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I was picky as a junior engineer, and you should be too

I was picky as a junior engineer, and you should be too
Photo by Gia Oris / Unsplash

Oftentimes you hear people say that the first job is “just for the CV” - doesn’t matter how much it is of interest to you. You just want to get “junior” out of your title.

Honestly, I thought the same. I was lucky enough to have a mentor who told me otherwise, and I wound up with the option to be picky about my first job. A company that I believe in and am extremely passionate about their product.

I believe that being a junior does not mean opting for “wherever that will have you”, quite the contrary. With that being said, you'd have to prove your worth. For me, I had built a few personal projects that were my answer to the question - “should we hire you?”.

About a year ago a friend of mine called me and introduced me to a 6-month full-stack developer course for released combat soldiers.

With no prior knowledge and never having been especially proficient at math, I was extremely pessimistic about my chances of getting accepted to that course. Furthermore, I was pretty much set on being a psychologist anyway. At the time I had a temporary job that paid well but was far too demanding of my time.

After consulting with various people from the tech industry, I have heard that getting a job as a junior developer is very difficult and will likely take forever, and that the job I will get would be a very demanding and low-paying.

I decided to give it a shot anyway.

Fast forward six months, I started looking for a job.

I was wondering if all the effort I put in throughout the course, and all the times I pissed off my (now ex) girlfriend by being glued to the screen, are actually going to pay off.

I landed four job offers, all thanks to my personal projects. You can learn so much when you’re building things for fun and out of curiosity. That’s probably the biggest tip I could give anyone wanting to find the first job - do things that you like! Because if you like it, you’ll be good at it. And passion wins over recruiters.

This is how I have achieved it:

  • Personal projects: I had built three big projects. In every interview, I asked the interviewer if I could present them. You want your projects to have a WOW effect, something that will break through the interviewers' bias about you being inexperienced and show them your dedication and hard work skills.
  • CV, CV, CV: I have sent 40-60 CV’s a day. I went to every job-board website I could fine and sent CVs to every job that was within my field of interest. Even if the description asked for a senior, even if the description sounded like I wouldn’t be an appropriate fit. The reason being is that if an interviewer is impressed by you, they might decide you’re not right for this job, but will re-direct you to another team or division.

Today, I work as an associate software engineer for Snyk and I am extremely happy. I love it because of the company values, culture and most of all, the product. It is so strangely familiar to the areas that my own projects touched on, that I just knew I’d have a blast working on it.