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Get Your First Job in Web Design and Development
If you are one of the hundreds of thousands of students who have received their A-Level results, you might be thinking,what’s next?
Have you thought about a role in web design and development? If not, this could be the ideal career field for you.
The sector has grown exponentially in recent years and there are fantastic opportunities for young people to get experience and enter a job with prospects for progression.
So, if you do want to get your first job in web design and development, read on for best practice guidelines for:
•Getting Work Experience
•Creating a Brilliant Portfolio
•Acing the Job Interview
Getting Work Experience
You have to start somewhere, and you may as well accept it now, that somewhere is going to be at the bottom of the ladder.
Doing work experience isn’t likely to be your dream job, but it can still be rewarding. It’s a great way to set yourself up for the future by learning about how a workplace operates, and getting experience of the tasks you could be doing in your first job as a web developer or designer.
It’s also a great way to prove what you’re capable of and to help you expand your knowledge and hands-on experience.
So, where do you start?
You’re just starting out so it’s not likely that you can work in the best design agency in the country
.Instead, find smaller agencies in your local area.
They will welcome the extra help you can provide and the opportunity to share their knowledge with you.
Tip: Imagine you’re looking for someone to build you a website in your home town and see who you can find. If they have got more experience than you, they’re worth getting to know.
2.Find the right contacts
Spend extra time finding out which member of the team specifically coordinates work experience placements. This will help you ensure your application reaches the best person, and lessens the chance of it getting ‘lost’. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends and family either. They may know
someone you hadn’t thought of.
Tip: Search websites like REACH, which often have volunteer position available in the IT, web designand web development sectors.
3.Focus on your application
It’s easy to send off as many emails as you can to better your chances, by law of averages, of getting a work experience placement. Don’t do this. Instead, spend more time on your actual application, making it the best and most impressive it can be.
Tip: Make sure you tailor your application to each place you send it.
4.Ensure you have an up-to-date CV
Anyone looking to hire someone for a work experience placement will want to see a CV. Don’t worry if you have minimal experience. Just make the most out of everything you have done during school and college; whether this be through volunteering,attending clubs or achievements. If you have designed a poster for a school or college event, put it on there!
Tip: Make sure you have a LinkedIn account too. It will help you craft a CV and will give you a good online presence to impress potential employers.
Use Twitter and LinkedIn to talk to as many people as you can in the web design and development industry. They will appreciate your interest, and might just remember you when they’re looking to fill a work experience placement.
Tip: Be persistent. Everyone is busy, and your commitment and dedication will go a long way, but only if you’re polite! Visit the agencies in person, and ask to chat with the manager.
Creating a Brilliant Portfolio
An online portfolio says a lot about you to an employer. They will use this to analyse your qualities and answer specific questions:
•Does the candidate have an eye for aesthetics?
•Are they more creatively or logically oriented?
•Do they have a solid collection of completed projects?
To help you create a brilliant portfolio that showcases your skills and capabilities, we have outlined some of the best practices:
1. It’s a mixture of personal and professional
An employer wants to know that you really have a passion for the subject, especially if you are starting in the industry. This means not only including examples of professional work but also“personal” projects.
Tip: Start a blog, join a forum or a relevant social group, get involved, and share your passion with others for fun and to learn.
2.Be unique and original
It sounds obvious, but one thing you should stay away from is a free theme download or some free resources. It can be a nice basis to build on but try to think of your portfolio as an extension of your creative work. Build your own portfolio site from scratch, then rip it apart and rebuild it again. Do
this three of four times, and you’ve got a few different examples for your portfolio already.
Remember,there is such a thing as “too original”.
Tip: Combine uniqueness and originality with an organised and fluid structure.
3.It’s quality, not quantity
Your portfolio should be about your best work and showcase your range of skills, which is best exemplified by choosing quality work rather than stuffing it full of minor projects. Add work to showcase quality, not quantity.
Tip: One piece of amazingly creative work will do a better job of showcasing your talent than 10 pieces of average work.
4.A range of examples
Following on from the above, it’s also important that you provide evidence of your work in a range of formats. This could include high-resolution images and HTML examples, but should have more than this too; namely interactive and jQuery effects.
Tip: Combine functionality with a well thought-out portfolio to show you are about more than creative images and effects.
5.Look beyond the website
The internet is full of websites acting as portfolios for wannabe web designers and developers. This is still a great step to take for showcasing your work, but there are many galleries where designers can present their work and learn from others. You can even get employers who are seeking employees browsing these galleries for the best works.
Tip: Dribble and Behance are two excellent examples of galleries where you can get your work “out there”.
6. Use social media
Many employers are now taking into account the social accounts of potential employees, so make sure you don’t ignore this area of your online presence. They will look at your tweets, for example,and accounts you follow. So play nice, be insightful and make sure it gets across your creative qualities.
Tip: Follow relevant industry sources to keep up with the latest news and goings on, and to show that web design and development is truly an interest.
7. Keep your portfolio updated
Over time you will grow and improve on a personal and professional level. It’s important that your portfolio is a true representation of your current
skill level, to showcase your ability that is guaranteed to have improved over time.
Tip: Your portfolio will fall out of perfection in time. Be aware of this and make sure you keep it fresh when trying to get a job.
8. Collaborative work
A prospective employer is not merely looking for people who can work on their own. They want to hire people with the aptitude to work with others on collaborative projects.
Tip: Make sure to highlight this kind of work if included in your portfolio.
9. Prioritise your goals
You need to think about the organisation you will be applying to and their target candidates. Some web design and development companies will prioritise highly creative professionals, while others want to prioritise usability.
Tip: Make sure your latest portfolio fits in with your current goals.
Testimonials from somewhere you have gained relevant work experience can act as a beneficial convincer in your portfolio. Simply exposing your best work might not be enough to stand out from the crowd, but like in business, a testimonial from a real client can work wonders on perspective employers.
Tip: Don’t make up a testimonial and add some name and company. That is the kind of thing that can do more bad than good.
Acing the Job Interview
Finding a job is tough in any job sector and that is no different for web design and development. But there are opportunities available to young people.
The important thing is to make sure you stand out from the crowd. You can do this at the interview stage. Here’s what you need to know to ace your web design job interview.
You know the common questions about strengths and weaknesses, proudest achievements, and where you aim to be in five years. Many people however fail to properly prepare and this makes it difficult for employers to identify their suitability for the role. So make sure you not only research these questions, but prepare answers that best sell yourself.
•Find out as much as you can about the company.
•Thoroughly research the role.
•Outline a strategy to stand out from the crowd.
2.Practice the art of communication
They say young people have lost the skill to communicate effectively, and if you think this sounds like you, take time out to perfect the art.
Even though you might think the thoughts in your head and what you say during an interview are one and the same, there can sometimes be a gap that leads to miscommunication.Practicing out loud is an effective solution. It will help you identify your weaknesses and ensure that what you think and say combine effectively.
3.First impressions count
There are a lot of things to consider; how you walk into the room,punctuality, attire, body language,etc. In the end, though, you can’t change who you are. But making sure you go into the interview with a positive attitude will have a marked difference on first impressions.
4.It’s your job to sell yourself
Don’t walk into an interview thinking it‘s the role of the interviewer to sell themselves and the company. Be focused on selling your suitability for
the role and how you can become an integral member of their team. Talk about what you can do, and why you’re good at it.
If you’re unsure about a question, either because you did not understand what was said or because it’s on a topic that seems unrelated, do not be afraid to say so. Ask the employer why they are asking that question, and then answer accordingly.It’s also important to remember you’re not only there to get asked questions but to ask them too.This is an opportunity to learn more about the job and company, whether it’s right for you or not,and show that you have thoroughly prepared for the interview.
Case Study: Andrew Frost - From A-Levels to Front End Web Developer
“My career in web development wasn’t planned. During sixth form there was an opportunity for work experience at a web design company. Despite being underqualified and inexperienced for the role, they gave me a chance and I was able to learn and develop my skills on the job.
“I now work as a front end web developer creating the parts of a website or web application that users interact with. For me the prospect of having to program something from scratch is exciting.
This can be extremely stressful when your code isn’t working, but when it does finally work, it feels great.
“To get your first job in web design, start building your own websites as soon as you can. All you need to get started is a computer with a text editor and a web browser. There are online tutorials to follow that can get you started in web development.Getting work experience is also important for developing your skills and knowledge.”
Top 10 Web Developer & Designer Interview Questions
Got the interview? You’re almost there. As well as the standard interview questions you’ll get in any job, these questions are examples of the things youmight be asked as a potential web designer or developer. Make sure you’re prepared for them.
1. What industry websites and blogs do you read? This question is designed to test how passionate you are about your work. Make sure you read around and can talk about how you enjoy keeping up-to-date and learning new things.
2. What does HTML mean?
It’s not a trick question, but developers should know what acronyms stand for. It will ensure you look competent to your potential employer.
3. Which development tools do you like to use and why?
The purpose of asking this question is to find out how you like to work, and how you might interact with the team. Be honest, and don’t be afraid of saying how you’re eager to learn about new tools too.
4. Do you have a favourite development language?
Again, this is designed to dig under the surface and find out how much you know. Talk about different languages to show your skill level, and why you prefer a certain kind.
5. Can you spot the problem with this code?
Your interview may consist of a few small tasks. It’s the best way for an employer to see what you can do. Don't panic, and just go about every task logically and methodically.
6. Can you write down the HTML for this example?
Another common exercise, this is make sure you do fully understand HTML, and don’t need to copyprevious code or rely on external resources.
7. Which website or code are you most proud of? This is your chance to shine and prove what you’re capable of. Have a specific example ready that shows good clean code. Your employer will be looking to see how neat your work is, as well as the overall outcome.
8. What’s your greatest skill as a web developer?
Another example to talk about everything you know,this question is just a way for employers to find out where your passion lies and what you really enjoy doing. There’s no reason why you can’t specify what you’re best at as long as you show you can do other things too.
9. What do you want to learn most and improve upon?
Showing your willingness to learn and embrace new things will go a long way in indicating how you’ll fit a certain role and your ability to work with the team. Employers appreciate honesty and a desireto improve, so don’t be afraid to talk about how you’d like to develop areas where your skills are currently a bit weak.
10. What are you working on right now?
Just like the first question, this one is asked in order to check you actually do have a passion in becoming a web developer or designer. Be prepared to talk about how you enjoy working on websites in your spare time, and not just because it’s a job.Once You’ve got the Work Experience Placement You’ve worked hard to get that work experience placement. Now you need to make sure you get the best out of it and don’t waste your time whilst you’re there.
1)Do everything you can whilst you’re there
Never say no to any task. This is your opportunity to try out everything, even things which you have no idea about. You may end up finding something that you really love doing but had never considered.
2)Ask as many questions as possible
Because you’re new and there for experience, the team won’t be expecting you to know everything.Use this opportunity to ask as many questions as you can. This is an opportunity to develop your knowledge and understanding of the role.
3)Speak to everyone
This is your chance to network. Talk to all the different team members, and try and ask the manager(s) insightful questions. You can learn a lot of invaluable advice from these experts. You’ll be working towards developing future connections, and making yourself memorable should you be looking for a permanent job in the future.
This guide was written for us by Iweb Solutions