Going from feeling not smart enough to be a programmer to being a programming bootcamp student was a big change. Getting my development environment set up, starting the initial lessons, and becoming part of the Firehose Community all produced a sense of relief and joy. I was finally on the path to becoming a developer! Fast forward 15 weeks and I actually was a developer. I had completed my assigned tasks on the group chess application and felt very proud of the results. My next challenge was to face the great unknown: the job market for bootcamp graduates.
My first task was to polish up my resume and include my new programming knowledge and experience. I also decided to build a simple resume page on this site to display it. After all, I’m a web developer – making a page for my resume seemed like the obvious thing to do. After completing my resume, I solicited feedback from my mentors. That was a fantastic decision, and I encourage you to do the same. Some of the advice that I got was:
Remember your audience. A technical hiring manager is someone who is, at very least, familiar with things like Rails or a pull request, making explanations of such things unnecessary. Don’t waste words (and space) on something that isn’t helping the hiring manager make a decision about whether you’re right for the job.
Make it easy for the hiring manager. Your resume is your first point of entry into an organization, not the end-all-be-all of you getting hired. Pay attention to what the job requirements are and check as many of those boxes as you have skills and experience. Make it easy for the hiring manager to move your resume to the yes pile for the next round.
Be honest. Don’t proclaim that you “know” something just because you’ve used it once, but don’t be afraid to say where your interests lie and what you’re currently learning. Being a developer means you’re in for a career of constant learning and growing. Show your curiosity.
The more the merrier. Another great decision I made was to not limit myself to a single resume location. I mirrored the information in my resume to LinkedIn and Stack Overflow Careers, allowing more potential employers to stumble accross one of my profiles. One benefit of the latter was that it also produced a nice PDF to submit via e-mail, for employers who wanted that.
Once my resume was ready, I took to looking for jobs. My approach here was not very scientific: visit a few job boards daily that good companies advertised on, make a list of all the positions that sounded interesting, and apply to those positions on my list. My favourite job boards were:
- Stack Overflow Jobs. This was my most used job board. There are a lot of companies that post here every day and the filters are great. If you create a profile, they will also match jobs with your interests and skills automatically.
- We Work Remotely. This board is the board to look at for remote work. There are fewer listings, but they’re all guaranteed to actually be hiring remotely.
- The Muse Jobs. The “Filter Jobs” feature on this board is great to look at larger companies in your area. The profiles they have of the companies you’re looking at are the best feature here.
Around the time I started looking for a job, The Complete Remote Jobseeker’s Handbook, an eBook from Coby Chapple (a designer at GitHub), was fortuitously released. This eBook is filled with great information for seeking remote work, including the benefits (and curses) of being a remote worker, lists of high quality job boards to look for remote work, strategies for applying for jobs (this was applicable to any job hunting, remote or not), and interviewing tips. My biggest takeaway from the book was that the interviewer wants you to succeed: finding and interviewing candidates is as much work for a company as applying and interviewing is for you. If you’re the right person for the job, their work is over, as is yours. It’s win-win!
Another resource I found helpful was Interview Cake, a site that promises to teach you to be good at programming interviews. While I didn’t actually face many technical challenges in the interviews I completed, this site was a great confidence booster as I realized that I was a better problem solver than I thought. And I learned a lot from the practice problems too! Well worth the cost of admission.
Applying for Jobs
During my job hunt, I kept a detailed spreadsheet of the companies I applied for (including a copy of the job description, the date I applied, and the title of the job). From late January to early April, I applied for 23 jobs, which lead to 4 interviews. Early on, I spent a lot of time crafting a unique cover letter to each position I applied for, which meant that I was only applying to 2 positions a week (or less, depending on the time I had to spend on applications). I asked Ken Mazaika for some advice as I was going along, and he suggested I focus on a higher volume of applications, as (he estimated) that you have around a 10% chance of getting a response from companies for a junior role. I took his advice and used the cover letters that I had already written to prepare a template. This enabled me to apply to 5 or 6 a week (at peak).
Of the interviews I had, 2 were telephone screens and 2 were in person interviews. When it came to technical challenges, one of the telephone screens had me answering basic object oriented programming and responsive web design questions and one of the in person interviews had me filling out a general web development quiz. I never had the dreaded whiteboard interview (whew!). I was also given one take home assignment: building a simple to do app with the technology of my choice.
A real surprise came when I was contacted on LinkedIn about a potential job opportunity – a company in Toronto was hiring Rails developers, and the recruiter noticed I had some experience with Ruby and Rails. After a phone screen, 2 in person interviews, and a take home assignment, I was given a job offer from BioConnect to work on their Rails time and attendance application, TeamWorks. I accepted that offer and have been working on TeamWorks since the end of May. My first month as a software developer has been better than I ever could have expected. I work with a great team, I’ve been given the opportunity to learn a lot of new things, and I’m doing something that I really enjoy.
If you’re currently in a bootcamp program, fear not about the great unknown of the job market. You may face a lot of rejection (or be ignored) on the road to getting your first job, and you may feel out of your league at times. Keep looking for the next big opportunity, keep seeking advice from mentors, and (most of all) keep coding!