Becoming a Web Developer? 6 Questions to Ask Yourself First

Alexandre Ouellette, contributor to the CareerFoundry blog

When I first started thinking about changing careers to become a web developer, I was wracked with doubt and a multitude of questions swam around in my head.

I wasn’t sure how to do it, if I was good enough to do it or whether or not it was really what I needed in my life. I was scared.

But I started breaking down these questions one by one and tried to find answers that minimized my doubts, and to my surprise, it worked. I was able to think logically about what I wanted and what I needed to do.

In this article I will talk about the questions I asked myself and how I managed to answer them, in order to transition into my new web developer career.

If you want to skip ahead to a particular question, feel free to use the clickable menu.

  1. Is this really what I want to do?
  2. Do I have to start everything from scratch?
  3. Who can I turn to for help?
  4. Am I good enough?
  5. What if I fail?
  6. Where do I start?

1. Is this really what I want to do?

The best piece of advice I can give someone facing a tough choice is to get more information.

When I first considered going into web development, I was always reluctant to take the leap because I didn’t know what I was jumping into.

I’ve always found that one of the best ways to reduce my fear of change, was to reduce the amount of unknowns related to it.

And so, I did my research. I started by breaking down my future career into various categories.

  • What would I be doing if I made this change?
  • What would I work on?
  • What is involved with this career? I also looked at my current situation and tried to find aspects that I enjoyed and that were a part of the new career I had chosen for myself.

I started looking into various programming languages and started doing small coding tutorials for the ones that interested me.

As I did, I found things I didn’t like and steered clear of those. But, more importantly, I found things that were absolutely fascinating to me. I would delve deeper into these topics and lose track of time.

These kinds of discoveries reinforced my decision to change careers. I knew, not imagined, that there were some parts of this new career that would be interesting to me and that was exciting. I could see myself spending hours working on something like this.

It reassured me that I was making the right choice.

2. Do I have to start everything from scratch?

Now that I could see myself in this new career, I often wondered if that meant throwing away everything I had previously worked on.

When I’d find myself thinking about this, I would try identifying skills that I had developed which would be useful in my new career.

My advice to you is:

  • Research which of your abilities are transferable skills
  • Talk to people who are already doing the job you want and get their opinion on your skills and experience
  • Look at job descriptions for your new career and see what is asked of candidates. You’ll likely be surprised at how many of your skills and experiences apply!

If you are still unsure about jumping in feet first, it might be worth looking into a job that would allow you to use aspects of both your new and old career.

I found there are many jobs that incorporate aspects of coding with other fields, such as marketing, accounting and more. This might be a good way to ease yourself into making the change.

That being said, I think it’s important to recognize that changing careers does mean you will have to invest a lot of time into learning new things. You’ll need to work hard to catch up on certain aspects, and that’s normal.

You simply have to find ways to keep motivated when things get hard and having people to turn to can help tremendously. Which leads me nicely to my next point.

3. Who can I turn to for help?

When facing a new challenge, having a good support network is often the difference between those who succeed and those who fail.

Get a support network

You should work hard to build a support network before taking on difficult challenges.

Make sure you have friends or family with whom you can talk when things get rough. They will be able to help reassure you that you can get through it and that you are doing a good job.

Use the support resources

Having a good library of resources is also a must—the internet is full of useful advice, with articles full of tips to help you become a web developer.

Try and meet people who work in the field you are interested in. Ask them as many questions as they are willing to answer. These are the people who can help you overcome obstacles you come across while learning.

Find a mentor

Try to find people who are willing to act as your mentor. Mentors should encourage you to keep going, give you clues as to where you might find the answer and they should empower you to discover those answers on your own.

Join the online community

In the technology world, many products or programming languages will have a community behind them, willing to help people who are learning.

These are great tools that can help you out of a bind. Find communities that are inclusive and accepting of beginners. A great place to start will be StackOverflow and communities like the /r/learnprogramming subreddit.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, that’s how you learn!

4. Am I good enough?

I often found myself doubting whether or not I was good enough or smart enough to get into web development.

My thoughts would jumble into a vicious cycle of: What if I’m not smart enough? What if I fail? What if I don’t have a job anymore? What if? What if? What if?

Welcome to impostor syndrome—fast friend of the career-changer.

Getting out of that cycle is one of the biggest hurdle I had to face when I decided to change careers.

If you’ve built a network of people in the field or if you have a mentor, take them aside and ask for their opinion.

Do they think you can do the job? Ask them why they think so. Remember their answers.

When you feel yourself going into that vicious circle, remember the answers your mentors gave you. The more people you ask, the easier it will be to push out those unproductive questions.

But you should also realize that changing careers will be difficult. You will have to put in a lot of effort, but it will be worth it.

Remember that given enough time, you can succeed. Rely on your support network when times get tough and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Give yourself time, learn bit by bit and what may have once seemed impossible will become possible.

5. What if I fail?

Fear of failure was a big theme for me when I was thinking about changing careers. I would imagine the worst case scenarios and they would terrify me.

The fear of failure can be a big nuisance.

It might make you come up with reasons not to change, you might set easy goals which don’t push you to be your best or it might prevent you from asking for help when you need it.

Set an achievable goal

Realizing that the fear of failure is something we all struggle with is very important. But the key to overcoming it, lies not in failure but with success: to overcome the fear of failure you need to make sure your definition of success is realistic.

Before I started getting more information on web development, I defined success as programming a large website that multiple people used daily.

This was unrealistic; I couldn’t start learning about web development and program the next big website. I needed to set more realistic expectations for myself.

After a lot of reflection, I set an achievable goal for myself: learn something new that can be applied to the project I am currently working on, everyday.

With this new definition of success in mind, the prospect of changing careers didn’t seem too big to accomplish.

Financial concerns

It’s normal to have financial concerns when attempting a career change.

I often wondered what I would do for money if I failed. I was able to overcome this fear by planning ahead.

Changing careers is a big undertaking and requires a lot of resources. I found that by putting some money aside, enough to live off of for a couple of months, reassured me that if this change didn’t work out, I would be okay.

I would have enough time to find another job and make enough money to survive. Never underestimate the value of a backup plan.

Another way of allaying financial concerns is by calculating the ROI of your switch to coding. The cost can include your chosen developer training, and then the expected financial boost from increased salary in your new role.

We’ve collected average web developer salaries from all over the world to help you calculate this.

6. Where do I start?

After you’ve found the answers to all those questions and you are ready to take the first step into your new career, there’s only one question left to answer: where do I start?

If you have a network of people in your new field, ask them where a good starting point might be.

Where would they begin if they had to start over? Are there any blogs or books they found particularly useful? Should you go back to school for awhile? Is there a good web development bootcamp that will get you up and running?

Just start coding

There is one recommendation I would like to make if you are thinking about becoming a developer: start coding.

Code small programs, try to automate something you do at work, try to make a website for someone you know. When you are done on a project, try something a bit more difficult. Rinse and repeat.

Final thoughts

When contemplating a career change, there are a multitude of questions that will bounce around in your head. These are questions that will make you fear change and make you think you don’t need to take the risks you’re envisioning.

The key to being able to take the first step, is to be proactive about finding answers to those questions and trying to eliminate as many unknowns as possible.

Doing so will make you realize that taking the first step towards that change isn’t as difficult as you lead yourself to believe.

Want to learn more about changing careers to coding? Check out CareerFoundry’s Web Development Program now!

If you’d prefer to read some more about the world of web development instead, check out these articles:

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