Beginning front-end career – common mistakes and my experience

I decided to write this post because a lot of people ask me how I got my start in front-end development. It was definitely a struggle, and maybe my mistakes and experience can help someone get a job without as much hassle.

How I got the offer

I started learning HTML, CSS and JavaScript about 2 years ago. After 3 months, I started learning React and I really liked it.

I started applying for jobs about one year ago. I wasn’t successful because I didn’t have much to show for. I looked for front-end development agencies and offered them my free help as an intern. Eventually, this plan worked and I even got a job as a junior developer at the development firm. Unfortunately I’m not with them now, but starting with them was the boost I needed to get my career started.

What I wish I had done (mistakes)

Put more emphasis on portfolio

My biggest mistake as a self-taught web developer was that I didn’t put enough effort into my portfolio. When you have nothing to show for – no job experience, no degree, no contributions to open-source projects – portfolio is all that you have.

You need to make it count, so build at least three or four solid single page applications in React. Make sure to showcase your HTML and CSS skills as well, those can be just as important as React.

Master my basics

When I first started looking for a job as a React developer, I thought I had a fairly good grasp of the library. Interviewing for jobs made me realize how much I didn’t know. My suggestion to readers would be to search front-end developer interview questions and work on them. You’ll discover a lot that you don’t know.

Just make sure you know how React works inside and out. Concepts like virtual DOM, controlled components, are very important. Check out websites like SimpleFrontEnd to learn important React features.

Not knowing TypeScript

One of my biggest mistakes was that I didn’t know TypeScript, which is absolutely necessary to write React web applications on a large scale. Most companies as well as web development agencies use TypeScript to make their code easier to maintain.

Since it’s just a superset of JavaScript, TS is not that difficult to learn. Dedicate few weeks to learning TypeScript and you’ll greatly improve your chances of landing a job.

Having high expectations

When I first started looking for jobs, I had high expectations for a junior-level React developer job. Then I learned that I didn’t know as much as I thought, and my value as an inexperienced React developer was not that high. This led me to change my approach and I offered my services for free. Combined with improved knowledge and more impressive library, I was quickly hired and eventually transitioned to a full-time job as a front-end developer.

Things that I did right

There are some areas where I did right. I was ambitious and curious enough to grow past my junior role and look for more responsibility within the company. Right now I work at a different company at a middle level web developer. I attribute all this to the fact that I was hungry for learning and didn’t mind hard work to understand foreign concepts.

I believe I also benefited from actually building applications and implementing certain features. For example, how to use map() to generate new components when you iterate over an array of objects in React.

I still continue to learn and hope to reach new career heights as a front-end web developer.


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