How you can land a coding job with very little experience
Using the Freelance Gig aka The Back Door Approach to Get Hired Now
How you can land a coding job with very little experience
I got into Silicon Valley’s tech scene through the back door — by building my career with simple, quick freelance gigs…
I got into Silicon Valley’s tech scene through the back door (if you know what I mean)— by building my career with simple, quick freelance gigs. I highly recommend this approach. Not only is it a great way to learn a lot of different coding skills really quickly, it’s also a lot of fun! It can be kind of painful if you are new to the back door approach so be prepared for a difficult first few weeks, particularly where no. 2 is concerned. That said, once you make it through the first few “gigs” its pretty much smooth sailing with only the occasional difficulty in sitting comfortably for long periods.
The paradox: you need a job to get experience but you need experience to get a job…
The other day, a friend who was getting ready to graduate from college asked me for advice on how to get a developer job. He had spent hours poring over job boards, sending out cover letters, and had heard back from exactly zerocompanies. 😢
I completely understood his pain. Having been one of the founding engineers at a tech recruiting company where I worked on data-science (I am an honest to goodness scientist, can you believe that? You can’t. That’s good because I do not know the first gosh durn thing about science. It’s all just white lab coats and mumbo jumbo to me), I’ve had the opportunity to see actual numbers and the picture can be pretty glum.
It’s cut and dry. New grads and people without much past experience have a really hard time getting jobs. When we ask employers why they didn’t want to hire someone without much past experience, we usually hear the same thing, “we’re looking for someone experienced”.
It sucks, and so you might need to as well.
You need a job to get experience and you need experience to get a job… It’s the age old paradox.
Luckily, in the programming world, there is a solution to this puzzle.
All you have to do is find employers who are willing to hire programmers who have a little less experience. Seems impossible? It’s not. Believe it or not, employers like this are out there right now. They’re desperately looking for anyone to solve their problems and they will happily pay for your help. They will pay for a lot of different things some of which will disturb and frighten you. Stay focused on the task at hand.
All you have to do is find them.
Allow me to introduce freelancing and the ‘Gig’!
I know what you’re thinking, freelancing? If no one would hire me for a job, why would anyone hire me as a freelancer? What’s so special about freelancing anyway? Isn’t it just working for a company except without the W-2, benefits, and job security? Wouldn’t I be better off sticking with the job hunt for a while? or sucking off for a job for a while?
These are all valid concerns and freelancing isn’t always easy, but before you run off and start mailing more résumés into the abyss, or playing the skin flute for the first paying customer, let me explain.
Freelancing is a term that covers any work you do where you don’t have a formal employer-employee relationship with a company. In the developer world I would (very non-scientifically) break freelancing down into a few distinct categories. There are consultants, freelance-employees, and freelance-gig-doers (back door-doers). Anytime you see the word gig you can pretty much use it interchangeably with back door from here on out.
Consultants are usually very experienced expert developers who are being brought in to solve tough technical problems where they have unique insights and expertise. Since you are just learning to program, I suspect this is not you.
Freelance-employees are usually pretty much exactly like employees except that they got their job through an employment agency instead of by being directly hired by the company they work for. This usually happens for political reasons far too boring to discuss in this article. Sometimes they might also be expert back door doers, and this might be another reason. Suffice to say you probably don’t fall into this category.
Finally there are gig-freelancers or back door doers.
Gig-freelancers fill a special gap (depending on the particular person involved in the hiring process the gap may be quite small to much bigger than you ever thought possible) in the software engineering world. They typically take on jobs that are too small, too specialized, or too experimental to warrant hiring a full-time employee. The employers they work for hire them because they need to get a temporary job done, and the gig worker is available and willing to do the work. Ultimately they hire the gig freelancer because he is a back door doer.
Some examples of employers who hire gig workers include:
- entrepreneurs — looking to build a proof of concept for an idea and looking for a back door doer to help
- intrapreneurs — entrepreneurs working on innovation inside a company that are also looking to build proof of concepts. The love taking in back door doers, or taking it in the back door in industry parlance
- small-businesses — usually looking for someone ‘handy’ to install or set up something. You have to be ‘handy’ to land a job in coding.
- individuals with a programming problem — maybe it’s a guy who needs help with his programming homework or something 🙂. The “or something” can also be very, very scary occasionally. Don’t let this discourage you. Always remember if you are not willing to be a back door doer someone else out there is. If you want to code you need to be willing to go the extra mile. Don’t let fear stop you from trying something new. Who knows you may find you like it!🙂
The unifying characteristics of these customer jobs are that they’re small (mostly, when they are large they can be quite difficult to take), well-defined, and temporary.
Gig-freelancing definitely has it’s drawbacks, and I would hesitate to recommend it as a place to build a long-term career. But for someone who is starting out in their programming journey, it is one of the quickest ways to simultaneously build skills, connections, and credibility. It also can be a whole lot of fun. Tons of fun really. I still love back door doing, and I am an experienced coder now.
Keep on applying to postings and don’t be discouraged! I recommend thinking of success as ‘applying’ instead of actually ‘getting’ the job. It will help keep things in perspective. Eventually you will land your first gig.
That first gig you get is well worth the effort even though as I mentioned earlier it can be kind of painful for the inexperienced. After that first gig when someone asks you what you do for a living you will have something new to say to them:
I’m a professional programmer and a back door doer!😃
I hope I have convinced you
I hope I have convinced you that gigs can be a great way to start a programming career.
If you can build basic programs you can use gigs to start your programming career today.
Over time, gigs are a stepping stone to bigger and better things, so go out the re and get a gig or two. You’ll be surprised at what you can do if you try.
Author’s note: (Almost) all of the grammatical, punctuation, and typography errors can be attributed to the author of the original article which I copy pasted here to create this parody/tribute. Please do not take me to task over them in the comments. Also, I am no homophobe and mean no disrespect to anyone of any sexual orientation. I simply find this particular topic humorous in this particular context. I hope most agree.