Are you interested in becoming a software developer? Do you feel discouraged without any IT experience? I’m going to tell you right now that you shouldn’t. Career changes for software developers can be frustrating, but they are certainly possible with the right mindset.
I didn’t start out my career a developer. In fact – I didn’t even know that I was interested in IT when I was first starting out. In a lot of ways, having experience in other fields prior to my career in IT ended up working to my benefit. I personally think I am more talented than some other developers who have been programming for years. Experience isn’t all that matters. What matters is finding that first job as a software developer and getting into the IT industry.
Below are some tips on how you can change your career and become a software developer based on what has worked personally for me and for other people that I know.
Work on Getting Some Qualifications
To switch careers to become a developer, you’ll need some knowledge and possibly some qualifications. You’re going to need to bring some skills to the table for interviews. Saying your want to change careers to become a software developer isn’t going to be enough.
I recommend looking into getting some certifications, on top of learning from resources available to you for free. Try signing up for a coding boot camp. A lot of self-taught developers end up getting their first job from a coding boot camp. Coding boot camps such as Fullstack Academy are intense and can help you learn the skills you need to get an entry-level job within a short amount of time. Udemy is also a great place to take courses in different programming languages.
Work on some projects to build up your portfolio. This will help highlight your skills when it comes time to interview since you won’t have much experience. I suggest also storing your portfolio on Github. Focus on writing clear code that is understandable because that is what employers will want to see. If you’re only LISTING the skills that you taught yourself on your resume then you won’t stand out. Show employers personal projects that you’ve worked on as proof of what you can do as a software developer.
Expect to Start from the Ground Up
First and foremost, don’t start off with unrealistic expectations. Career changes for software developers means evaluating your current salary and what’s realistic for the role you’re trying to get. It’s not going to be easy transitioning to software development and having to compete for jobs with other programmers who have much more experience. It’s probably going to take a pay-cut to help you get into a role as a software developer.
You’re going to need to accept that you’re still learning and be willing to let potential employers know that you will take a lower salary than other programmers they’re interviewing. Just because you may be taking a pay cut from your last job – doesn’t mean it’s going to be permanent. Be patient. This set-back will only be temporary and is probably necessary for you to get your foot in the door.
See if there are Programming Positions Open Internally
Trying to break into the IT industry without experience can feel EXTREMELY overwhelming. With that being say, I highly recommend seeing if you can transition within your current company if it’s possible. In fact, career changes for software developers often start out by them getting their first gig at their current company.
Let your company know that you’re interested in becoming a developer. Be sure to emphasize how having you transition into the role can benefit them. Does your company work with Agile/SCRUM? You could start off by trying to learn some technical skills on the project management side to start. This experience will can benefit you down the road with your transition.
Next, see if you can help your IT department here and there. Practice by programming little things that you think can use improvement. The more programming you do, the more your co-workers will start to see the potential there for you as a software developer. Ask if there’s anything you can do to help them and work that they can give you. In the long run, if you keep bugging for work from them, you may just get it.
By switching into a software development role at your current company, you will now have official experience to put on your resume. You will be able to include the experience you have from your current company as a stepping stone, so you get dive right into negotiating slightly higher somewhere else. Trust me, even if you feel like the skills you learned from your current employer aren’t much, they’re better than nothing.
Network with Other Developers
I recommend doing as much networking as you can. Connections can go a long way when it comes to career changes for software developers. It’s not an easy journey to take on your own.
Start trying to network as often as you can. See if there are IT meet-ups in your area that you can attend. Schedule a lunch with a co-worker at your current company who works in IT. Message programmers and developers on LinkedIn. Share your story and ask programmers if they have advice for career changes for software developers.
Reach out to other developers in your area and explain your situation. Ask them for their story and advice on how to make the switch into IT. I have people reach out to me here and there and I always meet with them. You’d be surprised how many people are willing to meet you at a Starbucks and help guide you. All it takes is you reaching out and showing some passion for the career want to be in. Try to find a mentor to help guide you now and don’t put it off.
Struggles of a Career Changes for Software Developers
Switching fields is never easy. Heck, switch jobs alone isn’t always smooth. There are going to be struggles when you switch careers to become a software developer. You’re not going to be a great programmer at first and you probably won’t even measure up to most of your peers once you’re in your first job. Career changes for software developers are much harder for those without prior experience.
A major initial disadvantage will be your lack of knowledge. Don’t be naive and think that it will be easy to get in a company and that you’ll be able to pick up things right away. There are tons of other programmers out there who have education and/or experience, which you won’t. There are plenty of resources you can take advantage of to learn as much as you can prior to transitioning, but at the end of the day you still won’t know everything.
You will need to sacrifice a lot of your free time. Since you’re switching careers to become a developer you’re going to need to spend extra time playing catch up to get on the same level as other programmers. Not to mention, early mornings, late nights, weekends – you name it will be spent learning.
Advantages of Making A Career Switch to a Developer
The good news is that there are tons of advantages to making career changes for software developers. The odds aren’t against you and you’re not the only one who has done this. Getting an entry-level job as a software developer with basic Java, Python, Rails or SQL skills shouldn’t be impossible.
There are many ways in which your previous experience in a field other than IT can benefit you. For starters, you will be able to have more of a “think outside the box” mentality as oppose to those who have been programming for years. Often, those without an initial background in programming have better communication skills. Usually, programmers who have only worked in the IT industry often lack this skill. I’m not trying to be rude – just speaking the truth. By working in a field other than IT, you will have the advantage of knowing communication skills that they don’t.
If you have experience in a field such as healthcare and are applying for a developer role at a healthcare company, employers could see you as a good candidate. Generally speaking, knowing the lingo from having previous experience in the same industry can work to your advantage.
Don’t Get Discouraged During Your Transition
If you see entry level postings with intense requirements of CS degrees or 6 years of experience – don’t get discouraged. Often, companies will put these requirements because they don’t want everyone with two legs applying. A perfect example of this is in my article how people who can’t program get programming jobs.
Still apply and give it a shot. Applying to roles, even ones you find intimidating can only help you. Personally, if I am interviewing someone for an IT role I’m not going to give that much of a damn about their education or experience. I’m going to want to see what they can do and how well they can do it. Not to mention, if you do well in your interview, employers could overlook your lack of experience and will probably be given a chance.
In addition, just because you might not be the perfect fit for a specific developer or programming job doesn’t mean a company won’t see you as a fit for another. There are plenty of project management roles that require coding, SCRUM and programming that employers might see you as a fit for. I personally recommend interviewing as many places as you can to see what offers you get.
Overall, the path to get there is not all sunshine and roses. Career changes for software developers isn’t easy. It takes work – but it’s worth it. Be persistent and don’t give up. I promise that if you are passionate and work hard, you will see that career changes for a software developer can be quite easy.