These days it seems like everybody is trying to break into tech. I was just there 2 months ago: and if you had told me that my job search would only be 6 weeks, I would have just written you off as wildly optimistic.
I’ve also seen a lot of other bootcampers struggle to find their first job, largely because they have huge misconceptions about the development landscape. As a result it takes them months to find something or they settle for way less than market rate. I used to believe a lot of these myths, and I was fortunate enough to have someone snap me out of it right as I started my job search.
Without further ado, here’s 5 common misconceptions that could be holding you back from your first development job.
Myth #1: You can’t provide real value if you are at an entry level.
You have the capacity to provide real, monetary value to companies, even with 3–6 months of experience. The fact is that you are paid to solve problems and provide business value to your employer, not just to learn or gain experience. And companies like to hire people that can solve their problems.
If you focus on how you can provide value to a company instead of what you can get out of it you will portray yourself as a more savvy & attractive candidate than someone who doesn’t. Show that you’re capable of seeing real problems a business may be facing and make sure you propose solutions as you go through the interview process.
Myth #2: Now that you’re done with bootcamp, you can stop learning to code and focus on finding a job.
This couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, I’d argue that this is one of the biggest mistakes that I saw a lot of my fellow bootcamp grads make.
If you haven’t written a line of code since you graduated, get up and make something today. And I don’t mean follow a tutorial or solve a couple CodeWars kata. Of course, when you finish your bootcamp you’ll end up spending a little more time doing non-coding things, but don’t forget to make a project here or there — it keeps your chops up, shows that you have passion and self-motivation, and allows you to feed that passion that first got you into programming.
The tech world moves at a breakneck pace, and you want to be up-to-date. Being able to talk shop about the major frameworks/developments in your language of choice shows that you have passion, self-motivation, and the intellectual capacity to understand their nuances.
For example, if you were a frontend dev (or targeting frontend positions), you would want to know about the differences between React/Vue/Angular or a bit about ES5 vs ES2015+.
Myth #3: The projects you did in dev bootcamp will speak for themselves.
This ties into the last point.
You probably made 1–4 “original” projects while you were in dev bootcamp. You put the code up on GitHub where everyone can see what an amazing job you did. That’s awesome. You’re off to great start!
The thing is, bootcamps have varying degrees of hand-holding with their projects. Maybe you worked in a group with other fellow students. Maybe you worked alone, but you had a mentor or TA help you when you got stuck. Maybe you did most of the work yourself with minimal help. The point is, you have to continue to work on stuff after you graduate.
You could do anything! Everyone has a friend or relative that’s looking for either a website or needs a website facelift. Tons of nonprofits/small businesses would be willing to take chances on young developers since they can’t afford the experienced ones. Open Source projects are always in desperate need of contributors, and there’s entire sites devoted to making it easy for newbies to start contributing.
If all those fail (which I find hard to believe), build another personal project. Redesign your portfolio. Make that open source package you thought would be fun. The more you have to show your competence, the better— especially when you don’t have years of experience in your favor.
Myth #4: You learned all of the fundamentals in your programming language of choice.
Whatever language(s) that you learned are extremely nuanced. Chances are it’s been around for a while, and the community around that language has its share of best practices/debates.
Make it your goal to learn some of the nuances/gotchas of whatever language you plan to be interviewing in—it will really set you apart from other bootcampers that only learned what their curriculum taught.
Of course it’s also worth noting that not all bootcamps are equal in this regard. Some really dive into language fundamentals while others gloss over. The responsibility becoming a master of your craft is yours alone.
Myth #5: You just need to get your job, then everything will settle down.
Have a bigger vision than your first developer job. Keep building side projects, learning new technologies, and networking your butt off. If you ever feel like you’re plateauing, find a way to move forward or find someone to help you.
This is your career we’re talking about, not just your first developer job. Take ownership of your personal brand and your professional development and continue to build both of them while you work at your first job. That way you’ll be an expert in no time, and the next time you have to do a job search you’ll have companies fighting to hire you.