The Web Industry: Thoughts Two Years On
This week marks two years since graduating from the web design and development course I took at BCIT. Here are some thoughts (some might call it wisdom) that would have been great to know when I first entered the web industry. Of course, that’s not to downplay the experiences and learning process, though!
If you haven’t already, start thinking about what you want to focus on. I’d decided well before the end of my course that WordPress web development was for me. This doesn’t mean don’t expand or have wider interests, though! I’ve just found that being too general with your skills isn’t necessarily a good thing (cue somebody who’s a designer and developer debate).
Your local community. This is important. I’m in Vancouver, and I can say we have a decent web community here. Lots of skilled developers and designers in a variety of meetup groups that give excellent talks. Knowing people in your industry has many benefits (other than the obvious one of friendship!), which can bring you the following:
- Help with fixing bugs and problems
- Critique on code and designs
- Work referrals (be it a job or contract)
- Learn about new tools, skills and resources
- Keep up to date with the state of the web. In an industry as fast moving as ours, this is particularly important!
To find your local community, I recommend heading to http://www.meetup.com/ and find groups in your area.
Have resources for getting your own information. There are many! Some I’d suggest are Smashing Magazine, CSS Tricks, Codrops and Twitter.
Be wise with what you put on your resume and LinkedIn profile. Most employers really don’t care if you can use Microsoft Office. Nor do those few lessons where the teacher took you through a narrow use of PHP or MySQL qualify it for your list of skills.
Don’t use Dreamweaver. Whether or not you think it’s great, most people in the industry think it is not. Many regard it as an amateur’s tool. I’d suggest you use something else, such as Sublime Text (I use this: it is truly excellent and has some amazing extensions), Coda or Notepad++.
If you write CSS, learn about their preprocessors; Less and Scss (called Sass) being the main ones. Not only are these incredibly useful at extending what regular CSS can do, I happen to know that some employers expect potential hirees to know and use them.
Always, always, always use contracts with your work agreements. It doesn’t matter if it’s family or friends; always do it. It can lead to sticky situations where you end being the loser, and not always just money-wise. Leading on from this, know when to segregate work and personal, especially if you’re a freelancer working from home.
Finally, don’t be afraid to have your say. Yes, it can be intimidating when there are so many knowledgeable people out there, but in the end it’s really worth it and you’ll be glad for doing it later on. Comments on these and/or your own experiences welcome!