Life after Coding Bootcamp: Landing that first job

Searching for a job is typically a lot more difficult than we originally expect it to be. As a recent bootcamp graduate, I can definitely say that the job search required far more dedication and grit than I expected going into it. One of the main selling points of attending a coding bootcamp is these flashy numbers that get thrown around about hiring rates and the average salary for Junior Developers nationally.

appacademy.png
App Academy

While this is true, to an extent, it does leave out one very critical detail. What is that detail, you ask? The only Junior Developers out there that are making that kind of money are the Junior Developers that, wait for it, Got Hired. I know that sounds obvious but let’s just reflect on this for a moment.

As with all things in the free-market, coding bootcamps arrived out of nowhere to fulfill an industry need, namely – it needed new talent. Coding bootcamps fulfilled that need by taking people who knew relatively little about coding and turned them into participating members of dev teams in an industry that badly needed them. As such, companies would basically take anyone who knew even a little about coding, with the idea that they could be trained and molded into the developers they really wanted.

Now, after a few years of this, things are very different. The market has been flooded with people who now promote themselves as Junior Developers. As a result, companies now have greater discretion when it comes to hiring people for Junior roles. They can afford to be picky! 

In the past, you could have been a busboy or a taxi-cab driver turned bootcamp grad and been making 60k starting 2 weeks after graduation. These days? Not so much. You need to really separate yourself from the crowd. So, here are 5 things you absolutely need to pay attention to in order to get yourself that first job.

1) Resume

It seems obvious, but this is one of the more important things you can do for sure. The world is deep in the process of modernizing but resumes remain a steady in all industries. A good resume will have the following format:

  1. Header
  2. Projects
  3. Work Experience
  4. Education
  5. Volunteer / Extra Info

Check out these resources to get a better idea:

  1. Medium Article on Web Dev Resumes (great read!)
  2. Reddit | Tuesdays over at /r/cscareerquestions are for posting your resume for critique. This is a great resources to get feedback.

The trick of course, is finding a way to tailor your resume to represent the best version of yourself. Find work that you have done, even if you did it as a hobby (it doesn’t matter – experience is experience) that has skills that translate well to the roles you are applying for.

In my past, I spent all of my free time with music and film. Writing, recording and producing music and filming and editing movies. I didn’t really make any money off of this but it was a passion of mine that I learned to cultivate on my own and as a result I learned a lot about perseverance, dedication and the obvious work specific skills. As soon as I added those two “freelance” gigs in my work experience section, I began fielding calls left and right – no joke.

For the projects section, you will likely be using projects you worked on during your time in the bootcamp you graduated from. I’m not trying to be mean here, but they probably aren’t very good – make sure to continue working on projects Post-Grad in order to keep your project section more relevant and current. Make a solid effort to have one project that can be your attention grabber. Give it a lot of features and complexity with a clean and fresh styled Front End to attract hiring managers!

Last, but arguably one of the most important, is to include as many tech ‘buzz-words’ as possible, without overdoing it. I used this list, here, when I was constructing my own resume and received a lot of traction as a result. Don’t just use buzz-words for their own sake, make sure they are relevant to what you are talking about and the skills you have developed in the past. Here is my resume for reference, it was made using a program called Sketch

Screenshot at Sep 16 12-32-05.png

2) Meetups

You absolutely MUST be attending meetups in your area. I’m not talking about 1 or even 2 meetups a week – I’m talking as many as possible. When I was most active in my job search I was attending upwards of 5 a week, sometimes 2 in one day. This is called hustle and ambition – get familiar with it because it is the only thing you can actually count on.

Head over to Meetup.com and create yourself a free account (Get the app too!), then do a search for any type of meetup within your desired traveling range that is even remotely in line with what you are trying to accomplish. As a point of reference, I was attending Toastmasters meetings on a fairly regular basis. All they do is help you with your communication and public speaking – nothing to do with code. Even still, I became much more comfortable just speaking with strangers in a meetup environment and these newly acquired skills translated over to other more relevant meetups.

Next, get yourself some business cards, you probably won’t need more than 50, so make sure to buy some decent looking ones with some weight to them – you want to leave an impression on people. I used this service, Moo and was really pleased with the results. I went with the Super category because the cards are thicker and just feel more professional. I think 90% of the people I gave them out to complemented me on the quality, so that’s a good sign! All told, I think it cost me less than $30 – a wise investment!

3) Work

For some of you this part will be a difficult pill to swallow, but something we all will just need to deal with. When you graduate from a bootcamp, it is very VERY important that you continue working on your coding skills. You need to be building new projects in either a solo or collaborative environment. It can be anything really, as long as it is both new, and an improvement on your previous skills.

Do it through GitHub whenever possible as well, it keeps your activity ticker looking green – Green is Good! Unfortunately for me, the internship I am working at handles all of it’s code through BitBucket, so my GitHub kind of looks bare at the moment, but it was looking good until then!

5.pngNow, to the part with the pill you need to swallow – work for free! I hate to say it, but as cool as personal project may be, having real life users will usually trump that. Find yourself some friends, family members or local businesses that need a new website. Bonus points if they deal in e-commerce! Anything to show potential employers that you have experience delivering results to people that want your product, this will take you very very far indeed.

4) Apply

I recently posted an article about why I believed AngelList is the best job board for developers, you can read it here. One of the things my brother, a developer himself, told me when I graduated from Launch Academy was “10 before 10”. What that means is this, Apply to 10 jobs before 10am every morning.

This is important, searching for a job isn’t just something you do casually, you should be treating it like it is a full-time job. You need to be keeping track of the people you make contact with at various companies, and what their responses were to you. Be very methodical about this! When I was applying to jobs, I kept a daily maintained spreadsheet of all companies I applied to with detailed information for each one. This way, I wouldn’t run the risk of applying to the same job twice.

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This list went on for over 200 different jobs. It really helped me to visualize the amount of effort I was putting into my job search. Additionally, for companies that I never received callbacks or rejection letter from, I would reach out to check up on them. A few times, it was a simple oversight and I was asked to participate in either a phone screen or onsite interview!

Do not be afraid to use more than one resource for applying to jobs. During my job search I used Indeed, ZipRecruiter, LinkedIn, AngelList, Craigslist and others. I also never turned down an email or phone call from Recruiters, however useless many of them ended up being to me. A few did ultimately come through though on some opportunities, so always stay posted.

The point is this, use all available resources, however simple or useless it may seem at the time it could very easily turn into something much much more!

5) Patience

I ask you what you want to become, and you respond by saying, “I want to become a developer”. To this, I respond with, “You aren’t cut out for it. You’ll never make it. Give up”. How do you respond?

If your response to this completely unfounded, negative criticism is anything other than, ‘Go to Hell’, than you really aren’t cut out for it…right now. I told you from the outset of this article that landing your first Developer job would take grit, that it would be difficult, so you should be actively working to suppress any kind of defeatist attitude that may arise.

You will be rejected, you will be ignored, you will be laughed at and the entire time you must take it all with a grain of salt and a smile on your face. Listen, you already are a developer, now you just need to find someone out there who is willing to agree with you and line your pockets with cash!

Mentality is everything in life and using it to land your first developer position is no different. Do not allow yourself to get discouraged, instead find a way to use it to modify your approach to get the kind of response you are looking for.

When I was feeling discouraged, my girlfriend would always remind me that the average time from graduation to job offer is typically about 6 months. This is something that has always stuck with me throughout my job search. I would think it had been so long, and then realize that only a month or 2 had elapsed since graduating and it would help to put things into perspective.

You can not count on the generosity of others, nor can you count on their promises. What you can count on, however, is the resilience that you are willing to demonstrate throughout this process. You can absolutely count on staying up late to research companies. You can count on the hard work, long hours and endless driving to interviews you are willing to endure in order to make your dreams become a reality. Count on yourself and nothing else. Go get ’em!

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