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The job search woes and how to say "I can learn that!"

Other than “Why .NET?”, one of the questions I get asked the most is how I landed a job before bootcamp graduation.

Before I started my bootcamp, I had no experience outside of HTML and CSS, although I was working at a tech company, I was removed from the software development side of things. I didn't have much insight into how intensive the interviewing process could be, or when to start and what to do first. The fact is, coding is hard, learning a new skill is hard, and getting a job is harder. Here are some steps to hopefully prepare you for when that time comes.

Bootcamps are designed in a way that you, along with 30 others with a similar programming background are spit out into the job market at the same time (along with other local and online bootcamps that run concurrently). To stand out, you need to start early.

I started a full-time immersive bootcamp in March of 2019, with a graduation date of September 23rd, 2019. That sounds like plenty of time, right? It isn’t, it flies by while you’re simultaneously learning computer science concepts, writing code, practicing, updating LinkedIn, writing cover letters, revising your resume, and going to meetups. So when do you have time to apply for jobs and interview? Start Now.

I started applying for software developer positions on July 1st, 2019 — was I ready? Was I a good programmer? Did I have any idea what I was doing? Probably not, but I was determined.

Hopefully, you’ve chosen a bootcamp that helps you with your career services, if not, try to find a mentor.

Start by googling the top 30 behavioral interview questions and have really solid answers for them. Make sure to have a pitch about yourself; why you made the career switch, and where you want to be in 3-5 years. Research different positions, frontend, backend, full-stack, QA, support engineers, UX and then prepare your resume and cover letter. Don't be afraid to apply to different positions, with different skill levels and requirements. Ask questions, find what you want to do.

Ask your friends, family, and acquaintances to review your cover letter and resume, let them judge how you’re presenting yourself to your potential employers. Revise as many times as needed.

Here's a list of best practices I followed during my search:

  • Keep an interview notebook, write things down.

  • Write a cover letter. Not all companies look at them but even if the chances are slim.. set yourself apart.

  • Look up the STAR method, write and then rewrite situations for behavioral questions until you have them memorized. Bonus: Write down ones you’ve been asked in interviews and have solid answers ready.

  • Ask for feedback.

  • Be a culture add, not a culture fit.

Technical interviews, whiteboarding challenges, and take home tests deserve their own article — to keep this article on the topic, let’s just say practice!

Within 4 days of applying for my first few positions, I had 2 phone interviews.

I had a coding challenge, on my first phone/video interview, which didn’t go as planned, you live and you learn. I received my first rejection letter the following day. Interview number two, and feeling a bit more prepared as I had done a handful of preparation on my brand, and how I wanted to present myself. I received a prompt rejection letter the following day, so now I know what I need to work harder on.

Take notes, write down questions you're asked and become familiar with rejection, it's hard but it is temporary. Remember to say “I can learn that.” You’re in an immersive bootcamp, drinking through a firehose of information — get used to not knowing the answer. Be honest, but let them know you can learn — and prove it. Send a thank-you email that includes a follow up that you figured out the coding problem or what that technical term meant. Be authentic.

I kept track of everything, including who I spoke with, when and what the outcome was. This helps with preparing for the next interviews.

The first week of our bootcamp, it was drilled into us how important networking was. This is so important. As an ambivert, yes I can be social, yes I can talk to people but it is EXHAUSTING, UGH. But use this to your advantage, meet people, get names, ask them if you can reach out, add them on LinkedIn, email them, include it in your cover letters (I met so and so at the conference and had an awesome connection, so much so that I’d love to be considered for this position)!

Ok, you’ve had some practice with a few interviews that you might consider as failures (they weren't, they’re getting you to where you need to be), you’ve met some people, you’ve got coffee with them, time to apply again.

People toss out numbers, “I applied to 250 jobs before they got a job", "I applied to 50", "I got the first job I applied to.” Don't be too wrapped up in the numbers. Keep a spreadsheet of where you applied, what the outcome was but don’t be so focused on numbers. Just keep applying. Keep going to meetups and conferences, keep making connections.

There’s a lot to be said about not taking your first offer — whether it be asking for more money, or going with a different company entirely. But that’s out of the scope of this article for now.

Be proactive, apply abundantly, be an active member of your tech community.

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