Advice for self-taught engineers without prior employment?

Mmm, that new forum smell. Let’s discuss things! :slightly_smiling_face:

No degree and no professional experience to show? I think that can make it difficult to get your career started.

I’m one of those people who has treated programming as just a hobby – for a very long time. I’m not so much looking for advice myself because I seem to be having decent luck with my applications (had a couple of interviews for remote positions despite 100+ applicants), but perhaps there are a handful of people in similar situations that could use some tips?

I’ve only started career hunting since a couple of months ago, but here is what I’ve learned personally:

  • Portfolios are important. I’m still in the process of putting something together myself to better showcase my previous projects.
  • Networking – try and spread your reach in the industry by attending any events possible and connecting to people there.
  • Know the basics. A lot of computer science fundamentals you won’t know without deliberate study or reading. I’ve gone many years without hearing about some fundamental concepts (which are ironically rarely used in completely normal code).
  • Be personable and connect wherever possible. Remember that when you’re doing an interview with an engineer, they are a programmer just like you — get to know them!
  • It’s probably a lot easier to land on-site positions than remote, but perhaps that might be changing. :smile:

Let me know if you disagree or have other advice! :slight_smile:


Welcome to the community, Mukunda, and thanks for kicking off discussions with some great advice!


This describes me pretty well. I studied humanities in university and always regarded code as nothing more than a hobby. When I finally decided I liked it enough to turn it into a career, I had a good five years of programming under my belt, but no piece of paper that said “trust me.”

Applying through traditional channels went about as well as one would expect. I don’t think any of my CVs submitted via job portals ever met a human eye. I realized pretty quickly that I’d have to sneak in through the back door.

I went to a meetup and chatted to some people there. It was a good low stakes way to prove to people (and myself) that I knew what I was talking about. A recruiter gave me the names of some people at companies that would be okay hiring somebody with my level of experience. I mailed an individual employee directly, came in for an interview, and landed a position.

So I guess my primary piece of advice would be: recognize that you are a weak candidate by traditional criteria, and seek out a channel where these criteria are irrelevant. Trying to impress a faceless HR department is a waste of time imo. Talk to real people and prove that you’re an easy to work with person who knows his/her stuff.

I’d also advise against learning specific languages and technologies for the sole purpose of being employable. Your unmarketable niche obsession might actually be an asset. I was hired for a functional programming role; my interest in Lisp and my lack of C#/Java/etc experience worked out in my favor. Don’t try to predict what people want. Do what’s fun and natural to you.


Thank you for posting the advice Mukunda and James!

Has anyone had any luck with Triplebyte? I’m not making any progress because without any relevant work experience, I don’t know what to put on my resume.

Hi, am new here please I want to improve my coding skills in android development and JavaScripts please can anyone suggest some free books for me ?

I’m a self-taught coder too, and I got my first job (technically an internship that turned into a job) through a local LUG (linux user group) meetup. Definitely network and get to know the coders in your area in person, and consider starting with an internship. And absolutely create a portfolio of work and have projects on Github that show off your skills. I would also recommend learning about testing (start with unit testing) if you don’t already, that will make you stand out for sure :slight_smile:

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This is honestly one of the most helpful posts I’ve ever seen regarding this very personal topic. I have personal experiences, but no Bachelors. I get nothing but rejection emails; I suppose I need to learn whom to talk to in NYC

This is so useful. I’ve been self taught and only have a Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering. The only programming language I’m skilled in is MATLAB and I had 4 years of experience. I’m currently learning some programming on my own and hopefully I can land a job once I’m fully skilled.

What would you recommend for someone who has a Bachelor’s Degree and has struggle finding work because of the competition out there?

Any thoughts or suggestions. I have a portfolio page and a well written resume that showcases my experience!

Hi all,

I’m new to software engineering but fairly confident of my coding ability. I’m just wondering where I can find the meetups mentioned in @James_Dalrymple post.

This is honestly one of the most helpful posts on self-taught engineers without prior employment I’ve ever seen regarding this very personal topic.