attitude will immediately make you feel more comfortable and approachable than most of the candidates they meet with.
II. If it’s a tech whiteboard interview, first I recommend not applying at a company that requires that, but if you have to – START in the CENTER of the white board, not in the top left. It’s not a text editor. And talk out loud as you are writing the code on the whiteboard during this whiteboard interview. They basically want to see how you think, that’s the reason for this. So for instance if you are about to put your hand on the whiteboard you might say something like “Okay, so for this function I’m thinking of adding a loop after we define the function and that loop can count in sequences of 2 to …” etc etc – just as an example. Then you can begin writing.
These two are just TEASERS compared to the depth we went into interview success on this recent episode of the Start Here: Web Development podcast, with Josh Doody, which you can find here https://soundcloud.com/starthere-webdev/26-level-up-your-web-dev-job-linkedin-for-developers-and-mastering-the-interview-process!
YOU’RE USING PROGRAMMING AS A CRUTCH
Programming is fun.
Be very careful of avoiding the necessary hard things, to continue to do fun things.
This is something we all want to do, and our biology instills this behavior into our brain. We have to be very conscious of it to fight it.
Anytime you want to avoid making a call, going to an interview, and continue programming – DON’T! Instead GO do the thing that makes you feel uncomfortable. This one step if executed correctly will change your life.
Here are a few ways you can stop using what is fun as a crutch, and get the necessary hard work done.
I. Anytime you feel that internal resistance to a task (read the book Do the Work & The War of Art for more on the resistance), try to just do that task! Don’t let the resistance take over your mind and let you fall back into a comfortable habit, because that can lead to ruts! If you know you need to send job applications, and typing up your first one elicits so much pain and emotional hardship and fear about the future, just keep doing it anyway. This is incredibly difficult, and easier said than done, but you must do it!!
II. Anytime you are continuing to code or learn coding, ask yourself “What is the ABSOLUTELY MINIMUM I need to learn to get paid to learn this skill (aka get a job)?”. Why NOT get paid for learning something when you CAN get paid and learn it. It’s the same activity, just in a different physical location in space (at a desk in an office) and you will get paid to learn coding. Keep in mind that a Jr. Position is a LEARNING POSITION. Stop learning. I bet you already know enough. Start getting that job.
YOU AREN’T GROWING IN OTHER AREAS
All of us love to get deep into a new interest/programming language/etc, but we often forget about the impact it has on our other areas of life.
But in this step it’s important to remember that we need to stay growing and balanced in all areas of life. I would rather hire a programmer who is extremely healthy and slightly junior, than a genius senior that is negative and horribly unhealthy. EVERY damn day I would take that hire. Every. Damn. Day. And so would 90% of other hiring managers.
Here are 2 ways I think you could grow in other areas, whilst still maintaining your programming abilities.
I. Read books from other industries such as psychology, success, love, passion, self-help, mindset, beliefs, science, physics, literally anything else other than programming – for at minimum 7 minutes a day. This will keep your brain well rounded while you are trying to focus deep on programming for the majority of the day.
II. For the love of god, please continue exercising and working on your body while learning programming. Spend 7 minutes at minimum exercising every day – if you never have. If you already exercise, continue to maintain this habit. There is an iOS app called 7 minutes that will show you exercises you can do in this time frame. I’m sure there’s a similar app on Android 🙂
YOU AREN’T CONFIDENT IN YOUR OWN ABILITIES (AKA YOU HAVEN’T DONE 25 TUTORIALS)
Subconscious confidence is an undervalued aspect of our lives.
Sometimes in life, if you aren’t getting what you want, it’s because you don’t deserve what you want. Not always. But sometimes. So you have to ask…
Do you deserve this job? Are you a person that deserves to be paid this job’s base salary?
If you answered no, or even WANTED to but didn’t, then subconsciously your confidence is in trouble and we need to increase it. We will discuss that in the next step.
Here are ways to gain subconscious confidence and therefore increase what you feel you deserve.
I. Do the 25 tutorials in one of the previous steps. This action, and repetition, will instill this confidence. And you won’t even notice it.
II. Watch a LOT of keynote / conference videos in the language you will be getting a job in. This is probably the biggest hack I know to gain subconscious confidence. Subconscious education (and thereby subconscious confidence) is not something we touched on deeply in this article, but it’s a huge topic that I think will help revolutionize the education industry in the next 20 years (more on how to leverage this in future articles). For now, let’s just keep it simple – to get a job that other people already have – just watch people do that job. And keynotes at programming conferences are one of the only ways to do this without walking into offices and watching people.
YOU DON’T BELIEVE YOU ARE WORTH BEING PAID FOR THIS SKILL
This is the real killer. The finality maker.
Your mindset dictates your reality, in most cases, especially in an affluent world (but let’s keep in mind not everyone is so lucky to partake in).
But those for whom our mindset is the primary dictator of our reality, the belief that you are or aren’t worth something is the ultimate deciding factor in achieving your goals.
It’s so deeply ingrained in your belief system, and your confidence, and your self worth, and your psychology, and also can discourage you from growing your client base and achieving your professional goals. This is why it’s so important to work on this!
All I can say, is that if you have issues with this, do WHATEVER YOU HAVE TO DO to work on fixing this.
Here are a few tactics I’ve found that have helped me. Can’t guarantee it’ll help you, but they sure helped me.
I. Start with very small client work in the order of $200-$750. This is an amount of money most people feel they are worth making, and it can help rewire your brain that success IS a possible outcome. Do this a few times and slowly grow this price point a little bit higher.
II. Read books and articles about other successful people, just like you, that have achieved what you want to achieve. This is very important because it gives you subconscious visualization and mirroring ability. This is probably one of the most important but under-looked factors of ALL amateurs and mid-levels in every single industry and venture.
I don’t think you need to experience what I’ve experienced to do what I’ve done. And that goes for anyone who has gone from extreme adversity to success of any kind. If you take nothing but 1 thing from this article- practice the art of modeling successful people. Please don’t be the person that can’t learn from others. There’s an old saying “you can’t teach pigs to fly”, and I don’t want that to be you. I want you to be the person that CAN learn from other people, that TAKES massive action and ultimately achieves all your goals.
And before we depart… let’s not forget…
“Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.” – C.S. Lewis
GO GET AFTER IT!!!