How do I get a Junior Developer job?

I’ve been learning Ruby on Rails for a while now, and I feel I’m learning fast. But I have no commercial experience and I’m looking for a job. However, I can’t find anything in the Rails field; should I just give up and switch to Node instead?

This is one of the hardest things to deal with in technology.

I can remember when I got my first programming job (in Delphi, which is showing my age) and I had the realisation that being amazing at Pascal wasn’t enough. I also had to learn this SQL language, which I’d never ever seen before.

Today, that translates into knowing Ruby, knowing Rails, knowing Javascript, JQuery, Ember or Angular, SQL, Mongo, Puppet, Chef … the list is endless.

Couple that with the fact that the landscape has changed.

When I went full-time as a Rails-only freelancer, almost ten years ago, the companies I was working for were startups and small businesses that took a gamble on the new technology to get a competitive advantage.

This is different now. Those companies are using Go and Node. The Rails jobs are in corporates, enterprises and established companies that are looking for a bit of safety.

But there are still jobs out there.

Juniors are always in demand.

The first thing to remember is, at the start of your career, it’s not the technology that counts. In fact, it’s never the technology that counts.

If you’re enthusiastic and willing to learn that will take you a long way.

You may start off with Rails but end up using Clojure. They’re very different environments, but a programmer is a programmer, regardless of the quasi-religious barriers we’ve built up.

And, I hate to say it, but being supremely talented isn’t the be all and end all either.

Jobs, even programming jobs, are about how you relate to the people around you; the people in your team, your clients, your customers, your bosses.

So how do you get over this catch-22 situation?

To get started, find out if there are any Ruby User Groups in your area.

Go along.

Have a beer (or a lime and soda).

It’s intimidating, I know. Developers tend to be shy. It’s even harder if you’re a woman or in a social minority. I fully understand that.

But Rubyists have a saying – “Matz is nice so we are nice”. We try to be welcoming.

And you never know. When one of my friends says they’re hiring again, I’ll say “I met this woman the other day who was looking for her first job; I don’t know how good she is but she seemed pretty bright and enthusiastic”. A chain of personal contacts is gold and can make up for formal experience on your CV.

So get yourself out there and have a chat with the Rubyists in your area.

And please pass this on to anyone you know who’s looking for a junior post. You never know, I might be hiring again soon too.

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