Landing Your First Job After a Bootcamp!
As I write this post, less than a month after I finished my Software Engineering Bootcamp with SC Codes, I have just received my first job offer as a Software Developer. I also presented a proposal to a freelance client and it is looking like we are going to move forward on that project. My training has turned into fantastic career opportunities in just a few weeks.
Like many others, I didn’t have a degree in Computer Science that might have set me up for internships that led to jobs. Getting your first software job is incredibly daunting, especially for those of us who have to say “Hey, I know my professional experience is incredibly limited but I am worth your time.”
So I wanted to share some tips and thoughts about what did and did not work for me on the road to getting a job less than a month after graduation:
- Start early.
You have the time. Start well before graduation of bootcamp, if you attended bootcamp, or if even you have not started yet, start now with building up your LinkedIn and portfolio. Overall this whole process took somewhere in the neighborhood of 2-3 months. Again I started about a month into my bootcamp. Chip away at things slowly over the course of time.
- Build business class projects
Follow this advice from the folks over at Coder Foundry: When you are building projects to demonstrate to potential employers (which is another big point the guys at Coder Foundry drive home, take over the interview and demonstrate your work!), build projects that solve some sort of business issue.
Even if these projects have been built before, build them. Put your own twist/magic to the project and talk about it!
You do not have to reinvent the wheel, just showcase your skills. Building projects helps you understand what you are doing.
Talk about it, because your expertise is important to others, even though you might not think so yourself. You built it, you worked on it, you solved a problem – your experience speaks for itself, and you should let it speak for you. Talk about the things you have done. Talk about the things you are learning.
Talking about it helps you and will eventually help others. Did you build a project? Talk about it. Talk about the bugs you had to solve. Talk about the complex fixes to the issues. Tweet it. Share your blog on social media.
- Make your stuff look good
Even if you’re not very design oriented, you can build a killer website with HTML and CSS. Just make it look good. One tip/question that helps me when thinking of making a clean website with good UI/UX is, “What makes sense?”
I used this approach with my portfolio. If you go to it, here, you land on a page that cannot help but get your attention. My name is flying at your face and there’s a toy to play with in the background.
What is the goal of a portfolio? Grab someone’s attention. If you can do that, they will most-likely stay on your portfolio and check out the rest of it. My attention-grabbing approach worked, and I actually received a compliment about it in my interview.
So what grabs your attention? Mine was something interactive and animated, but yours might not be. What makes sense?
- Be bold in your asks to potential employers
They do not know you exist until they know you exist! Message CEO’s/CTO’s on LinkedIn if you are connected to them. Even if you are not, message them or other employees/recruiters telling them you would like to be a part of their company. Always include links to your work. Again, they do not know what they do not know. At worst, you won’t be hired! I messaged a CEO and he got me an answer, via a recruiter, that I had been waiting 3 weeks for.
- Keep going!
I may have sent in 60+ applications. I did not keep track. The more I counted my applications, the more discouraged or disappointed I would get, but you have to persevere. Try not to attach your value to the amount of applications you have sent off.
Introspection is good and can be very helpful for situations like this. My faith helped me, but focus on what you want to achieve and drive yourself towards that goal. Make connections wherever possible.
- Apply to jobs you want
Where do you want to work? Make a short list of “dream” companies or roles and seek them out.
Connect with anyone and everyone in your sphere and put yourself out there. Connect to people in the companies you want to work and don’t forget tip number 5 – Be bold! If there is a company you really want to work for, even if it is a FAANG company, try to find someone in your network who works there. If you do not have someone in your network, keep applying and networking. Network online and off.
- Apply everywhere & don’t be too choosy in taking your first job
The biggest barrier to getting your first job is experience. So take that first software job you are offered and start gaining ‘experience’ as a dev in the workplace. Second, if you just love software, then taking the first job offered to you is a no brainer and you can find them a whole host of ways. Look below for a few ideas.
- Find local meetups
- Connect to startups
My first job offer came from a startup! Startups are often hungry for developers and the talent and skills that they have. However, startups cannot usually afford to hire a fulltime person, much less a Senior Developer. So jump on with them early, even if it is part time! You need experience, they need your skill, and as the company grows, so might your job. If it is part-time, don’t stop looking for a full-time job, but as time wears on, the startup you’re working for might be able to offer you an increase in time or pay.
- Freelance for Personal Connections
The odds are that you have friends and family. I realize we all have different relationships with family so this is solely intended to point you to potential clients. And by no means am I saying, ‘Hey, use your family to get paid.” What I am saying is that you know people who need your skills. Even if they are short, one off jobs, do it to gain work experience and grow as a developer. Kyle Prinsloo at studywebdevelopment is the go-to resource for freelancing as a Web Developer.
I’m sure I could say more. My goal in this article was to simply share many of the things that helped me, either in my thinking or in finding work as a developer. I hope some of them help you along your journey.
Till next time,
SC Codes Graduate
Ben Patton serves as a volunteer mentor with SC Codes. Through supporting our learners in Slack and guest writing on our blog, Ben is helping to power the SC tech community forward! For more information on our volunteering program, please see our website or reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org!