A question I often get asked is - How (or where) do I begin?  

Step 0 - start applying for jobs RIGHT NOW!

I know this is counter intuitive, but hear me out.  Use LinkedIn, Seek.com.au or even Google and go start applying for the job you want, right now!  Read what they want, do your research, see what they are (and aren't) asking for.

Why is this important?

Think of applying for jobs as a contact sport.  You need to get in there, get your hands dirty, go through the motions.  Like learning to ride a bicycle - you can read about it, you can do the research, you can even spend a fortune on the "perfect" bicycle, but the only way to learn is by getting on it.

Photo by Marcus Ng / Unsplash

Step 1 - who are you?

Sometimes we call this your resume, other times its your portfolio.  Which should you use?  The one that makes you look better!

Why is this important?

I don't know who you are.  You could be amazing, you could be rubbish - I don't know.  What I do know is that if I am reading (literally!) 100's of resumes, you need a very good reason to be at the top of the pile.

Further reading - the 4 biggest CV mistakes made by Software Engineers.

Step 2 - but I don't have experience

You won't like the answer - go and get experience!  I don't care where - ask your uncle, ask your friend, ask your local sports club.  Build them a website, create a logo, build them something.  But I won't get paid!  Yes, that's true, sometimes there are things worth more than $$$.

Why is this important?

Here's something interesting, it doesn't need to be good.  It just needs to be done.

Bonus points - if you aren't sure on what to do, try reinventing an existing idea.

I remember reading this article 10 years ago.

The premise is that parking signs are way too complicated.  On the left is the current method.  On the right is a new suggestion.

Step 3 - your portfolio should reflect the type of jobs you're applying for

The amount of times I've looked at a candidate and their portfolio and it is not even closely related to what we are doing - its not funny.  That's nice you've done a whole bunch of logos for eSports teams, but I'm not running an eSports company.

Step 4 - look for an alternative way in

I failed high school.  Literally.  In my final mark, I got 23%.  That meant 77% of the other students did better than me.  At the time, you may have gotten into Nursing if you had a score of ~48%.

My first I.T. job was in Helpdesk.  I was earning $23k per year in the early 1990's. That is about $45,000 in today's $$$.  (As a comparison, prior to this I was working in clerical type roles for the same salary.)

It was an entry level of the entry level!  But it was a job in I.T.  From there, I moved to Software Developer, Senior Developer, Team Leader, Project / Product Manager and now I consult as a freelance CTO.

But it would never have happened without that first role.

Bonus points - reach out to recruiters

The recruitment industry gets a lot of flack, and it was certainly justified a few years ago.  These days, (for me at least) most of the dead wood has drifted away. Ring up a recruiter (See Step #0 above).  Tell them you want a job.  They get paid by placing people in roles.  Their clients LOVE them when they place great people.  Are you a great person?  Maybe?