How To Have a Portfolio With No Experience

Spurred on by a question on Twitter

I will expand on that thought further.

In short, it is possible in a lot of industries to get your first job with no experience and no education, you just have to be clever and work hard.

Cliched, but it's true.

Be in the right shoes

  1. Identify what kind of employer you want
  2. Identify their needs
  3. Sacrifice your own personal time to work on projects related to their needs
  4. Put it on the internet (GitHub or your blog is a good spot)
  5. Show it to them

What do I mean with "be in the right shoes"?

Think about it. If you were hiring someone, anyone, and you had two different candidates.

One candidate is fresh out of college. Graduated with straight As and so on. Zero work experience. He demands a higher entry salary because of his qualifications.

The other candidate lists no education or work experience. But he provides 3 projects he has worked on related to your company's field. His salary expectations are modest.

You're going to interview both. But you will be impressed by the latter.

The college grad is nervous at the interview. He can barely answer the questions outside of his study material and he's dressed in an off-the-rack suit.

The uneducated one is confident and while he can't answer a lot of the questions, clearly he is interested in the subject and provided some examples as they relate to his experience. He's not in a suit but he's got chinos and a shirt and some nice leather shoes, they fit him well.

Who would YOU hire?


The blueprint to get there

Establish your interests and target companies

If you don't have specific companies you want to work at, that's fine. But figure out your non negotiables and your soft requirements.

  • Salary expectations?
  • Fully remote? Partially remote? Office job?
  • Work hours? Or free? (Result-driven performance expectations, or time-driven performance expectations)
  • A particular geographic location?
  • What sort of industry? (Or you don't care?)


Let's take software engineering for example.

You want to be able to develop web applications for your clients.

Is it more appropriate to practice your web application skills? Or your Excel skills?

Figure out what skills are relevant for the profile of where you want to work, and start working on them.

What kinds of projects?

Software for architecture firms? Then you HAVE to get into 3D modelling. Maybe play around and make a very simple 3D model editor.

Or maybe you actually want to work at an architecture firm as an architect. Why not invent some fun scenarios and make a model for it? "A two-family home with a focus on accessibility."

You want to develop games? Then you HAVE to develop games. It's a complex and deep field. If you have 5 full games in your portfolio you're worth way more than the dude fresh out of college. No doubt.

You have to be creative.


And finally, get to work.

In the end it takes serious work to pique a company's interest.

They need to see that you are VERY enthusiastic about working.

Positive enthusiasm always goes a long way for first jobs.

I hope you enjoyed that post. There's more to come.

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