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I'm debating whether I should apply to junior developer jobs now or find and work on another job like a cashier job while gaining professional dev experience on side gigs. From my past experience working exclusively with recruiters, the interview offer rate for junior dev roles without professional experience was about 30:1, which is very discouraging, although I see plenty of junior developer roles which I could apply to directly (e.g. on Linkedin). So is it wise to apply to junior dev jobs now or work as a cashier, for instance, and do dev side gigs to gain pro experience?

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  • Do you have any education in CS? If not, you may be better off applying for apprenticeships, not developer positions. And no hiring manager will see your "side gigs" as real developer experience. they are pet-projects. If you have CS education, everyone will wonder why you worked as a cashier then.
    – jwsc
    Commented Jun 24, 2022 at 10:16
  • @JoeStrazzere I've never had a dev job, and I don't have CS education. But, I completed a full stack .NET developer bootcamp in 2018, and I have 4 personal web app projects under my belt. In the past 2.5 years, I've been working on my personal projects that simulate the professional work environment. I'll consider applying to Junior dev jobs now. Thanks. Commented Jun 24, 2022 at 10:35
  • @jwsc Yes, I also considered doing an apprenticeship, but they seem sparse. I'll do more research on it. Thanks. Commented Jun 24, 2022 at 10:40
  • Where in the world are you?
    – nvoigt
    Commented Jun 24, 2022 at 12:41
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    @jwsc if OP had worked for a few years as a developer then some people might wonder - although even then I think most are smart enough to understand needing an emergency bill paying job - but with no professional dev work yet OP is in the same sort of situation as any new graduate trying to get a first role. Actually working in something will be better than sitting on their butt feeling sorry that they're not being paid to code Commented Jun 24, 2022 at 13:13

4 Answers 4

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You're never going to get a job as a mid/senior level developer without having worked as a junior first. Do what you need to do to keep your bills paid; but if you want to work as a developer you need to keep applying to entry level developer jobs until you get one.

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  • Yes, one of the motivating factors for me in finding a quick cashier job is to pay the bills immediately. +1 on that point. But, starting and ending that job quickly after I find a dev job may not be good practice though. So, should I just devote all my time to searching for junior dev jobs or paid apprenticeships now? The general opinion is that I should. Commented Jun 24, 2022 at 11:45
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    No one sane is going to fault you for dropping a retail/food/delivery job for a professional one. And with your training several years in the past, getting an entry level dev job is going to be easier said than done. (That's a different question though.) Commented Jun 24, 2022 at 13:10
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This should not be an "OR" question. You (presumably) have bills to pay and a life to support, therefore you should get whatever paying job or jobs you can get.

But doing that should not stop you from applying to developer roles if that is your long term goal. I spent years working as a cashier and usher in a movie theater and in retail while attending high school and college, during summers, and also after graduation while looking for a full time career related occupation. During my time in retail, there were plenty of people who showed up one day and left a week later for something better (full disclosure, I did that myself once too).

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  • Good point. But, I think I can swing it for 1 or 2 months without working since I may have enough money to get me through til then. So maybe I should just devote all my time to finding a dev job instead of working as a cashier. Something to think about. But, I'm still thinking about the cashier job either way. Thanks. Commented Jun 24, 2022 at 13:08
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If money is your criteria then apply for junior developer roles. A cashier can be easily replaced whereas replacing a good developer is difficult. Most likely the cashier job gets fully automated in near future and there may be too little jobs left over.

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  • Good point, but I wasn't planning on working as a cashier long term instead of finding a dev job. Although I don't have a CS degree, I completed a Full Stack .NET Bootcamp in 2018, and I completed 4 web app personal projects in the last 2.5 years; they all simulate the pro work environment. But, the crux of the matter is that I don't have pro experience working for a company as a developer, which is why I wanted to work as a cashier while doing side gigs as a developer to gain pro experience. But, according to others here, that's not effective. So, I'm going to find a dev job now. Commented Jun 24, 2022 at 11:11
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    CS degree is not required for developer job. I am from Mechanical background and now i am Software Architect. I know people who did BCom and are doing good in computers. In addition to completing courses, you rather attend interview to know the pulse and prepare for the same.
    – chendu
    Commented Jun 24, 2022 at 13:15
  • I'll keep this in mind. Thanks. Commented Jun 24, 2022 at 13:17
  • I'm not so sure that fully automating cashier jobs any more than they already are is really viable. Even with a bank of self-checkout machines, you still need a staff member keeping an eye out to make sure patrons don't just walk out without paying.
    – nick012000
    Commented Jun 27, 2022 at 2:16
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A path I have seen work for others is to get a developer-adjacent job at a company that hires developers, and then pursue the developer job internally. For example, you can get a job as tech support at a software company. Then you can make it very clear to your boss and co-workers that you can code and you can also network internally to find out about job openings. When you see a job opening for a junior developer at your company, you apply.

This will give you a definite edge when you apply for a developer job. Many companies would much rather hire a known worker internally than an unknown.

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