Wow, it has been a LONG time since I have posted and it feels so good to be writing again. This year has been such a whirlwind. I graduated Bloc’s web development bootcamp at the beginning of October and since then I have been applying to tons and tons of jobs. I have luckily already landed some interviews and I am here to share with you some tips that I have learned along the way. I hope that this post can help some of my fellow bootcampers de-stress during the crazy job search and not give up on landing that awesome future job. 😁
If you are a complete career changer like me (I had no prior knowledge of programming before January of this year and had been working in customer service for the past 10 years) do not be so hard on yourself. I know it is easier said than done and trust me, I need to follow my own advice. This stuff is HARD. We did not go to school for 4 years for Computer Science and most of us have only been learning how to code for a year or less. But that does not mean that we can’t compete with the people who do have CS degrees. Because we can one-up them. We have real-life experience working in other career fields. Even if that field does not relate in any way to programming, this makes you a well-rounded person and as I’m sure you have seen with many job postings, more and more companies are looking for people from diverse backgrounds.
You are likely going to fill out over 150 applications before you get a job. Trust me on this one, I graduated a month ago and have already applied to 70 jobs. How many companies have I heard back from out of those 70? 12. How many of them moved onto a phone screen? 4. As my career coach told me, in the beginning what really matters is getting your resume out there and applying to as many jobs as you can. And please don’t make the same mistake I did and write customized cover letters for each one. I used to spend an hour or more on one cover letter because I thought that it would help me stand out from the crowd. Wrong. None of those companies ever got back to me, they didn’t even send me a rejection email. From my experience, it is a waste of time to write these elaborate cover letters. If there is a text field in the application to say something about yourself/why you want to work for the company, write something short and sweet and make it interesting, because that recruiter is going to scan your application for a maximum of 6 seconds.
Try to get an internship while you apply to jobs. Even if you can only give them 10-15 hours per week of your time, this experience looks so good on your resume/LinkedIn. My career coach told me to list my title as “Freelance Software Engineer” so it stands out to recruiters. I am currently working remotely for a startup helping them build out the front-end of their app. I have only been helping them for a month and have already learned so much. Even if it is unpaid, working in a real codebase with a real team will prepare you and will help you transition nicely into a new role.
Don’t work yourself up so much over the interview process. And I know this is easier said than done. With every interview that I’ve had so far, I have stressed for days about it, almost to the point where I was making myself sick. But whether it’s a live coding challenge or an on-site technical interview it is never as bad as you think it’s going to be. In my experience, the people I interviewed with could not have been nicer. They understand that you are a beginner and they are there to get you unstuck. It is okay to bounce ideas off them to reach a working solution. A tactic that has been working well for me recently is going into the interview not caring what the outcome will be. This might sound a little strange, but it is the only way for me to not stress about it. There are so many factors during the interview that you can’t control and it is a waste of your energy to worry about it. Just go in there and do your best and whatever happens, happens.
Make sure you truly know the fundamentals. Just yesterday I had an on-site interview where I pair-programmed with the hiring manager and worked on improving a week-long take-home project that they assigned to me. I had spent hours making sure the code was as modern as possible with React Hooks and functional components. I spent so much time on that upgrade, that when they asked me a question about making simple POST/PUT requests to an API, I completely blanked! If your project was focused on the front-end, be prepared to discuss how it will connect to the back-end. Instead of making sure your code looks perfect, make sure you really understand the data flow and how it actually works.
Practice, practice, practice. I know this is so daunting and I hate doing algorithm problems as much as the next person. But if you are like me and are applying to 10-20 jobs per week, you need to be prepared at the drop of a hat to complete a coding challenge. I started out learning on Edabit to help me ramp up. Then I moved onto CodeWars which is actually a lot of fun and you can compete against others. I have yet to try out Interview Cake or Pramp but I’ve heard great things about them.
Just try to put yourself out there. This is something that I struggle with as well. Even if you start trying to connect with your fellow bootcamp grads to see how their job search is coming along, that is something. Sometimes when I go to networking events I can’t find anyone to talk to because no one seems approachable. It has been incredibly difficult for me to walk up to someone and start talking to them. In my experience, it is so much better to go to workshops and mini hackathons, where you are pair programming with others and you can naturally start a conversation. I actually just went to a Vue Vixens event in Boston last week and I met some great people. So if there are events like these in your area, definitely check them out.
Join these awesome Slack channels. These are great channels to make connections and find some great job opportunities – Scotch, Women Who Code, Women in Tech and Code for America. If you have any other recommendations, please let me know!
Just remember: don’t beat yourself up if an interview doesn’t go as well as you hoped it would. Remember how many people there are out there who wouldn’t even last a day learning how to code. You are so strong for making it this far and with your perseverance and resilience, you will land that job! 💪