Starting a career is challenging enough in any industry. It can be especially trying in the tech field. Every decent employer wants a candidate to have several years’ practical experience. Even for a junior position. But how do you get that experience if you’ve just finished a programming course or graduated from Uni?
In this article, you’ll find several reliable ways to gain relevant practical experience, upgrade your Java skills, and get your first full-time job as a Java developer.
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Never stop learning
Like any other practical skill, programming demands constant practice and revision. You can quickly lose the gained knowledge if you stop practicing. Besides, technology evolves and changes very fast. Therefore, if you want to become a sought-after Java programmer, you must keep learning and upgrading your skills.
An excellent way to continue your education after finishing a programming course is by doing Java practice exercises on CodeGym. There are over 1200 tasks at your disposal. It is also a great way to find inspiration for a pet project.
Work on a project of your own
Working on a pet project is a great way to hone your skills and get much-needed practical experience. In addition, if you finish the project successfully, you can add it to your portfolio.
A pet project or two in your CV shows the potential employer you are serious about programming and are ready to work hard on developing your skills further.
Your first project doesn’t have to be a significant product. For example, you can create your versions of popular apps or games. You can also try to solve a real-life problem you or your friends have. On the other hand, if the project has commercial potential, it might give you extra points on the job market. Just don’t forget to mention it in your CV.
Contribute to an open-source project
Joining an open-source project on GitHub is a great way to practice your Java programming skills in real-life conditions. Start with something basic and move on to more complicated tasks as your skills improve.
Joining an open-source project will also help you learn to work in a team and collaborate with other people. These so-called soft skills are essential, and employers value them as much as your programming skills.
When you submit your CV for a junior Java developer position, list the open source projects you worked on, provide a short description of each project, and stress out the lessons you’ve learned and your experience while working on them.
Do some freelancing
Building a full-fledged freelancer Java developer career while you are still an inexperienced beginner is virtually impossible. But finding part-time offers on small projects to gain that invaluable practical experience is possible. Freelancers are often hired to do small tasks. The demands on a freelancer are much lower, so even a junior can find plenty of opportunities.
A piece of advice – take on the projects that have a whole team and a tech lead on board. This way, you’ll get a teamwork experience and learn the best practices. Besides, the tech lead will review your work and provide constructive feedback.
Try your hand in competitive programming and hackathons
Competitive programming is a sport where competitors try to program according to provided specifications. Usually, contestants are asked to solve a logical or mathematical puzzle. A great thing about this sport – big companies, like Google and Facebook, support it. This is a sure way to get noticed. If you win, of course.
Hackathons are also an excellent way to spruce up your CV and set yourself apart from other candidates. A hackathon is a sprint-like event in which different specialists involved in software development (designers, programmers, project managers, etc.) form teams and compete to create a functioning software product. This is a fantastic way to test your skills and get practical experience as a Java developer, network, and get noticed by other people in the industry. Who knows, you might meet your future co-workers while participating in a hackathon.
There are a few good places where you can look for a hackathon to participate:
- HackathonsNearMe. This is an excellent listing website where you can look for local and global hackathons. You can search by city, address, and even look on a map.
- Hackalist. Another listing website. The filters allow finding hackathons that reimburse travel expenses, accept high schoolers, have prizes, or have no participation fee.
- Major League Hacking. This one is probably the best place to check out. The hackathons Major League Hacking supports are said to be the most interesting.
There are a lot more places to check for a hackathon, but these three are generally considered to be the best ones.
Of course, there’s no sense in adding a hackathon to your CV if you didn’t win. But if your team did gain a first or second place or won a prize in a category, the employers will be interested to see the achievement in your resume.
Look for an internship
An internship is probably the best way to start your journey as a Java programmer. Not only will you gain the necessary practical experience of working on real-life projects and learn a lot of stuff that will come in handy further on, but you might also be paid for your efforts.
Yes, finding a paid internship is rather challenging. If your search fails, don’t hesitate to go for an unpaid internship position if it will help you gain the knowledge and experience necessary to further your career. Recruiters will see that you can work in a team and have experience working on actual real-world projects, whether you were paid for the internship or not.
Don’t doubt yourself and never give up
We all know how intimidating starting something new can be. But doubting yourself will lead you nowhere. If a good opportunity presents itself, go for it! If it turns out you lack skills or knowledge for a project, you can go back to your notes and practical exercises and revise. You can always ask the Java community for help and advice.
And do not give up if you fail in your first practical experience or can’t find an internship fast enough. Practice makes perfect! So keep on learning, keep on upgrading your skills, and keep on trying. You’ll eventually get there.