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Finishing A Bootcamp and Landing a Job in Tech during a Global Pandemic

This post was originally posted on my blog

Back in October 2019 I started my Full Stack Web Development bootcamp with CareerFoundry, a part-time, self-paced bootcamp which is taught through their online learning platform but also assigns you a tutor who is there to mark your work and offer support when you get stuck and a mentor (someone who can help you understand more about what it’s like to work in the industry). I've previously written a review of this course.

The course was going well, I was able to complete the work, go on tangents to try and understand things more and when I’d glance at the job situation locally I felt like there were plenty of potential opportunities.

Then the global pandemic happened. Countries across the world entered lockdown, people lost their jobs and jobs boards emptied, especially those advertising junior positions.

At this point there were a couple of things I decided to do:

The first was to simply accept that any timeframe I had set myself needed to shift. I was in a fortunate position whereby I had a full-time job already in a career I’d enjoyed for the last 15 years and so my ’plan’ shifting a few months didn’t have a big impact. (I recognise that not everyone is so fortunate).

Secondly I decided to use my time wisely. The CareerFoundry bootcamp offers 6 months of job-search support at the end of the course and so I decided to wait a couple of months to complete my final task of the course in order to make the most of that support. I worked through some more of their career course but most importantly I decided to learn more coding skills. A number of the local jobs that had been around pre-pandemic asked about Wordpress, a platform I’d used for many years but as and when I needed to, so I spent some time learning more about the ins and outs. I picked up a couple of free projects using React and React Native to give me some client-work experience and I continued to practice the skills I’d been learning throughout my bootcamp. Reflecting on this now, this time really helped me level up my skills and become more confident.

Next Steps…
As things in the UK started opening up again and jobs started to be listed I completed my bootcamp and started applying for jobs. My extra practice and projects during lockdown enabled me to apply for a wider range of jobs but to also have some recent client experience I could talk about.

I’m not going to write that it’s been an easy process but these are the things I did that eventually landed me a Web Developer position:

  1. Keep a log of applications - This is important for tracking your progress but also for knowing what a company was asking for if they come back and give you a technical test, having a document you can quickly go to and pull up the original job listing is really helpful when someone calls you up. You’ll also find that when recruitment agencies are involved there can be multiple listings for the same job…a log can help you avoid applying more than once.
  2. Customise your CV/Resume - Quality is better than quantity and you need to stand out. If a company is asking for a ’Frontend Developer’ then change your job title on your CV/Resume to ’Frontend Developer’. If you have example projects listed on your CV then change these depending on the role you’re applying for. For example, if a job you’re applying for is asking for Wordpress experience then talk about your Wordpress projects or if they’re asking for JavaScript then talk about your recent React project.
  3. Customise your Cover Letter - Having a staple cover letter you use for everything is tempting but again, tweak it depending on the role you’re applying for. Talk about your experience, talk about what excites you about the company you’re applying for, mention specific projects you’ve done that show you’d be a good fit.
  4. Pace yourself - The CareerFoundry money-back guarantee only expects you to apply for 5 jobs a week. This is a good minimum to set to ensure you go for quality over quantity. It’s also important to keep practicing your coding at this time too and MOST IMPORTANTLY remember to take breaks and listen to your body, takings breaks, doing other activities and enjoying yourself. A good work/life balance is something that will help you keep going on what might be a very long process. Applying for jobs (and being rejected) can be tiring…trying to balance being excited about roles you apply for and not getting your hopes up can be really tricky, putting things in place to help you manage disappointment is really important for your mental health.

So, what landed me a job?

For me, the extra experience I built up during lockdown helped a lot, I also had some previous freelance experience alongside this which enabled me to talk about working with clients. I also found focusing on the above points made a big difference alongside the support from CareerFoundry, my career mentor was excellent and was really up for offering advice, looking through cover letters when I wasn’t getting responses and even doing practice interviews over Skype.

Don’t get me wrong, landing a job in tech for a career changer in the middle of a pandemic isn’t easy…probably 75% of the jobs I applied for never got back to me, even some of those I did technical tests for never got back to me but persistence and balance was the key for me.

If you’ve got any questions do feel free to put them in the comments section below or come and join me on twitter @marktiddy

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