How to Stand Out From the Competition When You Are a Self-Taught Developer

Lemon painted blue against a blue backdrop, standing out from the crowd concept


Ann Adaya shares her brilliant advice on how to stand out from the competition when you are a self-taught developer.

“Stand out and be noticed. Don’t be afraid of being different, be afraid of being the same as everyone else.”Erin Bower

1. Build Projects That Cover the Technologies the Client Needs

Just because you added hundreds of projects to your portfolio, that doesn’t assure you that you will be hired.

Don’t be a jack-of-all-trades; be a master of one or two. You have to give them what they want. If you’re applying as a web developer, then focus on website projects. Build responsive websites. Show them that you can do a website that looks good on all different screen sizes. Show them your skills with CSS or SASS, and even Bootstrap. Show them your Javascript skills. They will love it if you can show them projects that have a back end that uses an API, and so on.

Another good thing to add is that if they included JavaScript, you can also build a project using any JavaScript framework or library, offering them something that will be beneficial in the future, and at the same time aligning with what they want, but better. If they ask about skills in CSS, you can add projects using SASS, or projects that have animation. Giving them the message that you can do more and offering them something that they didn’t know they needed are good marketing strategies to sell yourself.

But the most important thing here is to offer them the stack that they need. You can just offer them better options that they can make use of in the future.

2. Before You Send Out Your Resume, Define Your Stack

You can’t just go in every direction you see. You have to choose one and stick with it for a bit.

If you want to go with PHP and MySQL, then go for it. If you want to go with JavaScript and React, then focus on them. If you want to become a full-stack (MERN/MEAN) Developer, then go with JavaScript. You can’t learn PHP and MySQL if you want to become a MERN stack developer. Decide and build your stack: That should be your starting point so you can start drafting your map.

Narrow down your choices, and don’t confuse HR or the company that you want to apply to. They would rather choose someone who has a clear and straight-to-the-point resume or definition of skills than someone who wrote down all the technologies in the world.

They want someone who knows what they’re doing.

3. Only Include the Details or Skills Necessary for a Developer Job

Communicate only the necessary message, nothing more, nothing less.

What do you really want to say?

It would be better if you don’t include skills that are no longer necessary, skills that you used to have before you transitioned into becoming a developer, or skills from your previous job that are not related to web development. If you use to be a flight attendant, there’s no need to include customer relation skills. If you used to be a nurse, there’s no need to include any medical skills. It’s important that your resume has a concise and purposeful message.

How would you expect them to believe that you know what you’re doing if your resume is cluttered or sends a message that you aren’t sure of yourself? Having many things to say will only deliver noise and misunderstanding. It’s better to keep it short and tell them what they want to hear.

The simple things are the hardest. If you can’t communicate what you want and what you are capable of, then how can you convince them to give you a shot?

4. Send the Message That You Can Offer More Than the Job, Without Actually Telling Them

Sometimes recruiters focus more on what you can bring to the table.

I believe this is one of the reasons I was able to convince the general manager of the company where I got my first web developer job to invest in me, even without any experience. I still can remember the feeling of that achievement.

Instead of offering them all the skills they need, offer them much more. Give them the message that you can do more than what they’re looking for. Don’t make false promises. just be realistic and commit to it.

After I passed the exam and after the initial interview, I was called the next day for the final interview. I was so fascinated that the interviewer was the General Manager. He’s the owner and a good businessman. I worked for him for almost three years. That interview changed my life: It gave me a title on paper and opened a lot of doors in my career. It changed me and made me believe that everything is possible if you work hard for it.

By just one simple touch, I had been able to turn the tables. I convinced him that I was going to do whatever it took to be part of the team, that I’d work twice as hard, and that hard work beats talent. I persuaded him that giving me a chance would be one of his best investments. It wasn’t just words, though; it was a debt, and every day I make sure that I pay it off.

Don’t get me wrong. I learned all these things by sending out my resumes to every job opening I can find, by getting tons of noes and a lot of “seen-zoning.”

There’s no such thing as luck; you create your opportunity. Find out what’s missing, eliminate what doesn’t work, and stick with what works. Don’t be afraid to redefine your strategy.

5. Believe That You Are a Developer — Because You Are

This is the last, but most important, point. If you don’t believe in yourself and aren’t confident to call yourself a developer, then why would they?

As you write your resume and design your portfolio, you have to think as a developer because that is how you would want them to think. You need to relay to them the message “I am a developer, and this is why you should hire me.” If you think that way, recruiters and senior developers will take you as a developer and not just some kid who doesn’t know what they want. How you think of yourself is how others will treat you, so you’d better fix yourself first before you sell yourself to others.

It’s the most basic idea, but it holds the biggest piece of the puzzle. You have to believe in it so you can convince others to believe you. Imagine it, even if it’s hard. Convince yourself first, before you can convince others.

May you have the confidence to think that you’re already a developer. Even if it’s just a few months of experience or no experience at all, you’ve worked hard for it. You’ve spent long hours trying to understand codes. You’ve come out from your comfort zone. Now you just have to take it because t’s all yours. You will be a developer after that final interview.

Thank you for reading!

About the author

Ann Adaya

Ann Adaya
Self-Taught Web/Mobile Developer, aspiring to be a writer to hopefully share positivity, inspiration, and gratitude in life.


Attending networking events can feel daunting, but don't let this put you off! Sarah Lawrence, CEO & Founder of 10 Out Of 10, shares her...
Get ready to hone your tech skills with Adam Biddlecombe, "The AI Guy" and the Co-Founder & CEO of Mindstream, an esteemed AI-focused news blog.
Join us on a journey through the transformative moments that pave the way to leadership greatness. From navigating challenges to embracing opportunities, Mahnaz Tavousi. VP,...
Roxy Law, Senior Talent Solutions Manager at Robert Half, offers insights on how candidates, especially women in tech, can enhance their chances of success through...

This website stores cookies on your computer. These cookies are used to improve your website and provide more personalized services to you, both on this website and through other media. To find out more about the cookies we use, see our Privacy Policy.