Career AdviceAm I Ready for My First Job as a Developer?

Photo by Wilfred Iven / CC0

Emily Schweiss
writes on February 14, 2017

Search… “web developer” AND “html” AND “css” AND “javascript” AND “angular.js”

Scan the results. Hmmm.

Junior Front End Web Developer position. Essentials skills:

Understanding of responsive web design ✓

Github ✓

Strong attention to detail ✓

Eager to learn and improve skills ✓

Click Apply…

It’s the moment you’ve been working towards, but how do you know when you’re ready for your first job as a developer? You know you want it and you feel like you’ve learned so muchincluding how much more there is to learn. Embarking on a new career can feel overwhelming at times, and it’s easy to let feelings of inadequacy take over. In a field where everything continues to evolve and change, you can feel like you’ll never be ready.

But we know otherwise. You’ve been working hard, racking up Treehouse badges as you ace those quizzes and code challenges. You’ve learned the technical skills and even more importantly, along the way you’ve also learned how to learn. You’re more ready than you know, you just have to prove it to yourself first. To this end, we’ve created a helpful list so you know you’re ready to click that apply button.

“You’re more ready than you know, you just have to prove it to yourself first.”


Job descriptions can look pretty intimidating sometimes. Bullet point after bullet point of demands for skills and knowledge that seem to be more than one job can handle. Truth be told, many times they are. All too often these are wish lists masquerading as requirements. It is so rare that a candidate will have every last item on this list, and often times when they do it’s not the job they want as there is no growth potential for them. It’s okay that a couple items on this list will stretch your skills. If you have 80% of what they’ve listed, apply! If you have 70%, apply and write an amazing cover letter!

As for years of experience, I’ve long said I’ll hire a candidate with one year of progressive experience over someone who repeated the same year 10 times. Show that you are growing and plan to continue to do so. If you’re brand new to the field and the description calls for 2 years or less, go ahead and apply! And definitely speak to relevant experience and transferable skills (problem-solving, time management, process improvement) from your previous work history.

“Show that you are growing and plan to continue to do so.”


Before you go around clicking any old apply button, you need to define what you both need and want out of a new position. Outside of the obvious skill set, think through the industry and culture you are seeking along with benefits and professional growth. This will allow you to compare opportunities and best prepare for interviews and offers. It’s wise to limit those clicks to the jobs you really want instead of applying to anything and everything out there. So take the time to figure out what it is you want.

Of course, there are few things you need to be prepared for once you do click that apply button. One, they’re expecting a resume to go along with it (and possibly a portfolio). Have you updated it with your new skills to target the right jobs? Did you polish it up and have a friend proofread it? Do you have a cover letter ready to go with why you’re the answer to their call? This will be your first impression, go in prepared.

Second, the intent of applying is to get an interview. Is your elevator pitch polished and ready to go? Have you been practicing so you’re prepared if they call immediately? Have you been researching technical interview questions and practicing whiteboard questions just in case it’s a part of their process? The more you practice, the easier it will be to keep those nerves in check.

[Tweet ““Define what you both need and want out of a new position.”– Emily Schweiss”]


Not sure if your skills are job ready? If you need to build your confidence level, join a local hackathon or jump on an open source project to keep honing your craft. Put those skills to use solving actual problems. You’ll not only continue to build on them, but you’ll gain more portfolio pieces and ways to show off what you’re capable of doing.

Still not feeling confident? Pick a freelance site, any site will do, and do a search based on your skills. No, I’m not making you do freelance work if you don’t want, but do me a favor and look. Unlike job postings, these opportunities tend to be project based instead of skill based which makes it easier to picture what the work will be like. I’ll bet as you scroll through that list you’ll see several that you feel you could jump in and do. Better, I bet there’s one or two you could not only do, but would knock out of the park! There are probably even a few that you know you could figure out after some googling. What does all this mean? People want to pay you for your skills!!! Sounds an awful lot like a job, eh?


Start learning to code today with a free trial on Treehouse.

How to Build Your Professional Portfolio as a Developer


Learning with Treehouse for only 30 minutes a day can teach you the skills needed to land the job that you've been dreaming about.

Get Started

10 Responses to “Am I Ready for My First Job as a Developer?”

  1. Garrett on March 17, 2018 at 2:05 pm said:

    From my experience, (new front end guy whose been looking for a job in the space for a year now with no luck) employers don’t really care about this stuff: “Show that you are growing and plan to continue to do so.” At least in my area they don’t (Madison, WI). I don’t know, getting a job in this field is impossible these days. I have literally been applying all day every day for the past year, while also working consistently on fictitious projects. If you ever hear someone suggest “become a web developer because they’re in demand” don’t listen to them, because they are VERY WRONG about that perception.

    • Emily Schweiss on August 16, 2018 at 8:21 am said:

      Hey Garrett –

      I know job searches can be frustrating. But, I stand by my statement that hiring managers want to see you are capable of continuing to learn and grow, though. Especially in this field where technology and tools are constantly changing. It’s honestly one of the most important skills you can bring to the table.

      As for demand, you make a good point as this varies by region greatly. I find it helpful to search job boards in my targeted region to determine what is in demand and consider growing my skills in those specific topics.

  2. Does Treehouse have any advice on designing a portfolio, for developers???

  3. I recently landed a Web Developer position after learning from Treehouse. I’m looking to share my story

  4. Thank you Ms. Schweiss. Great relevant article. I imagine some Treehouse users are already in the field. However, I would guess a good deal of us are asking ourselves the question you pose. It would be interesting to hear others’ first experiences applying or freelancing a first project.

    • Emily Schweiss on February 22, 2017 at 7:02 am said:

      Many Treehouse students have landed their first role, which we often highlight in success stories. I agree, it would be interesting to have them discuss their job searches in more detail. Great idea, thanks for sharing!

  5. Thanks for the great advice, Emily! I love your idea to look at freelance sites to get a better idea of what project work might entail.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

man working on his laptop

Are you ready to start learning?

Learning with Treehouse for only 30 minutes a day can teach you the skills needed to land the job that you've been dreaming about.

Start a Free Trial
woman working on her laptop