Man and Woman Walk in Suits

Using Unrelated Experiences to Land a Programming Job

You’ve read the job description over and over again, but you’re still not sure if you should apply. Maybe you don’t check all of the required qualifications, or you’re a few years shy of the preferred years of experience. Either way, your resume makes it hard to explain exactly why you’re perfect for this role.

But consider that experience outside of programming and web development can actually give you a leg up against your competition. Follow these five tips for creative ways to leverage your non-developer skills in the job search.

Are you a problem solver?

Any job will teach you problem solving skills such as calming an anxious client, adjusting a timeline for a project, or taking on tasks that fall outside your responsibility. Figuring out how to fix a problem, regardless of whether it’s in your job description, is one of the most important aspects in any job role and one of the most attractive characteristics in a new employee.

Before interviews, think of ways that you could apply skills from previous jobs to this new role. These can include customer acquisition, social media, blogging, videography, or any area that’s presenting the biggest challenge for your employer.

Are you a natural leader?

Having experience as a manager can help you in an interview, regardless of whether or not the position includes managing a team. Being a great manager requires a long list of important skills that are crucial for successful candidates: having empathy for co-workers, learning to utilize individuals’ strengths, and most importantly, being organized.

Organization can make or break a developer: your team is relying on you to tie moving pieces together in a strict timeline. Management experience gives you the organizational and interpersonal skills to succeed in even the most difficult deadline-driven settings.

Can you take feedback?

Chances are you’ve worked a customer service job at least once in your life—whether it was at a grocery store, a restaurant, or somewhere else. Skills from these client-facing jobs transfer over into every aspect of a developer’s day. Depending on your role or company, you may not be dealing with outside clients directly, but you will always be dealing with some sort of internal customer.

Use this as a strength in interviews by thinking of times you went out of your way to please a client (internal or external). Narrow in on their challenge, your process for solving it, and ultimately, the final outcome. Explaining how you got to the solution shows you can connect with your client and find something that works for everyone involved.

Are you a communicator?

If you’ve ever worked in marketing or communications, you know how to work with a strong focus on storytelling. But chances are any past job has required storytelling skills: whether it was selling a product, writing reports, or designing a website.

Use this background to your advantage by framing your approach to development as storytelling without as many words. Take the lessons you’ve learned about tone, delivery, and messaging and apply them to your work. Having a background in a communication position gives you the skills to think of new ways to tell the same story and narrow in on which one will tell it best.

Are you an independent worker?

Have any experience freelancing? Had a job that left you on your own to get the work done? Being able to manage yourself confidently and deliver outstanding work is an underrated skill to pitch in a job interview.

Whether the company wants to give you free reign or have you checking in almost daily, knowing you’re able to accomplish tasks independently is a weight lifted off management’s shoulders. It means you’ll be the first person they call to save the day at the last minute, and you’ll quickly become popular because they know they can trust you to get the job done.

Finding the lesson in anything

Every experience you’ve ever had has a hidden lesson that can be applied to your next job. Running a marathon can demonstrate perseverance or strength, getting your diploma can show dedication and focus, and working a customer service job can show empathy and drive.

Whether your past experience is developer-related or not, find the narrative in each experience you’ve had. Interpersonal skills are how we connect and operate on a daily basis: prove you have what it takes to succeed and your work ethic will do the rest.


Whatever your background, Authentic Jobs has a job for you.