First I had a look on jobs’ websites, but only to get an idea of what technologies are popular in Barcelona. Symfony was the most remarkable one. But I didn’t apply to any of the job offers I saw there.
I don’t want to work in a company just because they opened a job offer. I want to work in a company with great developers to learn from, and a product that passionates me. Actually I discovered that sometimes good companies need more developers but have no time to publish openings.
So I looked for a list of local companies. Regarding Barcelona, I found http://internetmadeinbcn.org/ (¹). And started to make a list with the interesting ones.
I also started to join programming events like conferences and talks, meeting people there. The idea was to find companies which technical level is a bit better than my skills(²). If you have the chance to join one of them, you’ll improve greatly.
Send them your CV with a well prepared cover letter (email). Some of them will contact you back. And the real fun begins: TECH interviews! Usually the process starts with a tech test, where you have to program something in a short time (between 1 to 4 hours). By the way, if the company does not ask you to do a test, run away (read the reasons in Joel’s test); once I joined a company that didn’t ask me so, and 3 weeks later I quited because their code was not a good one to learn from.
True fact: you will do your first interview horribly.
However, you will learn a lot while having interviews and tech tests. Specially if you ask for FEEDBACK! From my experience, only half of them will send you some feedback (following Sergey Brin’s style, “make the candidate learn something”). Feedback is pure gold. It’s the best way to learn from other developers working in the industry.
In my case, while having interviews I learned some new code design ideas. Moreover I ended up reading about DDD and BDD. For instance, in the first interview (3 months ago) they asked me about the meaning of BDD, and I had no idea; but in the last tech test, totally based on behat, I was able to code comfortably.
I can only say thank you to the few companies that gave me valuable feedback, even if they didn’t hire me. Now I’m better thanks to them. Somehow they helped me to sharp my skills!
Summing up, the “always learn” mantra should be applied to the process of looking for a new job too.
AND I GOT A NEW JOB, yeah!
(¹) For other cities in Europe, you may want to have a look at tyba.com.
(²) Actually this is a borrowed idea from my Korean classes in Seoul. The teacher always speaks using some more words and expressions that the students should know, so the students keep fighting all the time trying to get the level. However, students can get exhausted with that drowning feeling.