I just recently landed a new (awesome!) job, and I figured some insights into how I did it might help other would-be designers and frontend developers out there too. I’ve learned a lot from the process this time around.. and I get questions about how to get a web design or frontend developer job frequently enough from the contact form here.. that I decided to make it my first official how-to blog post on Laurafolio.
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Don’t forget to share your stories and tips in the comments below, and enjoy!
Do Your Homework! Make A Great Portfolio
If you’re applying for a design or developer job, you should have an online portfolio. It could be a website, a web app, a game, an interactive popup book (hehe!) or even a really, really nice interactive PDF. But if you’re specifically a web developer, there is no excuse not to have a great website. If you don’t have a folio, you can kiss your chances goodbye. “In the Works” just doesn’t cut it. So, if you’re thinking of changing jobs, get that hosting plan fired up and get crackin’. And make it reflect your aesthetic… a generic site looks like you put no effort into the experience.
I try to keep my website updated at least once a week with the best work from that week, and at least once a season for the splash sections of the homepage. This is (in my opinion) the bare minimum you need to do to maintain a fresh-looking website.
In my experience, it’s much easier to keep your portfolio updated all the time, even when you’re not applying to jobs. That way, when the right opportunity comes along, you’re ready! It also helps sell your work to potential clients no matter how you’re employed by having work samples on the web to easily link to.
I spend anywhere from 45 minutes to 5 hours on my folio entries – and I usually do a batch at a time for efficiency. If I’m super busy, I’ll set aside one day out of the month to do all my monthly updates, including the homepage, and adding new projects or resources.
Portfolio Advice and Examples
So you need a folio. That’s a big task though! I can give you some pointers here, too. My favorite portfolios always have 5 key factors:
- Distinctive Personality and/or Color Scheme and Good UI/UX
- Ten to Twenty Stellar Examples in a main folio, and archives for the rest
- Clear Screenshots, Designs and Written Descriptions for the Project Pages
- Diverse Projects and/or Clients Preferred to Show Range
- Sketches/Wireframes and Backstory Optional
Web Developer Portfolios in 2016
Want some more inspiration? Cue the imaginary orchestral strings and enjoy some of my favorite folios from a really fun google sesh in the slideshow below. Click any screenshot to go to the live site (and I really recommend that, these are cool!). Hover to pause the slideshow.
Use your Network
Everyone says this, but there’s a reason why. Use social media sites like LinkedIn and Twitter, and job-seeking networking sites like Opportunity to put the word out that you’re looking (do this discreetly if you aren’t comfortable about your current employer finding out).
When telling people you’re looking for a job, be specific. Give colleagues your resume and a description of the job you’re looking for, so they don’t waste time sending you stuff you aren’t interested in. Let references know you’ll be having folks contact them – so they’ll actually pick up that unknown number when it rings. Small courtesies like these go a long way to getting the job.
I lucked out on LinkedIn – I responded to a job listing there with a tailored resume very quickly after the job was posted. Timing is key – don’t respond to a post that’s more than a few days old. In my experience, the early bird catches the worm.
Quality over Quantity
Yeah, you could make a generic resume with your best skills and spam it to every listing that looks like you might be remotely interested in it. It might work – and good on you if it does.
But in my opinion, this method degrades the job-seeking process and decreases your interview chances. Why? Because you have less likelihood of landing the interview with a generic resume. Tailored skillsets and descriptions that echo the needs for the new position are the ones that get called in for a meeting. Make sure this is done truthfully!
And if you get an interview and you go in – what if you don’t even want the job? It’s a waste of time, money, and attention. Focus your job applications on those jobs you really really want. Let the rest go. I feel this reduces your stress and sets you up to provide a nicer, higher quality result – increasing your chances of a call because you’ve invested more time in one beautiful resume and targeted the company you want to be a part of.
So, you can make the mistake of sounding a little stuffy or formal in your first interactions – but if they open an email with “Hey,” and you’re saying “Dear Madam,” – there might be a feeling of cultural disconnect. In general, you want to be direct, clear and friendly without being too formal. Most tech companies are a tee-shirt and jeans kind of place (this isn’t always the case, so check it out first!). If they can’t see you fitting in, you might lose your chances before you even get going.
I would err on the side of overdressing and being a bit formal in the beginning, and see how they respond. Follow their lead and make them feel at ease! Be yourself – and realize that they want to like you for you… the interview process should be a preview of how you’ll be on the job!
One of my biggest mistakes when interviewing and corresponding with potential job providers? In my nervousness, I go too formal. I seem too proper and not relaxed at all. When I learned to loosen up a little and be myself, I got the job.
As much as I hate to admit it, the first impression visually matters. I’m not really into fashion, and I rarely even care about my outfit, but for my interviews, I made an extra effort. In a tech environment in 2016, the dress code varies widely. It really opened my eyes into how varied the corporate culture can be in this industry! So when you get an interview, take a good look around at everyone in the office. And if you can’t step it up with your current wardrobe, hit the racks. Find clothes that are a bit nicer than what you saw at the office. Jeans might be okay if they’re dark, clean and untorn, and paired with a formal blazer or suit jacket.
Don’t go in the first interview in jeans! Wear slacks and work your way more casual only after you’ve gotten a chance to spot the others in their office attire. You want to be just a bit dressier than the team you’re trying to impress.
Go Really Early
Always. No excuses. Why stress in traffic and go in already sweating? I went super-early (arriving 30 minutes early each interview), took my time, endured all traffic kindly and patiently, and arrived with plenty of time to play games on my phone, fuss with my hair, take selfies, and check out the local restaurants and shops around the office building.
When going in to an interview relaxed and ready, you exude a different energy than if you arrive frazzled and stressed out. That energy matters!
Put in the Extra Effort (P.E.E.)
If they give you a test you can’t finish, ask to take it home and do your absolute best. If you talk about a key project in your interview, remind them of your awesomesauce by linking to your folio entry in the thank-you email. (I’ll get to that!)
If they see you want the gig enough to put extra work in, they’ll want you to get the job. In fact, if you want to get ahead in the workplace, putting in a little elbow grease is usually always required.
Thank Them Every Time with an Email Followup
After all, they are giving up a huge chunk of time to meet with you. Let them know you appreciate their time, and take this additional opportunity to highlight your strengths. Try to be as concise as possible while still getting your point across.
You could write a handwritten note and mail it … but in an IT job, an email seems more appropriate. And faster. I send mine within 12-24 hours of the interview.Thanking people for specific things they said or did during the interview will bring a personal touch to the note.
I’m sure if you need more pointers, there’s a world of specific posts about that out there.
Here’s a random list of other tips and tricks I’ve come to realize throughout the interviewing process.
- General phone etiquette: turn it off!
- Ask a lot of excellent questions
- Try to relax and show some confidence
- Show your personality, it makes you unique!
- Don’t take rejection personally – learn and move on
- Proofread all correspondence!
Did I miss something?
Got your own stories and tips to share? Post your ideas in the comments below – and good luck finding your dream job!
Blog Writing: Laura Rafferty
Featured Photo: From this free stock photo site (thanks!)
Hi! My name is Laura Rafferty, and I'm a fine artist, photographer, web designer and front-end developer in Philadelphia. Also love flatland BMX & my sweet lil kitty.