You graduated from a coding bootcamp - now what?
There are thousands of questions to consider when deciding whether or not to jump head first into a fully immersive coding bootcamp, but the most important ones are:
Do I actually want to be a software developer, or am I looking for a get rich quick scheme or out from my current situation?
Am I at a moment in my life when I can pursue this opportunity?
And can I actually find a job after completing the course?
Only you can answer the first two questions, but as for the third, the answer is resoundingly yes – but just like the bootcamp you just endured that pushed you to your limits (mentally and emotionally), it's not going to be easy. But it will be extremely rewarding when it finally "clicks".
Here are three things to remember when looking for that first job after graduating:
1. Get your head right.
Looking for a job is the worst. It's like saying, "Judge me, strangers! And then tell me I'm not worth your time or money."
This experience can take you to some dark places fast, and it can poison your chances of getting a job simply because you're in the wrong mindset. So go ahead and get the negative thoughts out of the way.
Half the battle is simply having and maintaining a positive attitude.
Think about it: how many times have you been cruising through job postings online and talked yourself out of applying?
You don't have enough experience.
There are way more people who are better qualified.
The pay is too low, and – once again – you don't have enough experience.
Job postings are VERY RARELY accurate descriptions of what the company actually needs.
Here's what actually happened: someone in HR slapped together a job description at the request of management. They had no clue what the hell the job was actually for, but they had to put it on the internet. So they did.
If it's a small company, someone probably copied and pasted another job description they saw and thought, "Hmm, this is good enough," and started sending out smoke signals because there were bigger fires to put out at the time.
(On a more important note, you shouldn't spend a ton of time "cold" applying to jobs online – we'll get to that later.)
Keep this perspective, and don't take it personally. Everyone's busy, so make it easy for them.
If you're nervous about an interview or you're worried you aren't qualified, that's fine, but brush it off and stay positive. Afraid they are going to go with another candidate? Well they might. But that is 100% out of your control. All you can do is show up, be honest, convey a willingness to learn, and show them that you are not only coachable but have an extremely hard work ethic. And then prove it.
Prepare yourself for rejection and coach yourself on how you are going to overcome it when you get bad news.
You may not get that first job that you thought you really really wanted, but most of the time, there is another, better one right around the corner. Stay positive.
2. If you're not first, you're last.
If you wait until graduation day to start looking for a job, you've lost some seriously important time.
Two months before your bootcamp begins, you should be researching, learning, and evaluating your options in terms of the opportunities available to you after graduation and the companies that are hiring for those opportunities.
Do you want to work for a startup? A large enterprise? What about starting your own business, or taking on client/contract work?
Answering these questions early will not only help you when you start applying for jobs, but it will also help you prioritize the types of skills you want to focus on during the bootcamp.
Prepare as much as you can by asking questions and having your sights on specific companies and the types of jobs they have available. You should be drafting a cover letter to send to potential employers and acquaintances the minute you get accepted to a bootcamp.
The intention of getting started early is not to get a job as fast as possible, but to educate yourself on the current job climate and all of the opportunities available to bootcamp graduates.
Quality is often much more important than quantity, so put the time in to make an "early decision" – and focus on a few opportunities you really want. Refine your resume, messaging, and narrative around those quality choices instead of blasting out the same generic application to every listing on the internet.
Remember: everyone's busy; make it easy. So do everything you can to stand out.
3. Put in the work.
Fact: I have never secured a job from applying to a "cold" job application.
The most important part of job searching is networking. This is of course not new news to anyone, unless you've never had a job before and are literally clueless as to how this all works.
If you are the type of person who hates asking for help, you're gonna have to get over it – in the bootcamp and on the job search. Because before you even complete your bootcamp of choice, you need to start a list of friends and family who can help you get your foot in the door with whatever company you have your sights set on.
I was once looking for jobs at a large creative agency and I reached out to an old college acquaintance who happened to work as a recruiter for said agency. I was never very close with this person in college, but I had applied for a position with the company a week prior and never heard anything back. My college friend made sure my resume was reviewed and I heard something from the hiring manager the very next day. Remember when I said prepare yourself for rejection? Well, I didn't get the job, but I learned a lot about the role that I thought I wanted and it turns out, it wouldn't have been a good fit. So I sent my friend a $10 gift card to Starbucks as a thank you, and I was on to my next lead.
If it weren't for that interaction, I very possibly would have wasted TONS of time applying to positions similar to the one I got rejected from and either drove myself crazy or wasted tons of time when I could have been pursuing other opportunities. I ended up in my current job by a friend insisting that I interview for it. I was discouraged by my job hunt, butI made myself go anyway.
Two years later and I have never been happier in a job.
Here's the tl;dr – stay positive, start looking as early and often, and lean on your network of friends and family to help. You can do it!