Switching paths? Here are 5 strategies to kickstart a software developer career

Mid-career switches happen more often than you think. If you’re someone hoping to kickstart a software developer career, you’re in luck. To this day, software development remains a very lucrative field. Employers are always looking for software developers, and technology is always scaling. If you want a job that will never leave your wallet dry and leave you unchallenged, this is it.

THE SWITCH WON’T JUST HAPPEN – YOU’LL NEED TO STRATEGISE TO MAKE THE JUMP

It’s not quite as simple as making your Sim quit a job one second and take up another right after. In the real world, diving into a whole new industry can’t happen at the click of a button. That’s why you need a game plan. Here are our five strategies to making this career switch into software development work.

 

1. Prep yourself well before jumping into a software developer career

 

You’re going to need more than a laptop and lightning-quick typing skills. But before you go head-to-head with a shiny new career in software development, you’ll need to make the necessary preparations. This includes working out your expenditure after you leave your current job to prepare for the switch. If you’re working to support a family, that should also be at the forefront of your mind as you brainstorm. If you run out of money halfway through transitioning into software development, that roadblock might set you back further than you think.

Another thing to anticipate and prepare for is figuring out whether you have transferable skills. These are skills that might not be specific to software development, but are still suitable for the role you’re eyeing. Do you have awesome communication skills? Do you have a history of collaborating with large teams over the course of your career? Most software developers are great troubleshooters, problem-solvers, and multitaskers. If you’re able to prove that you have these skills and traits, then future employers are more likely to give you a second glance. Write these down and don’t forget them.

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2. Getting the skills to scale towards a software developer career

 

Now we’re zoning in on the skills you don’t have – yet. It’s not all hopeless, even if you have zero experience in IT or software development. It’s still possible to become a self-taught developer – you just need to figure out what role you want before you chase down training opportunities.

For example, web developers are proficient in JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. Application developers, however, have Python, PHP, and Ruby in their arsenal. If you’re leaning more towards a certain type of software development job, then you need to take note of what programming languages are required to fully make the switch. Rome wasn’t built in a day – and websites won’t come together without a knowledgeable developer at the keyboard.

Training courses

Start looking for training courses in your area (General Assembly is a great place to start) or even for free resources online. Sites like freecodecamp and Codecademy are huge resource pools, and cover the basics fairly well. Did we mention that you’ll also gain certificates once you finish some of these courses?

Just be sure you’re picking the free certifications, and not the paid ones – unless you have some change to spare. Coursera is also free, and if you’re looking for something high caliber, check out EdX – governed by MIT and Harvard! Just note that if you want to prove that you’ve completed their courses, you’ll have to pull out some cash as well. Another site worth mentioning is Codewars, where you get to take on coding challenges in a fun and exciting way. Go wild!

Becoming a bookworm 

Once your practice has some momentum, it’s time to hit the books! Pull resources off the internet and blow off the dust from that old library card. It’s true when they say you don’t really need a degree to become a developer – but it does take a lot of resilience and persistence.

Check out these frontend developer resources as well as a list of books backend developers should have in their shelf. Many developers swear by Jon Duckett’s HTML/CSS book, if you’re looking for a strong recommendation.

Online reading

If you don’t like flipping through pages, either get an online subscription for ebooks or check out blog articles. The best places to look are Medium’s publications on freeCodeCamp and Hackernoon.

 

3. Demonstrate why you’re serious about a software developer career

 

All that preparation has to lead somewhere, right? After putting yourself through the grind and chewing through training, show potential employers why they’re going to miss out if they don’t hire you. One of the best ways to do that? Creating a demo app or website (like this guy did) that flaunts your capability as an up-and-coming developer. If you’re fresh out of inspiration, look to GitHub and review code samples.

This is a crucial step in your quest for a mid-career switch. Convincing potential employers to take a chance on you will be a much easier task if you show them concrete results. And make it a good one, too!

Just a heads up: this mini project will definitely take time, so try not to rush things out for the sake of applying for a job right away. The quality of your demo matters, and could mean the difference between becoming a self-taught developer or going back to your old job. Let your creativity flow, create something people can’t ignore, and then slap it on your online portfolio.

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4. Defining your software developer profile – on paper

 

Your CV will need a little bit of tweaking in order to kickstart a software developer career. This means rewriting your professional summary. But what do you write on a CV that has no relevant experience to software development or anything remotely IT?

It’s time to rework your summary so it highlights highly relevant, transferable skills that will bump you up the attractiveness scale when switching over to software development. It might not seem like much, but it will make a difference when a potential employer looks at your CV.

It’s important to include keywords in your CV while writing. These might include the languages you’ve mastered, like Python or Ruby. Other keywords like “machine learning” and “big data” are great as well, but be prepared for questions relating to these technologies. If you’re bluffing, employers will know!

This is also a good time to list down the certifications you’ve earned over the years in training, like:

You’re also going to want to make some cuts in your CV as well, including your first ever job and retaining only the past jobs that highlight significant skills. This means putting an end to expounding upon how good you are at Microsoft Excel or Word. Been there, done that! 😛

 

5. Let your network do the rest as you job-hunt

 

Now that your demo app (or website) is ready to be revealed to the world, it’s time to work on getting your applications sent out. One great way to cutting the queue (so to speak) in your job hunt is to leverage on your existing network. Talk to ex-colleagues, employers, friends, and family – chances are, someone might just have the perfect opportunity for you. All you have to do is ask.

Some people might even bring up wanting a software developer career to their current bosses. Instead of leaving your company entirely, there might be an opening in the software development team that your superior will let you take up. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to making your career switch happen – you just need to grit your teeth and try everything, even believing in the power of job referrals. Then it’s all about crushing that interview!

Lastly, don’t forget to check out local meetups and groups – get involved in the software developer community and work your way up.

All set? That software developer career is right around the corner – you just need a spoonful of perseverance and determination to make it through. Stick to these five strategies and work on the skills you need to complete the career switch. And once you do, it’s only going to go up from here.

If you need a leg-up, we’ve got a whole pool of software developer jobs right here. Take a look and fire off those job applications today!

Sophia Lee

I used to freelance exclusively for Glints - now I'm a content marketing intern working furiously in the backdrop. Talk to me about writing any time! (Or we could have a serious discussion about video games and e-sports... that's cool too.) Find me on Instagram (@pxtrx)!

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