As I was finishing up my time at Eleven Fifty Academy, the tech bootcamp that taught me to code last year, I needed to update my resume to reflect the new career path I would be taking. I was entering the fray as a web developer looking to squash bugs and build features, but the only “developer” experience I had—on the page—was my time at bootcamp. I ended up feeling like I was sitting across from Bob Slydell and Bob Porter in Office Space: “What would you say you do here?”
Looking back after eight months with the Well Done development team, I’m glad my I included all my previous work experience on a resume intended for a new career. A lot of skills in one profession transfer to another; they just might take a little explaining.
All Experience is Good Experience
In my earlier lives, I was a journalist, a writer, and a content marketer, and I’m happy to report that all those experiences eventually made it onto my resume. Did my bachelor’s degree in journalism from Indiana University directly contribute to my ability to understand how a section of code functions? No. Does it mean my time spent interviewing subjects, researching topics, and writing a coherent news story that the public at large can understand was completely wasted? Also, no!
Looking back at my time in this new career, I see how my experience clarifying information and intent has directly improved my work as a developer.
My boss might not be as interested in the content calendars I’ve put together in my past as in my familiarity with React and whether I know what a “==” means. But that experience shows something. It shows how I brought value to another organization, that I know how to act in a professional setting, and that I know how not to steal people’s lunches from the community refrigerator. Work experience isn’t just experience; work experience is good experience.
Good Communication is Valuable Anywhere
Software and web developers are often portrayed in popular culture as nerdy, awkward at times, maybe even antisocial. For every techie who fits that description, there’s one or more who doesn’t. I learned this in my past positions—as an outsider looking in. Now that I’m an insider, I recognize that communication is a critical and underrated skill in a developer’s toolkit.
A development team runs more smoothly when deadlines, project expectations, and current (or future) workloads are articulated clearly—especially within a buzzing creative agency.
My transition into my junior developer position was easier because of my past experience in marketing and communications. It took time to get up to speed on PHP and WordPress, but once I added some of that vocabulary into my dictionary, the conversations with my boss became much more informative and useful.
Someone Out There Needs You—And Only You
“There are so many coding jobs out there, you’ll practically walk into a gig!” A lot of great organizations—and great marketing campaigns—promote this idea.
I don’t mean to dispute the rising number of tech jobs, but you still shouldn’t expect to walk into the first job you apply for in your career change. I looked for more than three months before finding this opportunity at Well Done. So, as someone who’s been through it, I know there’s some place out there that needs not only your new skills, but the ones you had beforehand too.
My experience on the marketing side of projects informs my development on an almost daily basis. When I’m building out a backend in WordPress, I often step back and think from the perspective of the digital strategist or content marketer who will be filling out the page—“Does this page present itself so that the content manager can understand where things go and how they work?”
That extra layer of empathy makes my finished products a bit more finished, something I wouldn’t be able to do as easily without the past experience I’ve had.
Changing your career isn’t easy, especially right now, with COVID-19 putting a strain on the economy. But it can be done. If you decide to take the leap—or have already—just remember to lean into who you are and all the experience you bring with you.
It’s relevant, and so are you. Being able to explain how your experience makes you the best fit for the job means more than any set of bullet points ever could. You got this.
Image: Office Space, 1999