Direction of Web Development in relation to Jobs

To make a long story short, I’ve been studying web development for quite some time since leaving college with a cs degree here in Florida. Have learned HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, jQuery, some Ajax, Object Oriented PHP5, and PDO/MySQL and am still having difficulty finding work. I have backed off of JavaScript as more designers are becoming front end developers. And since there is hardly a trace of design ability in me, I’ve decided to stick with backend development. My 2 questions are:

What did you guys do to break into the industry?

Also, where do you see Web Development (front and back end) in the year 2020 as it relates to jobs?

Get some freelance work in and have a good portfolio. That’s probably the only reason I got hired. Literally everyone requires experience. So you just have to get lucky and have someone take a chance on you. Took me a while to get my foot in.

For me, the biggest help was from my good friend and career counselor, who helped me to reformat (no pun intended) my resume.

I’ve also been fairly lucky. I’ve had several jobs offered me based solely upon my resume and portfolio (even though there are no screencaps of my work), sight unseen, with maybe a five minute phone interview. (AT&T, American Academy of Pediatrics to name two.)

Be sure that you have screencaps of your work to put in your portfolio! A lead developer once told me that he decided to hire me based strictly upon how organized my portfolio was.

If you have done any volunteer developing for any organisation, be sure to highlight that!!



Oh my God, yes this. This x 100%. I thought I had a good resume, but then a recruiting company contacted me and offered some help with making it look more appealing. It’s still basically the same resume but their help made it look like a true professional resume. It’s astounding all the little changes they made to give it the edge. They also had a vested interest (make me seem more appealing to their client) but still. That was a HUGE help for me.

Yeah… I was getting ZERO nibbles on any of my site profiles (,, etc.) until I resubmit my resume in the new format. About two weeks after I did that, I was suddenly receiving up to ten interview requests per day.

The downside to all of this, sadly, is that head-hunters and recruiters now use software to parse the thousands of resumes that they somehow get their hands on, and even though I’m gainfully employed and have disabled my site profiles, I’m getting four or five interview requests for jobs that are NO WHERE NEAR WHERE I LIVE (Texas, California, New York, Philadelphia.)

Have you researched jobs in your area and the requirements? Is PHP the most popular and of those jobs? And of those jobs, are they brochure small business sites that are basically just design jobs who kinda need to know PHP a little bit to work with Wordpress or Drupal, or are they actual development jobs? The former isn’t going to have a need for a CS graduate. I know in SoFla and the Orlando area Ruby is one of the more popular languages. Followed by Java.

Since you have a CS degree just start looking for “software developer” or “software engineer” jobs that list technologies that would lead you to believe they are for web development. Web Development vs Software Development is the same thing, it’s just a slight paradigm shift. Nothing more. Stateless vs Stateful. You’d be surprised at how many shops don’t make the distinction of web vs backend systems. It’s just a system that happens to be accessible through a browser.

Look for entry level jobs and get familiar with all the major frameworks in all the major languages. I don’t mean to code, I just mean to be able to pick out the keywords. Like “Java Spring” or “Java EE” is probably going to be a Java Web Developer or “ASP.Net” is probably to be a back-end web developer working in C# (or maybe VB but hopefully not). Or Play, or Node.js, or really anything the list goes on and on. Also the keyword “restful” should be a clear indicator…

If you’re looking for an entry level job, knowing the language isn’t as important as being willing and able to learn. As long as you know how a website works. Familiarize yourself with the MVC pattern.

Take a look at this wiki page. Learn to recognize keywords.

I came from a very different industry, learned on the job, and worked my way up through a company. I know a number of people that have done the same thing.

I think the key these days is to show that you can do more than the average person, and what you can’t do, you’re willing to learn. Do some projects in your spare time that you’re passionate about. Build a game, write an app using a new language - show that you have the ability to be flexible and learn fast. When looking at resumes these days, we tend to look for people that have done interesting things above and beyond what they do ‘at the office’.

Wow, thank you guys for all the awesome responses.

totally agree with the resume critique. In an interview with one of the recruiters they gave me some tips on my resume which helped me to get some phone calls at least. Was even sent a code test from the company which I completed but they were not too happy with how I completed it as they said I used too many loops. Yeah, my portfolio is still up and coming as I only have about 11 completed projects on there so I guess that could be better.

screencaps sound like a really good idea. Right now I only have the URL to the portfolio on my resume so will definitely add be adding it. As far as knowing the right people I unfortunately do not know anyone else in the industry although I am thinking of maybe attending some meetup groups.

very true, in this area Java and C#.NET are highly sought after with Java in the lead, however the Ruby jobs seem about even with PHP. Its like each AD that comes up I seem to be missing 1 - 3 things on top of the 3-5 years experience in those areas. For example there are only a handful of entry level jobs, and of those jobs one may require that I am bilingual, another requires experience in Drupal (never used it), and another might also want photoshop, and or design skills. When I look at the jobs involving bigger companies they usually are asking that I have had experience in a large industry, or experience in maybe a linux environment, Kohana framework, or some other framework, etc. It’s like I never qualifiy for everything on their list and am usually missing one or more things. Graduated in 2005 and did web dev till about 2009, but when I got laid off I decided to go into computer repair which was a mistake. In 2013 I decided to come back into web dev but spent almost a year trying to catch up.

There are a lot more PHP developers though, it’s a more saturated market than other languages. I would also suspect a good portion of those PHP jobs want more designer types for the Drupal/Wordpress sites rather than backend developers, where Ruby it all going to be mostly backend. However things like Symphony 2, Laravel, or some other framework (rather than CMS) probably are development jobs. (I’m not a PHP dev and I don’t know any other way to tell them apart, tbh)

each AD that comes up I seem to be missing 1 - 3 things on top of the 3-5 years experience in those areas.

APPLY ANY WAY! These are usually what they are hoping for, it doesn’t mean it’s set in stone. Especially to any of the stacks you think you might be interested in. Most of the time Junior/Entry developer positions hire knowing full well they will have to train whoever they hire.

I don’t think I fit 3 or 4 of the qualifications listed at my current job.

another requires experience in Drupal (never used it)

This is probably not going to be backend. The backend is written and it’s Drupal. Same with any other CMS based system. You’ll find this a lot in the PHP world and sometimes in the .NET world. If you start looking at ASP.NET or .NET, I would stay away from anything using a CMS (DotNetNuke or something) or SharePoint. You probably won’t find this in other languages, though it is possible.

C# and Java are very similar syntactically if you decide to pick one up.

I’d say knowing your way around Linux is going to be important for any job outside the .NET world. There isn’t a ton you need to learn, just how to navigate around the command line. Just basic commands like cd, ls, mv, cp, …etc.


Thank you for such an informative answer. Have to admit that it is a bit discouraging at times but this response and others have given me a new angle and approach/strategy.

Ah yes, that is a good point, from what I have been seeing the majority of them do want you to know some form of a CMS. Have seen some Symphony and Laravel out there which I’m guessing I may have to learn if I want to widen the opportunities as PHP developer. I do have some basic C#.NET background just enough to deal with things like stored procedures and building websites using master pages. No LINQ, SOAP, XML, XSLT, and other abbreviations, etc, so maybe getting back into it wouldn’t be too long of a road.

Now this is a shocker. I was always told that if I do not have everything on the list don’t bother applying. This was according to the unemployment agency I was working with. A lot of times if you saw a job you wanted to apply to they would bring you in and ask you if you knew each one of the requirements being asked for. And if I didn’t know one of them they wouldn’t let me apply, through their office anyway. Similar thing with the recruiters. Remember speaking to one recruiter who said (not word for word): “We have a company looking for someone who knows x, y, z (which I did) and has 5 years experience (which i didn’t).” Once I said I didn’t have that many years experience she pretty much ended the call. It seems the recruiters want to stick to the script, at least as closely as they can. As I’ve only applied to a couple of those high requirement ads out of desperation i’m definitely gonna start applying to more regardless, who knows, something may just come of it.

I do know some WordPress, enough to make basic templates with some referencing of code, etc. Even though its front-end, if I could land a job in that arena it might look good along with a portfolio focused on the back-end. What do you think?

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Couldn’t agree more. When I started my first role as a developer, the only thing I could write was a simple SQL query, but I committed to learning. They took a punt on me based on that and I worked for them for 10 years (I left to have my kids, but not before I was a senior .NET developer).

You might not get the job, but if you don’t apply for it, you definitely won’t.

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That is horrible advice! Seriously, follow @mawburn’s advice. In fact, I’d encourage you to apply for any job that is remotely interesting to you. Why? Because it gets you experience with Interviews and it gives you connections with possible employers.

Get interviews, be polite, show interest in the company, not just the job. Research the company. Go to their website, read up on what they do, their recent clientele, their news press releases, anything! Mention those items in your interview when asked if you have any questions about the company. Why? Because as someone who has helped my boss hire new employees, we DIG that stuff! If you bring up a recent press release we had over our new product launch, or our recent work with company X, we’ll overlook your inexperience or lack of a qualification. We want people who are interested in what we do, as they are more likely to be employees that we’ll retain for numerous years.

And above all else, send a Thank you after your interview (regardless if it went well or not). Thank the company for the phone/in person interview, remind them of your interest in the company (not the position, the company) and that you look forward to hearing from them (if you haven’t already). I can’t tell you the number of resumes, I picked out of the “no” pile because they sent a thank you letter, but it has been a few. Granted, not all thank you letters will get their resume out of the “no” pile, you just can’t fix everything with a single letter, but if you were “on the edge” or “just barely didn’t make the cut”, you have a shot.

Should you get a second interview, and someone stumped you with a question in your first interview. Find the answer to that question and bring it with you. You will surprise me to no end if you come in and we ask “Do you have any questions for us?” and you respond, “Yes, the same one you stumped me on last time, … but I have the answer now too!”

You should continue to apply for jobs just slightly out of your qualifications because, well… you are a developer. The goal of a developer is to continue learning. When I look for someone, I look at their current experience, the jobs they’ve done, the roles they played, etc. That means far more to me than 5 years of experience. If you have 3 years and you were a lead or a critical role to a big project, I quickly forget about the lack of 5 years. Express your interest in learning and any opportunities a position at the company may grant you in that regard.

Lastly, take a look at your resume. If you simply have 3 years of .NET, 2 years Ruby. Get rid of that. Replace it with the projects you’ve worked on.


Company I Worked For (2004-Present)
Title at Company

Big Project 1
As an architect, I analyzed and designed the underlying framework according to the business needs of our client. The project was designed to do X, which required careful consideration to memory/network usage. I developed documentation so our developers knew how the framework was to be developed and utilized by the system as a whole. I set time aside every week to review recent code changes to verify they were adhering to the design and requested changes when it wasn’t.

As you can tell, that gives a lot more information about you and your abilities, than putting 3 years of .NET :smile:

The industry really is easy to get into, if you are willing to show your interest in the industry. That’s really all a company wants, is someone who is interested. Someone willing to learn, willing to grow, willing to work hard because they value the industry they are trying to get in.

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Remember, when working with Recruiters you are a product they are selling. That’s all you are. Some Recruiters (the bad ones) try to find the best Product for a Consumer (the employer) and others try to find Consumers for good Products.

The unemployment person just sounded bad. It seems silly to not apply to something just because they are looking for someone with 3yrs experience when you only have 2.75yrs experience.

Most of the time technical employers will just list out a whole bunch of stuff to see what they can get. They don’t really expect you to know 6 different frameworks in 3 different languages and have 6yrs experience in something that’s only 3yrs old. They are looking for someone who can fill a role they have and that’s the stuff they use. They may even be trying to fill several slots and just have 1 job listing.

Even though its front-end, if I could land a job in that arena it might look good along with a portfolio focused on the back-end. What do you think?

Any experience is experience. But there are plenty of backend jobs out there. You just have to look in the right areas.

The downside to using URLs is that, after you’ve gone from that project, other developers can be called in to modify or even replace all the work that you did. I found that out the hard way. A project that I was pretty proud of had changed, drastically, about six months after I had finished that contract… so most of the work I did was not there. Screencaps are (essentially) proof that your work did exist.


I can attest from experience that all the advice given here is sound.

This is extremely important; even more so than ever. In our current culture the convenience and ‘instant gratification’ that comes from Email has made us a bit lazy. If you either send or hand-deliver* a thank you note it makes you really stand out.

*Yes, return to the place where you had the interview. Don’t stress over getting to see the interviewer again in person (many people will say they are too busy to see you if a receptionist announces your unscheduled visit), because the fact that you took the time and effort to come by in person will impress EVERYONE in that office who saw you or heard the story from their coworkers.

Among all this ‘positive’ advice I want to offer one very important caution that has not yet been mentioned.
BEFORE you go to each interview, check out your name in Google. I cannot count how many “on the fence” job candidates we decided against because they had some “social network” activity that was a bit questionable. On the flip side, I have been told one thing that weighed heavily in my favor (during interviews) is the evidence on Google that I am very active in the Global Development community (Open Source commits, Technical Articles, Volunteer activities). If an interviewer does not bring this up do not be fooled into thinking they have not already performed a Google Search on your name!


I have purposely kept my name off Google and I change screenames frequently, specifically for this reason.

I have been very active online for a long time and I can’t say I’m proud of everything I’ve said or done, especially when I was younger. And you never know which stupid thing will show up when someone Googles’ something about you. The random thing you said 10yrs ago when you were angry could be the first result, you never know and it’s ruined plenty of lives.

My name mawburn is what I consider my professional name and try to keep it as clean as professional as possible. I still try to not attach my real identity to it often, just in case.

I’ve used my real name for FB and G+, but I deleted those accounts shortly before I interviewed for the job I have, now. Yeah, Google caches everything, so I’m guessing I didn’t type anything too questionable in those areas. But everywhere else, I have never used my real name. I’m pretty laid-back and easy going, most of the time. I have had one or two rare moments when I allowed something or someone to get under my skin, resulting in my “letting loose”. Nothing that I’m proud of, granted, but I’ll never take it back or apologise.



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This is an interesting question that no one’s really touched on yet so I’ll give you my two cents worth.

In six years I doubt there will be anything that shakes the web development industry considerably. HTML, CSS and JavaScript will still being used heavily and expertise with them will still be sought after.

What has been changing over the past 10 years is that the emerging markets in Asia have made progress towards equal job opportunities with the western countries so teams are more distributed. It’s moving towards a level playing field where employees anywhere in the world are valued on what they can produce rather than the value of their home currencies.

Hey HAWK, thanks for the replay and that’s a very good point. Hadn’t really thought about it that way. Guess I don’t have too much to lose. Knowing this helps remove the stress in thinking i’m not good enough for the position. From what I’m getting so far in this thread it looks like getting the job in web development has less to do with the requirements and more to do with everything else.

That’s an awesome story, and definitely one I would like to experience myself. What was it that you offered them to make them say “yes, we want to hire this person” ? Was it the positive attitude, portfolio, or just a culmination of different things?

Thank you for the thank you note tip. Didn’t realize it held so much weight. Which person do you think should be addressed with the thank you note, the secretary who setup the interview, the interviewers themselves, or the both (as sometimes you do not have the information of the person who interviewed you and getting that information off the internet i’m thinking might seem needy, not sure)?

This is some awesome information as well and definitely gives me a lot to do over the weekend which is great. Almost seems as if it is told in like a story board format. Is this preferable to bullet points, or just a matter of preference?