Dev Internship Dotcom

Experience Without Experience

July 13, 2020

Seeking Entry Level Engineer with 15 Years Experience  Let’s be honest. You’ve seen these type of listings. And for someone trying to break into the industry, there’s nothing more discouraging. It’s the classic hiring paradox. They want to hire someone with experience without paying someone who has experience. 

Simply put, it’s brutal. 

To be fair, as an executive that runs an engineering organization right now, I can kind of sympathize with the mentality even if I don’t agree with it. Don’t throw stuff at me. Don’t grab your pitchforks. Let me explain.

My job is to make sure that new product is being delivered with quality and as quickly as possible. The business (almost all of them) have limited assets the two most important of which are time and money. When it’s my job to make sure we’re maximizing those assets, it can be hard to justify the investment in the short term on an entry level/intern engineer. Again, I want to emphasis that’s short term thinking.

The reason being, is that most entry level/interns are just not capable enough to jump in and contribute right away in complex code bases, working on high priority customer problems that are live or die for a business. That’s one reason why entry level engineers are often regulated to bug duty at first BTW. Knowing my time is limited, and my team’s time is limited, asking them to spend time helping develop a less experienced engineer can seem unintuitive at best, and risky at worst. 

BUT! (you an put your ptichforks away now). I believe that the job of any engineer is to impact the business and help it accomplish its goals. And I would argue that almost all engineers looking to take on an entry level / intern position can do that. You see, people are more than just code producers. And believe it or not, asking questions, can help the whole team improve.

How many times have you heard that teaching something makes you better at it? Well, I believe that investing time in developing entry level engineers is not just an investment in the beginner, it’s also a valuable opportunity for the more experienced engineers working with them.

Providing opportunities to teach, mentor, develop, and lead are crucial to the development of even the most experienced employee. And good “new” engineers are imperative for that. Beyond that, new engineers bring enthusiasm, energy, and a determination to grow that can be infectious and improve the entire team.  

So that sounds nice. But it’s going to be very difficult for a new engineer to provide that revelation to a business that doesn’t understand it already. So we’re back to the beginning where I’m a new engineer, without experience, who can’t find someone to take a bet on them to give them experience. The worst. What can we do? The best piece of advice is to just keep going. Keep being hungry, keep investing in yourself. There’s no amount of learning that will guarantee you a job, but the more you do, the better your odds become.

Another thing we can do is to make sure that your resume/linkedIn/online presence presents all of that investment into yourself as eloquently as possible. The third thing we can do, is just to apply for everything. Who cares if they are asking for twelve years of experience for an entry level position? Throw your hat in there anyway. The worst they can do is reject you, and you’re not worse off then when you started. 

My favorite piece of advice is to make your resume show you have experience. I’m not encouraging you by any means to do anything unethical, or say anything that is untrue. What I’m saying is take action to gain and account for the experience you do have. 

Worked on some projects in bootcamp or school? Highlight those. Even better, pick one of them and continue to work on it, call it a business of which you’re the sole owner. Put in the time, and grow not only yourself but a project. That’s a real experience. Scratch and claw and find places that will compensate you for any technical work. I did technical support on websites for a while when I was getting started. I used that to learn, and gain experience getting paid to work with websites.

In fact, this whole concept is the premise of Dev Internship Dotcom. We wanted to create a way for people to get experience without having experience. It may not be perfect, and it’s not paid experience (the best kind), but we feel it presents a real way for new engineers to get a feel for what it’s like working with more experienced engineers on real projects. Sign up for an internship, pair with us, work in parallel on a real application solving unsexy problems like upgrading NPM deps, refactoring, cleaning up code, (and build cool features as well, but try highlight the unsexy part of coding in one of your interviews. It’ll go a long way.). Those are items you can highlight and talk about. 

Written by The Chief Intern. Any views expressed are soley his own opinion. Unless they are wrong, then they are somebody else's.