How I Got My Second Developer Job

Back in February I concluded that I had progressed about as far as I could in my role at the time, as software engineer at Lovespace.

Money was the main motivating factor as I enjoyed my job, but also I noticed from looking at the job market over Christmas that most jobs wanted Vue, ES6 and especially React. I had none. So there was also a feeling that I might get left behind…I had pushed myself to get this far, I had to push again. Plus I was starting to get bored of looking at the same order funnel all day, no matter how many times we applied redesigns.

At first, I didn’t really have a strategy. I was particularly concerned about how out of date my portfolio was and how it implied that I was a junior developer looking for my first role. My Github was pretty weak, my ‘experienced developer’ interview experience zero, my CV a bore, my personal projects as dated as my portfolio. It felt like it would be as difficult as finding my first developer role – yet having to do it whilst working 40+ hours a week (not to mention the 2.5 hours commuting a day…but yeah lets definitely mention that!).

Profile Improvements

  1. LinkedIn
  2. My Actual Portfolio
  3. Hired/Talent.io
  4. CV

Starting with my LinkedIn profile. Apart from updating my skills and general bio, the most important thing to do was set my status to actively looking for work. Then wait for the messages to come in…and boy they did.

I never finished updating my portfolio. I tidied it up, removed lots of mess – even some of the HTML structure was embarrassing. The most difficult part was trying to work out what to do with it in terms of style – I cannot say that I am overly happy but it is certainly an improvement on before.

There are still things badly wrong with the site.

I also ensured that all of my key achievements during the previous two years were listed. So at least I had something to show people.

I then created profiles on hired.co.uk and talent.io. Maybe one or two other similar ones too, and set them as though I was looking for work. Oh yeah, hackajob too. Which scared my mum when I told her. You know, the word “hack” is pretty scary to some people.

Finally I created a pretty CV using NovoResume. Only one page as any more was paid for – and I was still on a junior salary. Goodbye boring black and white two-page boring CV, hello colour, stylish CV.

So, what worked?

Firstly, the job boards such as hired.co.uk, talent.io and hackajob were a waste of my time. The idea of those is that you upload your CV/experience and employers reach out to you. Cutting out the recruitment consultant – though you still have an account manager who invariably hassles you to set up phone calls, and question why you aren’t interested in certain roles.

It wasn’t for a lack of approaches (though they went silent around the Brexit deadline weeks), but the roles just didn’t seem suitable or interesting to me. I had a couple of phone interviews, but none of the roles I was convinced about – and apparently them about me too.

I also went to a jobs fair called Silicon MilkRoundabout, in Shoreditch (in London). This was a large building with a ball pit (because all job seekers need a ball pit) and free beer. Hundreds of companies were situated in the building and it was a case of walking round and chatting to them, to see if any of them weren’t desperately looking for either senior developers or React developers.

I had some good conversations – 3 hours was nowhere near enough time to have allowed myself, and if I hadn’t had been offered a role not long after going, I think this could well have borne fruit in terms of interviews. There are a lot of HR departments with my details.

Ignoring recruitment consultants was a good strategy. Given the amount of my time they wasted when I was a junior, just trying to get information out of me, I studiously ignored their approaches. However, I did crack early on with someone who didn’t look dumb as fuck, and was from Yorkshire so had to be honest, which led to an interview for a role that I was unsuitable for.

Stack Overflow jobs section was also worth looking at – a couple of interesting roles and one interview came from there.

LinkedIn For The Win

Finally, LinkedIn. This is where by far the most interesting roles arrived, and all I had to do was just sit there and wait. Most days, something would arrive including my new role at M&S. Simply having an up-do-date LinkedIn profile would have been a very viable strategy for finding a new role.

If I had had more time, then I would have spent the time thinking carefully about the kind of company I wanted to work for, and sent my CV to said companies. But I had enough approaches to deal with. And limited time – it really isn’t easy to schedule interviews or even phone interviews, when you are working full-time and have long working days and long commutes.

Of course, I then had to have some interviews.

I won’t bore you with the details of the phone interviews I had, I probably had around 10 phone interviews – one I was genuinely gutted that I didn’t hear back from, despite chasing – the company was super-cool (yeah I’ve forgotten them) and I thought I was perfect. Otherwise, either I didn’t hear back, or I wasn’t successful (not that I was disappointed generally) or I declined the next interview as the role or company didn’t feel right. It felt good declining companies!

Starting with a disaster

The first place I interviewed for was a company called Grabyo. Contacted by the aforementioned recruitment consultant, I think the only one I dealt with during the whole experience, I was reluctant to go for it because they expected React. Yet I had a really good phone interview, explained that I didn’t know React, had barely touched it – that would be fine.

They asked me to do a coding challenge. In React.

I thought I’d get my head around it, but it was too much to figure out a whole new framework on a Saturday, so I eventually reluctantly gave up. Then a few days later, they said I could do it in AngularJS, which is what I use at work. So I did. And did a pretty decent job of it too.

So I had an interview. A really difficult interview – and I crumbled. After an hour, I knew that I had messed up a couple of questions and could see them judging me – some very obvious signs in his eyes. Then I had to do some pair programming and I could barely use the laptop. I felt the pressure getting more and more (plus I was desperate for a wee and the office was hot). I was desperate to get out of there.

It was a disaster.

Next I interviewed for a company called Simply Cook. This went really well, but they ended up going for someone with more experience.

At least I had performed well at interview, put my previous bad interview to bed and regained my confidence. Plus got some free food kits.

Winner!

Finally, the third role that I interviewed for was at M&S, the revered and slightly troubled British store.

I won’t tell you too much about the interview as I know that they are still recruiting for more roles.

Two phone interviews were passed, then I had a 3 hour face-to-face interview. Firstly the coding test, which I did pretty well at – though they asked me to do some ES6 code which I didn’t know about…but thankfully I made my way through it with use of the internet.

I smashed the logic section – two pretty cool and interesting challenges. Then the culture fit too – though I had no doubts that I would be a good fit.

A few days later, I was offered the role and there was no question about it – I didn’t just want to be a software engineer, but an M&S software engineer.

Summary

If I were to go through this process again, whilst being employed full-time and with my busy life, then I would probably just update LinkedIn, Stack Overflow and my CV.

I wouldn’t waste my time with the job sites such as hired.co.uk, nor would I speak to any recruitment consultants (I don’t anyway). My portfolio really will need updating by time I am a senior…and I really will need to change my portfolio name and URL! I am very much a web developer (or software engineer).

Anyway, cheers to me. New role starts on Monday – just hope I shift this mild fever I’ve had all week by then.

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