How to make the transition from learning to code to getting a job

You can do it!

There are some great organisations and resources out there looking to help you learn the basics of coding. Working with these can be a great way to get introduced to programming language syntax or provide a diverting hobby for lifelong learners. But many people learning to code are looking for a career change, and few of these options alone provide a route to meaningful employment in technology. Let’s look at a few things that can help turn your work with these educational programs into work with a paycheque.

Build all the things and build your Portfolio

Building side projects is one of the best ways to meaningfully extend your skills past what tutorials can teach while showing potential employers that you’re able to build and ship finished products.

Tired of having to copy and paste nonsense at your current job? Write a script to automate the job.

Really love karaoke? Hack together something to serve up songs at home to hide your shame.

It doesn’t matter what you’re building, so long as you’re including it all in your portfolio. While your early work is likely to be unpolished, including it in your portfolio alongside newer work will show how far you’ve come and your potential to learn. Signing up for services like Github or Bitbucket that allow you to showcase and share your code is an essential first step to creating your professional portfolio.

Creating a personal professional website gives you the opportunity to collect information about your skills, show off your projects and let the world know how to get in touch to hire you.

Contribute to open source

Open source projects are software projects where the code can be viewed by the public and they often ask members of the public to help contribute code to the project. Finding an open source project that you care about and writing your own code to improve it can be a great way to demonstrate your emerging skills while joining a community filled with potential employers, co-workers or friends.

Getting into open source projects and communities can be tricky for newbies, so projects like Your First PR or First Timers Only are out there to help you get started. Open source communities can be a great way to get deeper into the culture of software development. But all communities are made up of people and people can be jerks. If your first dip into an open source community doesn’t land you amongst great people, try the next one. Projects like and WordPress have clear routes for newbies to contribute in a supported environment.

Get paid to contribute to open source

We’ve looked at some ways that you can do free work to show off your skills, working on your own projects or open source ones. These are great ways to build and market your skills, but they’re not a lot of help if you have bills to pay. Luckily there are projects aimed at helping underrepresented folks start working with open source that make a paycheque part of their pitch.

Ladies and non-binary folks, if you’ve attended any of the free programming workshops run by Rails Girls, Django Girls, Black Girls Code or similar projects, Rails Girls Summer of Code wants to pay you to keep learning. If you’ve taken one of these workshops and continued to self study, SoC will provide you a mentor and scholarship cash while you work with a team member on an open source project of your choosing. Scholarship amounts for the three month, full time summer programme will depend on where you’re based, but aim to provide you enough to live on while you learn.

Not a lady? Outreachy offers paid internships for anyone from a group underrepresented in tech to work on open source projects. They run internships twice yearly, so if you’re ready to get paid to learn and can’t wait till summer, they might be the open source internship for you.

Apply before you feel ready

With so many ways to build your profile and portfolio, it’s tempting to spend extra time working through these before applying for technology roles. Don’t let these extra options keep you from applying early and often for the work in technology you want to be doing. As an adult learner, you’re never going to feel fully ready to take that next step. Apply for roles before you feel ready. Let employers pay you while you learn and build confidence on the job.

All images courtesy of the awesome

Jessica Rose
About Jessica Rose 10 Articles
Jessica Rose is a self taught technologist obsessed with fostering more equal access to technical education and meaningful work in the tech industry. Equipped with an American accent and based in Blighty, she's always excited to hear about the weird projects people are working on.