LearnYour First Job May Not Be Your Dream Job


Andrew Chalkley
writes on September 14, 2015

I’ve spoken previously on how to land your first job in the industry. All the advice still stands. The comments over there are great to look at too.

This time, I’m talking about the expectations you need when going to find that job.

Finding an entry level job can be extremely difficult to begin with, but with many articles in the mainstream media of 4-day work weeks, unlimited vacation, remote working, free meals and many more perks associated with a Silicon Valley-style startup, it can give people the wrong expectations when starting out in the tech industry.

All medium to large size employers are looking for experienced people. They’re very rarely looking for fresh blood. They have the time and the resources to hire people with the relative experience that they need. Unless you can demonstrate that you can do everything that they require for that position, it’s going to be tough to get in there. I’m not saying it’s impossible but you’ll need to do lot’s of really hard work. Perseverance is needed.

Entry level positions, with limited experience, may not be where you’re expecting them to be. They’re not in the companies with the aforementioned generous perks.

You may have to get a job doing something you’re technically capable of doing, but not very excited about. Maybe, it’s a company that builds static websites with Bootstrap for trucking companies with no JavaScript or server-side code. It’s just HTML and CSS. It may be in a small office you have a 2-hour commute for every day because they don’t have a remote work policy. The pay may not be as much as you’re expecting because they are a small shop that works with relatively small clients who can’t afford the Bourgeois development or marketing services other larger companies offer.

It’s not the end of the world. Take the position, get to know them and their clients, and they’ll get to know you. You may be able to add JavaScript to projects anyway. Are they really going to do a code-review? Probably not. You can show them how hard you work and gain their trust. Six months on the job may be long enough for you to have made a good impression, demonstrating your capabilities and dedication. Asking your employer to work from home one day a week may be acceptable. They’ll see what skill set you bring to the table and how you increase their bottom line. A pay rise could be in order. Or none of that may happen, you just don’t know until you try.

You’re not expected to work there all your life, a year under your belt is enough experience for other employers. It’s perfectly acceptable to move on after a year. I was in my first full-time development job for a year before I left, and my second job paid about 30% more. After that, 25% more. It’s surprising how it scales. Within 4 years of full-time employment in the industry, I was earning over double my starting salary. Within 10 years, I’m in another country, with many of the perks mentioned above and more and a salary many times over my initial salary, doing the job that I love.

What’s your experience trying to get into the industry? Let us know in the comments below, or if you’re in need of brushing up on skills for your first or next job in tech, start your free trial today!


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13 Responses to “Your First Job May Not Be Your Dream Job”

  1. How low is too low? I was just offered a job that would essentially be $100/day. Not really enough to live on in New York, but I do enjoy the company and the people…

  2. Craig Garrity on September 18, 2015 at 12:04 pm said:

    Really good article. I made a big decision almost 12 months ago. I left a safe, fairly well payed job, but with limited design and development future. I had already been learning on treehouse in my free time, so I took the plunge when a voluntary redundancy came up. Was a big risk, as have house and young family, but planned to learn as much as possible and try and get a job. I knew I would have to take a step back to move forward and I was 35 at the time. Within 6 weeks I was offered a job as a junior developer with an agency. They use WordPress, php, JavaScript, html and css. And I was straight in at the deep end, as apart from html and css I had never used anything else. Fast forward to now, with the on the job learning combined with treehouse, I’m now designing (graphic design was my initial career) and developing ecommerce WordPress themes, using front end technologies like terminal, gulp and sass daily. This article is relevant to me as I feel this is my entry level job in development (even though my first graphic design job was 16 years ago). But I’m happy I made the decision, as feel I have a good future career, and would like to encourage anyone that’s it’s never too late to learn and develop.

  3. Jonathan Messing on September 16, 2015 at 9:52 pm said:

    This is on point.

  4. Your first job is just a step to achieving your dream job. So, you don’t have to fret. There may be many more jobs you need to land but that’s how it works.

  5. Hey Andrew Great article as My dad always says if you want something you have to work for it. I Run my own small air conditioning Perth wholesale company. Business was slow so I went down the road of Internet marketing to help generate business. I found word press and wow! how it has changed things. It has double my turnover and I have actually starting giving back and helping other small business owners get online.

  6. Hi Andrew! Great article! It’s exactly what I needed to read, as I am not exactly in my dream job just yet, but it’s good to hear that it’s to be expected. I feel like I am in this boat right now.

    After taking several classes (HTML, Ruby, database, etc) through Treehouse over the past year, I was recruited via LinkedIn by my current employer for IT implementation position working with the dynamic publishing software which they provide.

    I do a lot of SQL scripting, some HTML/CSS work and helping clients. It’s offering me the opportunity learn some graphic design on the job (taking the Illustrator and Photoshop courses now).

    The company is good, the commute isn’t so much so, but I am learning a lot on the job and still do web development on the side. I’ve built a website for a local business and have a magazine website that my editor friend will be launching soon. So hopefully the next opportunity will be closer to my dream. Thanks again for the great article!

    • I am curious to know: Do employers consider non programming background or non-developer work when evaluating a profile or deciding on compensation.

      Or they only looked at Treehouse portfolio and and your skill sets?

      Brief: I am a technical writer and work for software industry. I create user manuals, online help and tutorials/case studies. Will that experience be counted.

      Did you follow front end dev track or web design track? What was the main focus JS+CSS?

      Also can you show projects done under treehouse to employers?

      What is the mean salary for web devs in US? What technologies you are working on currently?

      Appreciate your response.

  7. Ian Polatka on September 14, 2015 at 6:04 pm said:

    Great article Andrew!

    It speaks to my career experience. I entered my first tech job over 4 years ago for a small company. I did a lot of learning as I went.

    I have since worked for two other companies and have got nice pay raises with each move.

    If your current job doesn’t allow to work on what you would like, do that in your free time. For example, I developed a website for the my local school district. It was/is a passion project. The great thing about it is there always something new and exciting I can add to the site. It also streches me as a designer/developer.

  8. Well something small about my experience.

    I finished a “Middle school with Matura” in IT Technologies in Slovenia, went to college, fallen in love, left college and started to work as a production worker. (Later we got married and we have a daughter 2yrs old).

    I worked on machines producing rubber products for the car industry – burnt hands and fingers everyday, 8hrs with no break, 3 shifts and a lousy pay.

    After 6 months I got a job in Austria (my wife handled that – we were pregnant and lost the baby – some rumours were going around the company that weren’t true about my wife and that totally broken her spirit) as a production worker again. The pay was good, 2 shifts, work wasn’t the best.

    After 1,5 yrs I joined a electrical company that was working around the factory where I was working before – I started talking with the lads asked if they need some fresh blood in their midst – and they gladly accepted me.

    After 2,5 yrs I started to fancy Web Technologies and coding which eventually led to my firing ( talked a lot about coding, was playing around and one of the guys didn’t like I was getting quite good ), the pay was good, work was hard from time to time, but interesting but also dangerous – 2 of the guys I worked with got seriously injured 3 weeks ago.

    Then I found a company that was looking for someone to help them in Hardware department and a bit of Software side – I stayed there till the project was finished (4 months). Work was great, pay even better and the project was fun and interesting to be a part of.

    After that I got a job for another project for South America where I was planning electrical layouts, drawing layouts,… Job was ok, paid fairly but still not what I was looking for. After the project was done I was let go.

    Then I found a job in Graz for a Casino Systems company. The job was great, payed the best yet, coworkers were nice, but the time I had to drive was a bit too much (1,5 hrs one way) and cost me too much and left me in a bit of money problems. I had to quit my job.

    Now I found a job I was looking for: Programmer .

    We are mainly working with Automation software ( STEP 7, TIA Portal – Siemens). The pay is great, work ain’t that far away and on-top I’m a part of the Treehouse moderator team. I do a bit of Freelancing and I must say everything is working fine.

    My point: no matter how hard the road ahead is – break through and see that if you put your passion into what you do – you’ll get far.

    But working for Treehouse would be an even better outcome 😉

  9. I’ve been a freelance web designer since 1999, and full-time at home for over 10 years. Before going home, I worked at tech companies doing other things. Here’s what I did:

    1. Learn on your own time.
    Your job might not give opportunities to branch out and learn new things. Do that at home, in your free time. Your employer will see that you know more than your job needs, and may move you into a better position. If not, other employers will find you more valuable than your current one.

    2. Get serious.
    If you don’t treat your “hobby” (free time learning) as seriously as you would a job, you’re only slowing down your future success. If you’re good at home, you’ll be good at work…but if you treat it like a minor activity, it will be harder to get a paying job.

    3. Read, read, practice, fail, read, read, read.
    ALWAYS branch out and learn more than you have to. Read articles by the best minds in your industry. Don’t just theorize about your work…do it, and do it badly until you can do it well.

    Good article, Andrew!

  10. askingforafriend on September 14, 2015 at 11:29 am said:

    If you spend that year building HTML/CSS sites, how are potential employers going to look at your relevant experience for their needs (which might include HTML/CSS but other stuff as well) later on?

    In my case, my job is building WordPress sites — I probably spend more time writing CSS than anything else, and about the same amount of time managing the CMS than I do actually coding.

    My goal would be to be more of a backend developer in an MVC type of framework. I’m learning Express and I have my projects on Github (but I’m also a parent so it is what it is). What else can I do to leverage my professional experience toward something more fun?

    • Andrew Chalkley on September 14, 2015 at 1:12 pm said:

      Your full-time job needn’t be the place you get the experience. You can create a plugin for WordPress that you can open source. When you go to your next job you can say, I’ve been maintaining an open-source project for over a year whilst having a full-time job etc

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