In my last article, I talked about my journey from a law graduate to a junior front-end developer living in Vienna. I wanted people who are switching careers from anything to web development to be able to relate and get inspired by my experience. I realized that you don’t need to have a CS degree in order to become a great developer, but most people who don’t have this background, like me, usually start a bootcamp or some other intensive course before actually trying to switch jobs. But then what?
Once you finish this first step in your journey, you probably get overwhelmed and confused, thinking: what should I do next? Am I confident enough to start sending my curriculum to some companies? Should I be flexible to move to other countries if needed, or try to do some freelancing? Should I focus on a specific technology, do another intensive course, differentiate myself from the competition even more? Well, I can tell you that you are not alone. Even though I inspired myself in other life stories, got amazing emotional support from people I love and finished the bootcamp successfully, I had the impostor syndrome over my shoulder. It kept telling me I was not ready; I could not start a real job and be good at it without the CS background. Nevertheless, I convinced myself I needed to try hard and not give up easily, and here is what I did to get my first job as software developer.
At the end of my bootcamp, there was an event for alumni and companies looking for new talents where each of us could introduce ourselves in a small presentation and network. I do not know if you will have the same opportunity where you study, but if not, I still recommend putting yourself out there and attending those kind of networking events or meetups. The developer community in Vienna is not so big in the end, and there are a lot of meetups where people gather to talk about a specific technology, watch talks, and more importantly, network. Go to these events! I know that with corona crisis right now is not safe to be in crowded rooms, but there are a lot of online meetups that you can be part of too, or meetups with less people or in open spaces, with safety measures in place.
More than that, engage, ask questions, and get to know the important people on these meetups / events a bit more personally. If you do not have a chance to talk to them about you and what you are looking for directly at the event, find them on LinkedIn (or some other social media they actively use) and send them a message, explaining why you identify with their career path, how did you get to hear about them, and show that you can be a great developer. Even if they are not hiring directly, they probably know someone who is and can indicate you or can give you good career advice.
The other day I was at a feminist meeting, which was not related to IT but career paths, however I knew that a senior consultant in IT Recruitment would be there to answer questions, so I went! I had the chance to ask her for some advice, and in the end got to meet some other amazing women, and one of them suggested me to apply for a position at the company where she works at. Therefore, networking is super important also in this area, so do not take it for granted.
After that first event where we networked with some HR managers or CEOs of certain companies in Austria, I decided I needed to be organized before actively applying. I got the contact from people in the event and also started searching other companies in Vienna that may be hiring developers or, if not, that have a cool product or that seem like good places to work. Then, I included all those companies in a spreadsheet table, and started contacting them! Seems simple, and it is, but being organized about it was key, because after some days of applying to different job opportunities, it got a bit overwhelming.
For each company on my table I would include: name and e-mail and/or phone of the person dealing with my application process; a few facts about the company; status of my process (had a first interview and am waiting for feedback, was rejected, am still waiting for first answers, finished a code challenge or technical interview). It can take some time for companies to give you feedback, or contact you for next steps after a first interview; therefore, having all the information on the table is very helpful to not get lost through the different processes.
It is always good to remember something else: instead of applying to a lot of companies at once, dedicate yourself a bit more to each application. Try to always send a motivation letter or at least a few sentences on your email explaining why you would be a good fit for that position or why you want to work at that specific company. Your different background can be also a real differential depending on the company, so mention it too if you think it is relevant. You can have a template for your letters with some basic important facts, but always include some special touch to each application, why do you identify with that company, how can you be useful to their team, what kind of things you are looking for in the working environment. On my experience, this can really differentiate you from other candidates and show the company that you have done your homework and researched about them.
Finally, do not undersell yourself! Check what is the average salary of entry level developers in the country / city where you are applying. The managers usually ask for a minimum expected salary and we often undersell ourselves. Of course, if you do not have that much experience yet it is normal to receive a lower salary than people with more experience, and salary is not the most important. However, you deserve fair conditions and compensation, and they will respect you more if you show them that you know it. An internship or a trainee position can be greatly beneficial to grow in the company and eventually get a more permanent position, so I also recommend you take it if you can afford for some time.
That is all for now! Hope this was helpful and convinced you that I and many others are proof that it is possible to get a nice job after a bootcamp or intensive course. You just need to be patient and put an extra effort. Also, never get too comfortable after the bootcamp, keep on learning and improving your technical skills while working on personal projects so you can advance in your career.