If you’re reading this, you’re probably in one of two situations.
Situation one is that you’re about to graduate college with a degree in computer science or software engineering but have never had an internship.
Situation two is that you don’t have a degree in software engineering but you’re looking to switch careers and don’t know where to start.
No matter which category you fall into, we’ve got you covered.
How to get a software engineering job with no experience (WITH a degree)
If you have (or almost have) your degree and are having trouble finding a job as a software engineer, here are three things you can do to help you get a job.
1. Cover the basics
Half of getting a job is just how you present yourself. This is even more important if you don’t have a ton of relevant experience.
Make sure your resume is in great shape. Have someone review it, preferably someone with professional experience. Most universities have career centers with people dedicated to resume review.
Also, make sure your LinkedIn is complete and up to date. Especially in tech, you can pretty much count on every recruiter and hiring manager looking you up on LinkedIn. Having a professional-looking portfolio will help tremendously.
Beyond looking good on paper, make sure you perfect your elevator pitch and practice answers to basic interview questions.
Read 5 Steps to Acing your Engineering Internship Interview for interviewing tips.
2. What to apply to
When you’re looking to get a software engineering job with no experience, it’s best to avoid the FAANG companies. These top tech companies are extremely competitive. It’s definitely worth a few applications if you see something you’re particularly interested in, but you should focus the majority of your efforts on small and medium-sized companies.
When looking for your first job, try not to be too picky, especially if you don’t have much experience. Getting a less-than-ideal job as a software engineer and working there for a year would be better than spending an entire 6 months to a year job searching because you’re being picky.
It’s also important to realize that finding a job is a numbers game no matter how experienced you are. Many new grads apply to hundreds of jobs before securing one. If you want to secure a job as fast as possible, you need to be aggressively applying to jobs on a regular basis.
You should also prioritize applying to jobs that have been posted recently (within 7 days). Also, if you’re willing to relocate, make sure you include that in your cover letter.
3. Create a portfolio
Creating a portfolio is a great way to supplement your application if you don’t have any experience. Creating a portfolio doesn’t have to be a daunting task.
If you already have your degree, then you’ve done lots of projects and assignments for classes. Upload them all to GitHub and link your GitHub to your resume and on LinkedIn. This allows the hiring manager to see what you’re capable of.
If you want to go the extra mile, you can also create a personal website. Code a simple website and get creative with it. Include an about section to help the reader get to know you more. You can even do an “interests” page where you talk about your interests and use that to show off some coding skills. For example, if you like a particular sports team you can include graphs and analyses on their most recent season.
How to get a software engineering job with no experience (WITHOUT a degree)
If you don’t have a degree in software engineering or a related field, there are still ways you can gain experience to get a job in software engineering. Here are three ways to get a software engineering job without a degree:
1. Start with a beginner coding course
There are so many free resources on the internet for learning to code that it’s entirely possible to be self-taught. However, knowing where to start can be daunting. It might feel like there are too many resources and it’s difficult to find one to stick with.
If you don’t know where to start, Harvard’s entry-level coding class, CS50: Introduction to Computer Science is completely free and available to everyone. They cover the basics of coding in a structured manner. If you can complete the course, it’s a good indicator that you can reach the proficiency level necessary to be a software engineer.
2. Consider doing a boot camp
If you’ve already learned the basics of coding on your own or with a free course, you may want to consider doing a coding boot camp. Coding boot camps are big time and money commitments. Before signing up, make sure it’s something you really want to do. Also, do your research to make sure the one you’re doing is legitimate.
A coding boot camp is not necessary to learn to code. If you’re disciplined enough, there are ample resources to learn on your own. The major benefit of boot camps is the structured learning they provide.
3. Create a portfolio
The most important thing you need to get a job as a software engineer without experience is a portfolio. Without a degree, you need to be able to show what you are capable of. As you go through your self-teaching or boot camp, make sure you are fully completing projects and are saving them. Throughout your learnings, you should complete a handful of projects. Upload these projects to GitHub and link your GitHub to your resume and on LinkedIn.
If you want an additional side project, create a personal website! This is a creative way to let your interviewer know more about you and show off some coding skills.