When the bootcamp ended, I felt super motivated to find that first developer job. I already had an interview and I felt like it was only a matter of time. Went through multiple rounds of interviews, got to the final interview stage (four interviews later), only to find that I was passed over for someone with more experience. To say my pride took a hit is an understatement. It's probably closer to a four-car collision.
So I tried to recharge and try again. I thought I had to relearn everything my coding bootcamp taught me. Going over instructional code over and over again until I thought I could somehow be all-knowing if I did. That if I just studied like crazy I could show off my skills easily. But that was not the case.
You get a lot of miscellaneous advice after camp. Focus on algos. Focus on the technical interview. No, focus on 70% projects/algos, 30% looking for jobs. So many mixed messages, I really felt kinda lost and on my own. It's funny how I thought I had it in the bag, but it took me at least a month after the bootcamp to really have a solid plan for the job hunt.
For the first month, I reviewed everything. I was skilled, but a master of none. Interviews were coming, but I wasn't making any headway. My technical interviews left much to be desired and when I finally starting practicing my algos, the interviews stopped coming. The emotional toll applying and waiting for interviews was significant. As more time passed, the more helpless I felt and the more the imposter syndrome crept in.
Finally, after many pitying parties, I decided to take a different, kinder approach. Here is what I learned after bootcamp that helped me out of my slump.
My coding bootcamp was online and I got used to the energy of being in a group setting and relying on others energy to get me through the intense coursework. We had (70-90hrs per week) for over four months. It was really intense, but we were all super focused and ready to help each other. After the boot camp ended, the fever dream of energy was lost and I was back where I started. Alone and unsure of what to do next, hoping the structure of a course or classroom would guide me through this next phase of the job hunt. That didn't happen of course, and I found myself in my computer chair staring at algos for maybe a half-hour, but then getting distracted; finding something to eat, playing with the puppy, or just scrolling on tiktok for distraction. After a month of this, the most unproductive I have ever been since camp, I saw that something had to change.
An inkling told me that it started from my environment. I was too relaxed and comfortable at home, by myself, where no one could hold me accountable. So I went to Starbucks in the morning, and my local library in the evening. I started to create a routine for myself that helped me focus, even if I wasn't motivated to do so. Just getting out of the house of comfort jumpstarted my need to have goals.
Motivation is a funny thing. You think it comes from somewhere. It's buried deep somewhere in our bodies and we just have to wait it out for it to come back again. Or we feel tons of motivation at first, and when we lose it, we just need to force it back to really get things moving. No. Do not rely on motivation to get you through the next phase of the job hunt journey.
I heard someone say once that motivation only accounts for 10% of success. The other 90% comes from discipline. For some reason, that struck me. My motivation was at an all time low, but my need for discipline was at an all-time high. I knew I needed to change something. That routine alone could not get me where I needed to go. That some type of goal, be it small or large, was necessary to get me through to the next phase. So I rationalized with myself. If I wasn't going to be motivated, which I realized came fairly early after camp, then I needed to get the energy from somewhere else. Discipline seemed like Mount Everest for me so I had to approach it knowing who I was and what I could handle.
Set three goals a day. That rule of thumb has gotten me through many hard times. The idea that you only have to accomplish three things that you KNOW you can accomplish sets you up for success. The three goal rule is golden because it can balance the two extremes that many struggle with.
The first extreme is extreme motivation. For the days I felt motivated, I wanted to conquer the world of code. Making sure I worked all hours of the day, only taking breaks to eat, maybe watch a 30 min show (while eating), and then work until night. As a recovering perfectionist, my go to is setting extremely high goals, or have expectations that I think aren't very high, but are in fact very high.
The second extreme is the exact opposite, extreme depressed energy and low motivation. I want to do nothing, feel nothing, and watch reruns of my favorite shows. Any goal I set would probably only serve to help me procrastinate more and feel worse for having done so. That is the beauty of the three goals. It can combat both of these attitudes if you set them up correctly.
The three goals you set MUST be things you know you can accomplish, even when you are motivated to do more, and/or not motivated to do anything at all. It sets the bar low at first, to get your mind and body used to the new structure. It's like bodybuilding. You don't start with 50 pound weights or 3 pound weights when you start out, you start with something you know you can pickup for a good three sets. As time goes on, you can increase the resistance slowly, so you don't injure yourself. After you accomplish your three goals, you are rewarded with the rest of the day to yourself without feeling any guilt. It truly is a life-saver so choose your goals wisely and just start.
Of the myriad of advice I was given, one stood out to me the most. Focus on one big project, master it, and show it off to potential employers. It may not be for everyone, but this was the best piece of advice for me because it asked to do the one thing that I love, and that is to code. So, I just started coding. Not much of a solid app idea in my mind, but I chose something I knew I would enjoy working on in a programming language that I was excited to learn more of.
It also got the pressure off of me to do everything. It forced me to have one large goal that I knew over time I could accomplish one small step at a time. Of course it wasn't easy, I had my work cut out for me. The vision I had for my app was pretty hefty, but I was motivated and even when I wasn't, I looked forward to working on new code. My love for technical problem-solving helped me to create great new features for my website all of which I learned all on my own.
I know for sure that I underestimate my ability as a coder often and sometimes feel that I am not educated enough or have enough valid experience. Even though I spend countless hours learning new code and have created great applications, imposter syndrome overtakes. It can also be discouraging when the one key flaw you think you have, which is less experience, is the reason you didn't get the job.
It's an uphill battle, for sure. We all struggle with it. Even though I feel like an imposter sometimes, I know deep down that I am qualified, even if my mind tries to convince me otherwise. The amount of learning we had to undertake in such a short amount of time is an outstanding feat and a testament to our abilities as coders. Not long ago, we didn't know what an object was, or what a class was, and we definitely didn't know what algos were. I remember trying to explain what algos were before the camp. Boy, was I wrong.
In the end, we are all amazing for having gone through such an intense curriculum and having graduated from it is something we should all be proud of.
If you're not feeling like you can even approach code, thats okay. If you feel like you can't take any advice from anyone, that is understandable too. One of the best mantras I have repeated over and over again as I was pulling out my hair from debugging my website or crying over my laptop was this,
Whatever time it takes is time well spent.
It's the best mantra of all time, especially for coders. There were so many times I was at my code for over five hours straight trying to set one feature, only to find that I missed one variable. Or figuring out that the feature I wanted and worked on for three days was too difficult and I had to abandon it to keep my timeline. I was at the point of tears often, but I kept repeating this mantra knowing that in the end it would all be worth it.
That time you think you wasted on code for three hours or three days, it was time well spent. That time you debugged only to find that the fix broke another piece of code, was time well spent. That code that you had to start all over again from scratch was time well spent. All of it was invaluable. That is because you learned something. Even if you learned that that you didn't learn, you still learned something. Through all of it, you are gaining experience as a coder and that will always be worthwhile, whatever the outcome. Even though you can't see the next step in the horizon, you have to trust that it is there.
You cannot increase muscle without resistance and you cannot become a better coder without making mistakes and failing. Failing is the best way to become a great coder.
I hope this helps someone as it did me. Learning these lessons is what coding is all about. Failing into success, because that is how we succeed.