The Post Bootcamp Job Hunt
I recently spoke on an alumni panel during Le Wagon’s Careers Week, where four recent graduates answered questions about how we navigated the early months post bootcamp and eventually landed our first coding jobs.
When I was doing the bootcamp, I always found it really interesting to hear about people’s paths to employment. Everyone is different, and the options presented during Careers Week may not necessarily work for you.
My top 10 pieces of advice all boil down to this: don’t put too much pressure on yourself. You will get there eventually, and you may even look back fondly on this time, so just remember it’s a process and go at your own pace:
1. You know yourself better than anyone else does.
Career guidance is one of the main draws to a coding bootcamp and the help you are given can be invaluable. However, please do take it with a pinch of salt. If you are being told to apply for jobs before you are ready, please feel able to say you’d prefer to wait. If you don’t want to build a portfolio yet but others are working on theirs, think of other projects you could work on instead. If you are being pushed towards roles you know won’t suit you, please remember this is your life and your career. Listen to your gut. It’s got you this far already, so trust it!
2. Go at your own pace
I personally chose to take a month out after the bootcamp to consolidate my learnings, study a new framework, and work on some personal projects. I thought I’d be more employable afterwards and I didn’t want to waste my time on applications I would likely be rejected for. Other people prefer to start earlier, even applying for roles during the bootcamp. Please just go at the pace that works for you. This self knowledge will stand you in good stead in future roles, and it will stop you from burning out. The post-bootcamp job hunt can feel like a marathon at times, so make sure you aren’t sprinting to catch up with people who are running a totally different race!
3. Imposter Syndrome is normal
It’s totally normal to panic a little post-bootcamp. You’ve finished this intense course that you expected would equip you for your new career, but you still feel you don’t know enough. The Dunning-Kruger effect describes the burst of confidence when you start learning something new, which is often followed by a crisis when you realise how much there still is to learn; the real progress is made when you push through this and continue making steps towards improving your understanding. Instead of panicking about the many things you believe you need to know before being confident enough in a job application or interview, invest your time into learning a few new skills or working on a new project. You chose this industry because there will always be more to learn about it; use this awareness to help rather than hinder you.
4. Don’t stress over the technical interview
Don’t get me wrong, technical interviews are important, but you will never truly feel prepared. Some companies give you whiteboarding exercises, others ask you to build something over a couple of days, and others prefer pairing style interviews. Ultimately, they want to know how your brain works and how you communicate with a team. Don’t neglect your daily code katas (I recommend Codewars and Leetcode), but don’t try and prepare yourself for every possible question you could be asked. In the interview itself, don’t be afraid to ask questions and to explain your thought process. Pseudocode also goes down well! Just don’t be so intimidated by technical interviews that you put yourself off applying at all; you’ll get better with practice, and may even find yourself starting to enjoy them!
5. Don’t worry about the tech stack
If you learned Ruby on your bootcamp, don’t feel like you’re only qualified for jobs in Ruby and Rails. Most programming languages are easily transferable, and a company which cares about its employees will help you to learn the new language when you start working there. I studied Ruby but I’m now working in Python; there are some syntactical differences, but the core programming concepts are very similar. You’ll limit yourself if you only apply for roles in the languages you feel most familiar with. That said, if you know you want a back end role, it would be wise to focus on that rather than applying for everything and anything. Or if you hate dev ops, avoid those roles. As before, you know what you like!
6. Don’t set a timeline (if you can afford it)
If you have budgeted for a few months of unemployment, try not to rush yourself. The feeling of a deadline — “I have to get a job within 3 months of graduating”,— can really hang over you, stress you out, and even stop you from making progress. I originally wanted a job within 4 months of graduating (and it did actually take me 4 months!), but I started to panic when I was no closer to landing one after 2.5. It was only when I took the pressure off myself, made alternate plans for income, and accepted that it can sometimes take up to a year to find your first coding job that I became a lot more confident in interviews and more focused in my applications.
7. It’s ultimately a numbers game
I was in denial about this for a long time, believing that the people who say “you have to apply for 100 jobs before you get one” just weren’t as focused in their applications as I was, or weren’t such good candidates! But it’s true — the more applications you fire off, the more refined your cover letter becomes, the better your interview skills, the more you’ll have learnt since the bootcamp and, hopefully, the more you will have developed your skills and portfolio. I’m glad I fired off the 70+ other applications before I first spoke to Gousto; I would never have landed the role without the experience I gained from earlier applications, interviews and rejections.
8. Learn from your rejections
Following on from the last point, you can learn a lot from your rejections. If you get through the initial rounds and don’t make it past the technical interview, perhaps it’s time to work on some more coding challenges. I got to the final round of a job and was ultimately rejected because I didn’t fit with the culture, which taught me that I only want to work at a company with the same values as me (compassion and explanation, rather than ‘radical candour’). Some rejections can be devastating, while others feel like a lucky escape. Really tune into how you’re feeling at each stage in the process and use this information in future applications and interviews.
9. Perseverance is essential
Don’t give up. I learned this from my previous career in publishing, where it is even harder to get your first job than in tech. Countless people give up after the first few rejections, believing they must not be right for the industry; only the most committed and passionate will get their foot in the door. It’s the same with coding. It can be disheartening to receive so many rejections, but follow the steps above and you will get there eventually. Remember, you are on your own journey. It can also help to look back at how far you’ve come and how much you’ve learnt in the last few months.
10. Keep learning
If you’re learning new skills and technologies, working on projects, and constantly updating your Github and portfolio, you will be sure to get a job soon. Companies want people who are hungry to learn and the best way to demonstrate this is to keep learning! Which technology interests or excites you the most? Sign up to newsletters and read up about it every morning. Can you think of an app that would enhance your life? Build it! Straight out of bootcamp, I built a small Rails app to monitor different countries’ Covid restrictions ahead of Summer 2021. I also built a ‘Book Tinder’ app with a friend — use your new friends and connections to encourage each other to keep learning. It’s hard, of course, but if you’re still enjoying learning then you can tell you’re in the right industry.
Good luck with the job hunt. It’s a challenging time but it can also be very fun and exciting if you remember the tips above. Trust yourself and trust the process, and I’m sure you will land a role soon. :)