How to get a full stack developer job

How to get a full stack developer job

Full stack developers - those comfortable with every level of the technology stack - remain in high demand among IT jobs. Here's what you'll need to do to stand out and land that role

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IT careers 2020

A full stack developer is a technological jack-of-all-trades, a person capable of working with every level of the application technology stack from the user interface to the database back end.

It’s one career path recruiters call likely to remain in high demand despite economic shocks to the job market. Try searching the Dice.com job listings for full stack developer right now: We recently got 27,780 results.

Many teams would love to have a full stack developer who can pull it all together.

Startups and innovative corporate development teams need specialists in front-end and back-end tech, but many would love to have a full stack developer who can pull it all together. Adding “full stack” to your resume ought to help you find a better job and negotiate a better salary, assuming you can back up your claim to the title.

[ Which IT jobs will position you well for the future? Read also: 5 flourishing and 5 fading IT careers and 8 IT jobs in flux. ]

What skills do full stack developers need?

Technology recruiter and career coach Melissa Smith of Karma Search says she sees particular demand from startups for developers experienced with the open source MERN stack – MongoDB, Express, React, and Node – which allows the front-end experience, server-side middleware, and database to all be programmed in a modern JavaScript framework.

[ Read also: Top 7 open source project management tools for agile teams. ]

For other startups, full stack might mean something different, with Python or Ruby on Rails on the server side and React or another JavaScript framework on the front end. For corporate IT, a full stack developer might need skills with Java or the .NET framework as well as relational databases.

"When people think of becoming a full stack developer, they need to decide which path to go down."

“When people think of becoming a full stack developer, they need to decide which path to go down,” Smith says. The right choice might be to focus on whatever technology stack the companies in your target market use. You can learn those tech stack details by networking and securing informational interviews with people at your target company.

If your dream company values JavaScript but also uses server-side Python as part of its big data architecture, polish up your Python skills, she advises. If you are very proficient with JavaScript but haven’t used Node on the server side, maybe you can offer yourself as a front-end developer with the ambition to grow into a full stack developer. Or if you know React, you can upgrade your skills by learning React Native, which is used for mobile apps.

“There is also a matter of personal preference,” Smith says. “You might work with React but hate it.”

How to stand out for a full stack developer job

Experience makes a difference. If you work on web and mobile development for a decade or more, you become a polyglot, a master of every language, Smith says. Learning how to learn is essential because the landscape of popular languages and programming frameworks keeps changing.

“React wasn’t really talked about much five years ago at all,” points out Johanna Mikkola, cofounder of the Wyncode Academy tech boot camp in Miami. Today, React and the tech stacks it plugs into is one of the main things her program teaches.

Until recently, true full stack experts with a lot of experience had to wave the recruiters off, Smith says. After COVID-19 precipitated layoffs at some companies, there is a lot of good talent looking for a job, she says, meaning that it’s not quite as much of a seller’s market — but still a good position to be in.

Those trying to reposition themselves as full stack developers after previously holding other jobs will have more work to do to prove themselves.

You will need a portfolio of work, even if it’s on personal or volunteer projects.

“Because of boot camps, the junior developer end of the market tends to be very saturated,” Smith says. Being able to put the words “full stack developer” on your LinkedIn profile is a good start, but it won’t necessarily get you a job, let alone your dream job. You will need a portfolio of work, even if it’s on personal or volunteer projects, to show what you can do.

Mikkola says she understands that being christened a full stack developer by graduating from the Wyncode program is not enough. Teaching job-hunting skills is particularly important because most Wyncode graduates are trying to change careers, not just within IT but from teaching and other professions.

“Job hunting is a skillset, and it can be lonely and challenging a lot of the time,” Mikkola acknowledges. “Applying isn’t the hard part.”

Networking and following up with contacts who might provide an introduction is important. Even if you have the right skills, you need to master the “follow-up game” and get employers to look at your work product, Mikkola says. You need to work around recruiting software algorithms that will filter out your resume because, for example, you lack a computer science degree — even if that’s not the most important thing for the role.

Wyncode tries to grease the rails by holding its own networking events with the program’s alumni and the Miami tech community.

Professional social network skills also pay off. Target people on the team you would like to join and reach out to them on LinkedIn with a contact request, Smith suggests. Ask them if they would be willing to talk with you about their work, the organization, how they got hired, and how you might also. If you can identify the recruiter who works with that company, making a LinkedIn connection might make all the difference.

Smith says that when she has thousands of applicants for a job, as is often the case, she may stop sifting through them once she has identified five or 10 plausible candidates for screening interviews. “But I will, 100 percent of the time, if I get a LinkedIn message from someone, take a look at their profile to see if they could be a good fit. If they reach out to me like that, they are literally pulling their resume out of the stack.”

[ Learn the do's and don'ts of multi-cloud: Get the free eBook, Multi-Cloud Portability for Dummies. ]

David F. Carr is a writer, speaker, student of digital business, and the author of "Social Collaboration for Dummies." He previously served as an editor for InformationWeek, Baseline Magazine, and Internet World and has written for Forbes, CIO Magazine, and Defense Systems.

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