My developer journey - From intern to full-time

Part 3: Interning, finding that first full time job, and the power of good impressions

Dan Spratling

May 14, 2020

5 min read

This is part 3 in a multi-part blog series, talking about my journey from knowing nothing about programming, to where I am now. Read my journey from childhood to university and finding my first job

These posts aim to share some context about my career and to help you get to know me. I believe anybody can be a developer, and I hope this helps someone decide to pursue their dream

In the last post, I'd just been offered my first contract after completing a 3 week internship. I was still fresh faced and knew very little about web development, but I was determined and willing to get stuck in even if I didn't know what I was doing.

My internship allowed me to get to know about how a tech company worked, but my first contract really taught me how to create websites. I was implementing WordPress themes for clients and customising colours and designs slightly so that they got a unique website which was also easy to edit.

I was working almost exclusively with CSS which gave a me a strong foothold on how to approach designing a website in the browser (and I still consider css my strongest language). The downside of this approach was that I didn't learn much else.

As great as it was to finally have a job, I couldn't yet relax as it was only a short contract and I had to keep looking for a full time position. After having some experience in industry, however, it was far easier to get interviews. But that didn't mean everything was going to go perfectly!

A lot of people will tell you to try and get multiple offers at one time when applying for a job. Doing this allows you to be less emotional about your decision. With more than one offer, you're choosing which job is right for you, rather than if you'll be employed.

Of course, I didn't take this advice. I got an offer for a job and immediately accepted it without really considering any of the factors in the job other than being employed full time. My emotions made me choose poorly.

The job I accepted was an agency job, similar to what I was already working with, but the pay was questionably low (possibly less than minimum wage at the time), the commute was an hour without traffic, and once I turned up for my first day I realised it wasn't what was sold to me in the interview.

The first thing I found was that the team had lied to me about parking (which I learned I had to pay for). Not a great start, but maybe it was an honest mistake. I went inside. The office was questionably dark (we were in an old factory). We had normal introductions and got set up, on a computer which looked like it was a mashup of still-working parts from old computers. I was seated in a corner next to the ping-pong table, an excellent place to concentrate... The rest of the day, I was entirely ignored. I didn't go back for my second day.

Sometimes, the job just isn't right for you. In this case, I'd been so blinded by finding a job that I didn't think about the work itself. But it could be a variety of things which don't work out (hopefully not all at once like mine). The probation period is for you as much as it is the business. If you don't like a job, there's nothing wrong with finding a better one.

Sometimes things don't work out, but if it's a small blip like this it doesn't even need to affect your résumé. Leaving it out won't make a difference to your job applications. Your résumé represents your experience, but it doesn't have to be an accurate record of it.

Fortunately, I'd made a big impression back at the agency I was contracting for. Little did I know, while I was applying for work at the end of my contract they were sorting out a full time offer for me. They hadn't been able to arrange it in time but as soon as they heard about my job falling through they were all over me, trying to get me back.

A patchy start with internships, contracts and failed jobs led to a full time position which lasted 2 years. It can still be okay when things don't go perfectly to plan.

And that's how I got my first full time job. I made a good impression and worked hard even though I had no expectation to work there for more than a few months. Hard work pays off, especially when you're starting out.

If you're curious, here are some of the sites I created while I was working at my first agency. It's interesting looking back at them 3-4 years on, as they still look pretty good (and they're still being used, so they're definitely serving their purpose).

Tresarran - Cornish Cottages

Port Gaverne - Cornish Gastropub

Korev - Cornish Lager

Naked Solar - Cornish Solar Panel Distributor

(Yes, I was working in Cornwall at the time. How did you guess?)