One of the biggest “catch-22’s” in the junior developer world is the problem of finding a company that will hire you with very little on-the-job experience. Most companies are asking for 1-2 years experience for junior/entry-level positions which can feel unfair when you first get out of your code school or boot camp. How are you supposed to find a job to get that experience if everyone wants you to already have the experience?
If you’ve been around a college atmosphere or watched a movie about college you’ve likely heard of internships. Those much beloved (or maligned) experiences where a bright-eyed student would help out at a company, hopefully in/near a role that they’re degree was leading to. Sometimes these positions are paid but more often they are unpaid but help develop connections and experience in the industry itself.
I had an internship while going through college (California Earthquake Authority, woo!) but I had never really considered internships being important when thinking about which code school to attend. My thoughts were usually, “That’s something college kids have to do to get into grad school or when they want some extra cash during summer break”. I was an I.T. veteran and had several years of job experience (albeit not in development), how hard could it be to find a job?
Really damn hard, actually.
What I hadn’t taken into account was that companies weren’t looking for a junior developer with management experience and a breadth of knowledge. No…they wanted someone who knew how to program, had been doing it for a while, and had a track record of success…none of which I had.
So what are the benefits of an internship through a code school (or on your own, if you can find a company willing to offer one)?
Ok so this one is a bit of a “gimme”, of course your going to get experience working as an intern. Remember that you’re not just getting “time spent on the job” experience for your resume/LinkedIn (you have one, right?!?), but you’re also getting more in-depth knowledge of how actual development happens in the real world and how to use all those fancy gems, libraries, and tools you saw/learned about in class.
In addition you’ll hopefully walk away from the internship with direct project experience. It won’t just be “I spent six weeks as a developer for XYZ company”…you may be able to get specific like, “I spent six weeks developing the following three features for their production application which you can see versions of on my Github account/personal website”.
What’s better than six weeks at an internship?
Six weeks plus samples of work that you did or contributed to.
As a junior developer you’ve probably heard that networking is key in your professional development. If you’re like me at all, networking at events is a painful process that goes against my introverted nature. But put me on a team with a project and I come out of my shell!
Working with more experienced developers and other business people while at an internship gives them the opportunity to see who you are at a deeper level than your resume or LinkedIn profile.
While you may not get hired on at the end of your internship with that company, if you’ve done a good job they may keep their ears open for any potential positions and recommend you.
It’s never a sure thing, but you never know what may happen in a few months time. As new positions open and people move to different companies you may find that connection you built pays off!
A Reality Check
That’s right…the daily grind of code school doesn’t always prepare you for the reality of actually being a software developer. Most programs will try to do their best to get you ready and set your expectations, but it’s always a gut check when you get on the job and things happen in real-time. Being able to get a feel for the actual job when the stakes aren’t quite as high can help you truly decide if development is for you.
If it is, great! Now you’ll be a little more comfortable and ready to hit the ground running when you get to that first job. If not, then you’ve saved yourself and a company a great deal of time and money in recruiting, training, and then transitioning you out down the road.
Have you had an internship experience with a code school or programming boot camp? Have any tips for junior developers looking to find that first job? I’d love to hear about it all, so leave me a comment!