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Looking for web developer jobs when you don’t have much experience

A question from Duncan, one of the readers of my newsletter:

I guess my biggest (potential) hurdle, is that I don’t have a lot of previous work that I can display to employers and my resume looks something like this: 
– Unrelated admin / menial jobs in my 20s
– ~2 years travel / self-study
– 8 months ux/design/dev agency
– ~12 months travel / self-study 

YEP! I can 100% relate.

When I first made the switch, almost all of my experience up to that point had been unrelated HR work.

There are three things that made a huge difference for me and really helped me get my foot in the door.

1. Volunteer work. #

We had just adopted a rescue dog, and their website was in no way representative of the awesome work they were doing. I offered to build them a new one for free.

They took me up on it, and 5 years later I’m still working with them.

My work with them has become one of the best showcases in my portfolio. Mobile traffic grew by 20x+. Annual donations doubled. They got featured in a documentary on HBO. But most importantly, it gave me some real client experience early on to include in my portfolio.

2. Open source. #

I threw every tiny, inconsequential thing I learned how to do up on my blog or as free code people could use on GitHub.

When I was interviewing for jobs, I had this large body of work people could look at to get a sense for how I actually think about problems and write code.

Ethan Marcotte actually mentioned this in a recent interview I did with him.

3. Going to MeetUps and other events. #

My very first official post-HR web developer role happened because some guy I met at a conference followed me on Twitter and then started digging through my open source stuff and thought I’d be a good fit for his company.

I also got interviews at some awesome places like Automattic (the folks who make WordPress) because I went to events and mentioned that I was actively looking for roles.

🚀 Make 2018 the year you master JavaScript! My pocket guides and mini courses are short, focused, and made for beginners. You can do this!

Have any questions or comments about this post? Email me at or contact me on Twitter at @ChrisFerdinandi.

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