Coding schools will graduate some 23,000 people this year, according to a recent study. That’s 10 times more than in 2012. The growing influx of newly minted tech pros has created fierce competition for entry-level positions in some cities.
“An unintended consequence of the growth of bootcamps is that the market is flooded with junior developers,” explained Mike Adamski, who graduated from a coding school in May.
Although Adamski tried to stand out to potential employers by taking on side projects—starting his own web development company, attending networking events, and posting code to GitHub every day—the former jail guard and warehouse worker had a tough time gaining traction in the market.
After 90 days and 120 applications, Adamski finally landed an internship and now works as a full-stack web developer for Ace-up, a platform for professional coaches.
We asked Adamski and Kyle Warneck, a software engineer for Adobe and 2014 bootcamp grad, to share their honest advice for landing your first job after coding bootcamp.
Treat Your Job Search Like Another Bootcamp
Most immersive training programs run 10-plus hours per day, six days a week; there’s a good chance that it will take a similar effort to land your first position.
“It takes stamina,” explained Warneck, who submitted about 45 applications after coding school, participated in 10 on-site interviews, and eventually received six offers. Don’t go it alone, he added. Leverage your support system, and don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. Beware of accidentally talking yourself out of applying for a position.
“The people who got hired first after coding school submitted the most applications,” he said.
But balance quality with quantity. Take an hour or two to research a company and identify matching keywords; then load up your résumé and cover note with a “realistic” number of those keywords. This will help your materials get past the screening software. If you’re lucky, the next step is a technical interview.
If you happen to bomb that interview, don’t get discouraged; just treat it as a learning experience. Even if you don’t know something, show your eagerness to learn by asking the interviewer to explain the answer.
Highlight Your Unique Qualities
Managers tend to look for upside and potential when evaluating entry-level candidates. Both Adamski and Warneck discovered that highlighting things such as design skills, an interest in music, military experience, or a backpacking trip to South America helped them stand out from the crowd and garner interest from employers.
“Don’t try to compete against graduates with CS degrees, because you can’t,” noted Warneck, who has a bachelor’s degree in sociology.
Bootcamp graduates often have a unique path into coding that separates them from other candidates, he explained. Highlighting those interesting experiences in your résumé and online profiles can help distinguish you from other applicants.
Adamski also found that shortening his cover letter to two to three paragraphs and using a conversational tone was the key to attracting the attention of potential employers. Given the rapid changes in the talent market, it is important to periodically assess your job-hunting activities and adapt your approach for maximum effectiveness.
Target the Right Market
Large public companies prefer to recruit CS grads from big-name universities, so focusing on small- to mid-size firms may yield better results for bootcamp graduates. Plus, smaller companies and teams often provide the type of support and mentorship that favor entry-level professionals.
“Don’t shy away from startups, because their environments are a lot like bootcamps,” Adamski advised. “Teams are trying to figure out solutions to problems they haven’t encountered before and everyone pulls together.”
Also, be flexible. Be willing to tackle (small) projects on a pro bono basis, or start out as a contractor to get your foot in the door. New bootcamp grads may not draw much interest from tech recruiters, but that situation is temporary. Take it from Warneck and Adamski: you will be bombarded with inquiries after you land your first position.