So, you’re finally ready. You’ve been learning code for a while, practicing your skills on various projects, and it’s time to start applying for your dream job in the programming industry. But if you’ve never worked in the field before, the thought of trying to land that first position can be a daunting one.
Luckily, people with coding experience are highly employable and the skills that you’ll have brought with you from your previous work-life are likely to be a great advantage. To help you communicate those to your new employer, here are some tips I’ve found that can help make your resume and job applications stand out from the crowd.
List Your Transferrable Skills
Your first port of call on the job hunt should be to list any skills from your previous career(s) that may be transferrable to your new career as a coder. Are you super organized? A great project manager? Fantastic troubleshooter? All of these talents could be of great benefit to your new boss, and it’s always worth having a list you can refer back and add to when you think of new things.
Choose Your Resume Format Carefully
Once you’ve identified those key transferrable skills that are relevant to the job you’ve got your eye on, the next step is to choose the best format for your resume.
The most recognizable format is the traditional chronological resume. With its reverse-chronological employment section and focus on job roles and accomplishments, this format is great for those on a steady career path — but it might not be the best for career changers.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, a functional resume can work well for those who have held a few unrelated positions, have had a long break from employment, or who are now looking for a position in an industry greatly different from the one they worked in previously.
The functional style downplays employment history in favor of highlighting key skills gained throughout your career or through other avenues, such as volunteer work. Your work experience is added to the end of the document, but with a lot less detail than a chronological resume.
Although this format might sound perfect for career changers, it should be used very carefully — some hiring managers may be suspicious of the lack of employment information in this format, and using it could be a gamble!
The third option to consider, especially if you aren’t making too much of a radical career change, is a hybrid of the chronological and functional formats. This format leads with a list of functional skills and relevant qualifications before following with employment history. This allows you to highlight any key skills relevant to the new role before then providing a detailed employment history, potentially giving the best of both worlds!
Customize, Customize, Customize
One of the most important things to do is make sure your job application is specific to the role you’re applying for. For each position, read through the person specification, noting what practical and transferrable skills are needed. Then, make sure the career summary and key skills sections of your resume are tailored to the role. For example, if CSS skills are important to them, and you happen to be great at it, make sure they know!
Rock the Cover Letter
Most job openings ask for a cover letter along with your resume. This is the perfect opportunity to tell the employer why you want to work in coding, and specifically with them. As well as giving some specific examples of why you’re suitable for the job and highlighting what you can bring to the role, make sure you let them know what drove you to pursue a career change and let your passion for coding shine through.
Show Off Your Skills
One of the advantages of learning to code is that it’s relatively easy to show a hiring manager what you’re capable of. Even if you’ve never worked in the industry before, chances are you’ve got some unpaid experience, whether it’s building a website for a friend or coding your own smartphone app. So set up a simple portfolio website and make sure the URL is on your resume — no matter how small these projects may be, they’re a great way to display your skills.
These are just a few tips to give you a start in applying for your first coding position, so don’t be afraid to apply to those jobs you’ve had your eye on. By spending time on your resume, crafting personal cover letters, and preparing ahead of time, making a career switch to coding is possible.