It took me 35 workdays (the actual job hunting period was between 02/12/19 to 17/01/20) to go from starting job hunting to getting an offer and putting a stop to job hunting.
So what is the advice I can give for job hunting? Well, I wish I could say 'Be badass and don't compromise.' But that does not feel genuine enough or actionable.
So my advice is: be humble and know what you want. And if this is too unactionable as advice then skip to 'Actual actionable advice'.
I am good at what I do. I am an excellent junior developer. I am also painfully aware that I am a junior developer and what I know is limited. In most cases what I do is not by choice but because that is how I know to do things rather than choosing the best way of doing. When I have to do things that I already know I work quickly. However, if I encounter something new it's a different story. It took me 30 minutes of googling to find out the correct term for when you need a variable to change within a variable name. Thankfully Google's algorithm figured out I was after 'Dynamic Variables', it took another 30 minutes to learn and implement 'eval'. So yes you are great and talented but an hour to figure out how to write a variable is a humbling experience.
From the get-go, I knew what industries I was interested in: Fintech, Cyber Security, and compliance tech. There was another caveat I needed for the company to be tech first.
By tech first I mean that technology had to be the main product they focus on. This realisation came after a conversation with an internal recruiter from one of the UK banks. They were incredibly candid in saying 'technology is important to us, but it's not the product that we sell.' This put traditional banks and financial service firms out of the running.
Narrowing my focus meant that I was not trying to chase down EVERYONE. And at events like the GA Meet and Greet I had people from those industries making their way to me because I was likely to be interested in what their company did.
- Have an up to date CV. If you are a recent (bootcamp) grad consider bumping up your bootcamp experience from 'Education' to 'Work experience' but make sure to say that you were a student. Feel free to check out my CV as an example. `its not perfect but it did land me interviews and a job.
- Up to date Linkedin and any social media profiles that you use professionally. This now should include Github and Stackoverflow.
- Good Readmes on your Github, especially for take home coding challenges. I have to admit my github was a lovely place while I was job hunting. After I started my job my github turned into a graveyard of semi-completed projects.
- Personal website. I built mine in Gatsby, its perfect for one pagers and just look how mobile friendly it is!
Junior roles are rarely advertised so it's worth getting pro active when it comes to reaching out to employers. Here are some things that I and my peers did:
- Attend in person events (once COVID-19 is over that is). Meet up, and Eventbrite are awesome to do research. Don't focus just on recturetment meet ups but go to those focused on a framework or interest. The two events I am happy to recommend are Geek Girl Meetup UK and Silicon Milkroundabout.
- Research companies that have previously hired bootcamp grads.
- Engage with the online dev community. Write about your experience, participate in conversations online.I did a daily standup on linkedin while job hunting. Partially to keep myself accountable ad partially to flag myself up to potential employers
Although I am comfortable with cold emailing none of the cold emails and LinkedIn messages I sent paid off in any big way for me I do have friends who were very successful in cold emailing.
Definitely register on recruitment platforms, but when it comes to recruiters reaching out to me on Linkedin it felt more of a diversion.
Most Bootcamp grads I know want to help other Bootcamp grads. Yes, the alumni network is real even if you come from different Bootcamps it's a network similar to good schools or universities when alumni work to help each other not compete. If you see a Bootcamp grad working at a company you like - reach out and find out their experience.
Moreover, companies that already hire Bootcamp grads are likelier to hire more and will have an interview process that is grad friendly.
Most companies will have a variation of the following
1 - culture fit check (this is also a chance for you to check them out)
2 - technical interview
3 - code test // pair programming // take-home challenge
4 - demo of the code test
5 - meet the founders and/or meet the team
Not all companies will have all of these steps and in some cases, they will be bundled up.
This is where I felt at a disadvantage as a Bootcamp grad. I spent 3 months doing and coding not learning theory, so my knowledge of theory was a bit non-existent. My favourite example of it is closure, I use them all the time but struggle to give a definition.
Bootcamps are like learning a foreign language lets say French by moving to France, in 3 months you will have a good speaking fluency but if someone asks you 'What is the passé composé?' you have no idea what they mean.
I found that the way a company runs a technical interview is a good indicator of how they work with junior devs and Bootcamp grads. Quite a few companies don't even bother having a technical interview for a junior and instead focus on the coding challenge.
A company that is used to hiring Bootcamp grads will often rephrase the questions from 'explain this / what is this' to 'have you ever encountered this problem? What did you do to solve it?' This means that rather than sweating to remember the dictionary definition you get to talk about your coding experience.
You do have to prepare for technical interviews. How you do it is up to you. I found listening to tech podcasts in the background useful as I started picking up the terminology without realising it.
Getting your foot through the door
Junior developer jobs are rarely advertised. Which means to get an interview you don't apply to jobs but proactively reach out to companies at events and via cold email.
It can be hard to stay motivated when job hunting. Let's face it you took a plunge and spent the last 3 months in an intense Bootcamp regime and now you can sleep until midday, you can go to bed at 6 pm or 6 am. You can binge on everything you wanted to binge. In other words, you can do whatever you want. and it's very easy to keep thinking 'I'll do it tomorrow' I can skip today and just send 10 applications tomorrow instead of 5. It's easy to be lazy.
My way of keeping myself accountable was doing a daily stand up on social media. Every morning I would write what I did and what I was planning to do on Twitter and Linkedin. Also, this provided me with a list of things I've done over the week which kept me from spiralling into self-blame of 'you are not doing enough'.
Job hunting is important but don't forget about your coding skills. After I finished I started brushing up on the skills that the industry demands.
I set up my react boiler template to have Airbnb linter (an industry standard) and plugged in some other VS code tools
I learnt Hooks. Because Hooks came out only a year ago GA is not teaching them. Arguably I think it's a great decision as the state is harder to learn than hooks.
I learnt Gatsby.js - gatsby is great for portfolio building also its the hot new toy so when I mentioned it in interviews people knew that I was somewhat plugged into the industry.
I started learning Ember.js
A lot of my Bootcamp peers also did things like 100 days of JS and 30 days of JS.
In conclusion, job hunting sucks. But job hunting as a junior developer sucks a bit less than job hunting as an art historian. And it's definitely faster to find a job as a junior developer than as an art history grad.
Let's face it when job hunting there are good days and then there are days when it's easy to spiral into a dark grim place. So when that happens and you stop believing that bootcamp grads ever get hired this is the breakdown of my class (based on the last time I saw them in late Feb).
Also as a caveat although we finished in early December most of my class started job hunting only after the winter break in mid January.
So out of 24 people (22 students + 2 teaching assistants)
16 where job hunting, 11 are now employed, the 5 who are still looking have plenty of interviews lined up.
Out of the 11 employed most are on a salary between 30 and 35k, 2 are on a salary higher than 35k.
To finish off it's not all doom and gloom keep going. Job hunting feels like a never ending thing until it's done.