Karl Hughes
My Advice for New Bootcamp Graduates

My Advice for New Bootcamp Graduates

I have been a guest lecturer, instructor, and mock interviewer at half a dozen Chicago coding bootcamps over the past several years, so I frequently have students ask my advice for finding their first job post-graduation. While I love talking with people about their specific goals and struggles in finding a job, I figured I would compile a starting point with some of the blog posts I’ve written for new bootcamp graduates.

If you do want to chat about your situation, read over these blog posts first, and then email me so we can schedule a time to review your specific questions or plan.

General Tips

1. Know what hiring managers want, but understand that no two hiring processes or managers are alike. Come to terms with the fact that job-hunting is about finding candidate-company and company-candidate fit.

2. Have a decent resume, but don’t rely on it alone. Your best chance of getting a foot in the door is through networking, and the resume is just a checkbox. And for the love of god, if you actually want a job somewhere, write a personalized cover letter. So few people do this, but it’s awesome when they do.

3. Look out for red flags, but if you’re desperate enough, you might have to take a job with a few of them. I’ve done it. You’ll be fine. Just stay 1-2 years and look for a new one.

Long-Term Career Advice

4. Build a resilient career. Test-drive companies instead of doing job interviews, learn on your employer’s dime, and do more than just work. It sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s worked really well for me.

5. Code is not enough. Develop some expertise or a unique mashup of skills that makes you a niche problem-solver. Also, don’t call yourself a “programmer” (I didn’t write this one, but it’s great).

6. You will never be able to stop learning. No matter how senior you get, you can’t coast forever in this industry.

7. Build a network. Do it intentionally. Have a process. Don’t just hope to meet people at a meetup; you have to follow up consistently for years to make real connections.


8. If you’re ambitious, join a startup.

9. But don’t believe the hype. A lot of startups take advantage of their employees.

10. You’ll also need to do more than just code, but that might be a universally a good idea (see #4).

11. You also don’t have to be a software developer forever. Your career is long and there are lots of interesting branches you can take.


12. I have collected a number of resources on Github for people trying to break into the education technology industry. Aside: you might also consider a job teaching or TA’ing at a bootcamp to get started in this field.

Controversial Thoughts

13. The first job is the hardest. Plan on 3-6 months of searching, or 6-12 months if you’re picky or can’t devote 50+ hours/week to it.

14. Focus on < 10 companies, don’t use the “spray and pray” approach.

15. Learn one programming language and (at most) 2 frameworks to start. Go deep, you can widen out later in your career.

16. Spend 1/3 of your time networking/meeting people, 1/3 of your time coding/practicing (project Euler is a fun way to do this), and 1/3 of your time applying/interviewing/coding challenges. If you’re not able to put in 50+ hours/week, it may take longer to find a job.

If you have looked over the above list and have a plan, but you’d like a second set of eyes on it or you just need a pep talk, email me or ping me on Twitter.

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