If you’re a coding bootcamp graduate or a self-taught developer just getting started in your career you probably have a few questions about the job search process. We recently had a conversation about this with a bootcamp graduate and we’d like to share with you the advice we passed on to them. We hope this helps many of you in the same situation think about your options!
In their case, they had received both a bachelor’s degree (in an unrelated field) and graduated from a coding bootcamp within the past year. They’ve been on the job search for about 3 months, but were finding it hard to stay optimistic about their situation. They were also starting to lose motivation in general, and even though they knew the basic steps they should be taking to find a job, they didn’t know how to get started or where to spend their energy.
Now, let’s jump into our response.
First of all, this is a really rough spot to be in - we totally empathize! Self-taught learners (like us) and bootcamp graduates almost all go through similar issues at the beginning. The good news is this means you’re not alone, and we can share our experiences!
One Upfront contributor explains:
I spent 6 months looking for work before finding an apprenticeship (this is after working as a front-end developer for almost 2 years), which eventually landed me a full-time software engineering gig at a big tech company. Other people who graduated from my apprenticeship weren't as lucky, and ended up searching for a job for about a year before they found something (and they had completed a bootcamp prior to the apprenticeship).
This is just one anecdote, but it speaks to the fact that lots and lots of people are graduating from bootcamps these days, and it’s hard to make yourself stand out. But hopefully this gives some perspective - 3 months is quite a short amount of time to be searching for your first engineering role.
That doesn’t mean we’re telling you to just sit tight and be patient though. Below, we’ve compiled some suggestions that we think will help people more quickly and smoothly get themselves out of this tough spot.
Here are two steps to start you off that are a lower time commitment but have a high impact:
Make sure your resume stands out to recruiters. We’ve actually written about this here: https://blog.upfrontjobs.io/blog/create-the-resume-your-recruiter-wants-to-see
Consider cold messaging people via LinkedIn and other channels. We’ve also written a post about that here: https://blog.upfrontjobs.io/blog/growing-your-network-and-landing-your-next-interview
Now for the hard work: building your skills and portfolio. These things take a bigger time commitment, but they’ll be worth it!
Contribute to projects. We’re saying “contribute” rather than “build your own” because it can be very time-consuming and daunting to build a project all by yourself when you don’t have any structure or mentorship like you would at a job or bootcamp. But if you contribute to an open source project, you are still showing your engineering chops, learning something new, and becoming part of community that could (who knows?) help you find a job in the future. Find an open source project that you are passionate about, and let that passion help motivate you when you're feeling like your drive is down.
Apply to an apprenticeship. A couple of these (Apprenti, Microsoft LEAP, LinkedIn REACH to name a few) have popped up across the country and, in our opinion, are worth relocating for if you get accepted. There may also be some that are more local to you. Often these apprenticeships are paid roles. Most computer science students in college have internships on their resume, which you may not have and this is a disadvantage. An apprenticeship can help bridge that gap.
Network in person, but only when you think it will be worth your time. If you need to commute 2 hours round-trip to grab a coffee with someone, don't just set up one coffee meeting. Set up multiple in a row, or go to bigger networking events where you can meet many people in a couple of hours. If you’re an introvert it will be quite exhausting and you will have to mentally prepare to be very social, so make it count!
Give yourself a set number of hours to job search each week or each day. You may be someone who feels guilty if they aren’t filling every waking moment with the job search process, but this can be incredibly draining. Make time to prepare healthy food for yourself, exercise, go outside, socialize with people, and take your mind off looking for a job. By taking care of yourself, the time you do spend on the job search will be much more effective because your mind will feel well-rested and fresh.
And don’t forget, it’s normal for this process to take up to a year or maybe even a little longer, so try to plan accordingly in terms of your finances and your goals. If you can work a part-time or flexible job during this time, that could really help you stretch your runway so you can keep looking for that first software gig.
For those of you who have gone through this transition yourselves - what other tips do you have for successfully landing your first job after a coding bootcamp? Or if you’re in the job search yourself right now, what questions do you still have that have gone unanswered? Let us know in the comments!