by Jonathan Puc

How did I land my first job as a self-taught developer? I prepared like crazy.

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” — Abraham Lincoln.

This quote is pretty much the embodiment of the advice I’m going to give. So if there was one thing you had to take away from this article, I would encourage you to remember that quote. If you aren’t quite sure about the meaning behind those famous words, you will in due time.

I believe it is necessary to provide a little backstory about myself. I don’t want you to see me as a stranger giving advice. I want you to see me as an individual like you, who has gone through the similar experiences.

I’m a 22 year old self-taught developer. I started learning 9 months ago.

Before my coding journey, I was the typical teen who was influenced by society and the education system.

In my final year of high school I was given several months and told I needed to make one of the most important decisions of my life, what I wanted to study in higher education.

I thought I would go for a field that was stable and secure, so I chose supply chain and logistics.

During the two years I spent at university, I was uneasy, and I wasn’t sure why. I believed the unhappiness and taste of dissatisfaction was something normal as a young adult in university. I thought: “all this will change once I’ve graduated and got a job out of my degree!”

I now know that would have been far from the truth.

The real problem was that I hadn’t found something to truly be passionate about — something I would be able to spend my time and effort in doing and not labeling it as “work”. Just before the start of my third year, I discovered the world of self-development, and programming shortly after that.

I recently landed a job as a developer at a young and growing startup.

My second home!

This was my first and only sit-down with an actual company, and I was successful.

Note that before this, I did meet with two recruitment agencies. But that was with the intent to brush up on my interview skills and to gauge the industry in preparation for future interviews.

All in all, I’d say being successful on the first go is a pretty big achievement. Though I had projects and code to show for it, I’m confident that it was my past experiences, traits, mindset, and the position I put myself in as a candidate that led to my success.

Here’s how I became that candidate.

Lets get the most important (and quite obvious) one out of the way first.

Code everyday.

If you are serious about this whole developer thing, you should be mastering and enhancing your skill set whenever possible. Coding should be an extension of yourself.

You should get to the point where you wake up and naturally feel inclined to sit down and practice code.

It’s not life or death if you miss a day, but it is important you always try to fit a session in each day.

Set goals.

You have probably heard this a dozen times, and hopefully this time round it is something that sticks and you’ll start doing.

There’s a reason why setting goals is preached.

Without a target you’ll never reach your full potential. Without a target you’ll continually be chasing something and never getting anywhere.

“I want to be successful!” or “I want to be rich!” These are not goals, these are wishes.

You must be specific. You must know exactly what it is you want and how you are going to get it. You must work until you get it.

Define what you want, write it down, and read it everyday.

At the start of September, I wrote in my journal “I’m going to have a job as a developer for a company I believe in by February 2018.”

From then on, everything I did, I did with the intent and purpose of meeting that one goal.

I only started looking at job postings about 5 weeks ago. I achieved my goal within 3 months, as opposed to the initially set 5 months.

That’s the beauty of goals. Having direction and purpose can mean all the difference.

Jump towards any opportunity to learn.

This year I was able to attend the European Innovation Academy, the World’s Largest Extreme Entrepreneurship program.

I came across this opportunity thanks to the fact that I put myself out there and raised awareness towards my personal brand, which will be the next topic.

The academy was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me. I was able to collaborate with students from around the world, as well as be mentored and taught by experts from companies such as Google.

I came home with insight and knowledge that definitely allowed me to grow and distinguish myself from my competition.

The best thing you can do when meeting with potential employers is to showcase how dedicated you are to learning and growing through new opportunities. Why would they hire somebody knowingly well that there is a high chance that the candidate could become complacent now that they’ve secured a position within the company?

Furthermore, the mentors at the academy would continually stress that the most important thing about a startup isn’t the idea, but the culture and people behind it — the collective mind.

It is in the best interest of companies to hire personnel who are self-motivated and driven. Be that person.

Build your personal brand.

If you want to stand out, you’ve gotta show some authority in the industry you wish to be a part of. Start putting yourself and your content out there.

The reason I was able to land the opportunity to join the entrepreneurship program was due to the fact that a friend had seen what I was doing and made a referral. I didn’t know the program existed and would’ve missed out if I had kept to myself about my goals and what I was aspiring to be.

Good at writing? Start blogging.

Good at being on camera? Start a YouTube channel.

Enjoy audio? Start your own podcast.

You don’t have to be an expert, you just need to start documenting your journey. Everybody loves a story.

Be willing to put yourself out there, be vulnerable and show you’re serious. By doing so, you’ve already established yourself ahead than most of your competition.


“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

Remember our old friend from before?

People are so caught up in trying to learn certain coding frameworks or languages to try to appease job postings. Those are just tools. It’s who’s using the tools that matter the most.

If you can get a meeting with employers and really showcase yourself as a candidate who would fit well with their team and culture, you’re going to have a high chance of getting the job — self taught or not.

If your goal is to chop down a tree, instead of hacking away at it without any preparation, why not master the axe and sharpen it? Now you can chop down that tree in a few short-but-true swings. Or maybe, if you’re lucky, one fell swoop!

Here’s wishing you luck on your journey. As always, my inbox is open to anybody in need of further advice or have questions.

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