I’ve been volunteering as a teacher at Startup Institute for a couple years now where I usually give a few lessons per year to their developers-to-be. Teaching the students helps me stay connected to the entry level community and reminds me what it was like at the beginning of my career. While I didn’t attend a bootcamp program, I am a self-taught software developer, so I can relate to the challenges that new graduates face. The most common question I get from Startup Institute and Dev Bootcamp grads is, “I’m done with the program, but what should I do next?” Most of them don’t have a job the moment they graduate, and if they do it’s more likely an apprenticeship program than anything else. Very few developers are actually ready for a job after a nine-week program, but if you take what you learned from your developer program, there’s no reason you can’t make a strong foundation for your career. Here’s what I recommend to new graduates of coding bootcamp programs:
1. Strengthen your technical skills
Pick a few skills to build up - Get a list of 10-20 job listings you think look interesting. Make a list of all the skills and tools the listings mention, and then tally up the totals. Once you know which skills are in demand, you can start reading up on them and practicing. Work on Project Euler - Since most code bootcamp grads don’t have a traditional background in algorithms or computer science, it’s probably a good idea to learn some of those skills on your own. Project Euler (pronounced “oiler”) is a great place to start. Build a real web app, start to finish - Don’t keep building little one-off helper scripts. Pick one big project and stick with it. Set yourself a roadmap, iterate on the application, and show employers that you have the persistence to stick with one big thing rather than chasing a million little things. Make a PR to an open source project - Open source software is awesome, and chances are you’ve been using it throughout your short time developing. Take a look at some projects and make a pull request that improves something simple like documentation or test coverage.
2. Meet people
Apply for jobs - This should be obvious, but as they say, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Even if you don’t feel qualified, try applying for some jobs, taking some interviews, and learning from each one you get. If you’re not sure what employers are looking for, here are some things I look for when hiring entry level devs. Meet with people - Not every “interview” is an official interview. In fact, both of my last two jobs have been a result of unofficial coffee talks and not official interviews. Ask your friends, colleagues, former coworkers, teachers, etc. for intros. Go to meetups - You have a list of skills above, so go checkout Meetup.com and find some groups that meet in your area. Try to be friendly or at least send the speaker an email afterwards if you like the talk.
3. Improve your whole self
Start a blog - You don’t have to write anything profound, but the earlier you start building an online presence, the better off you’ll be when you do have something to say. You can use Medium, Tumblr, or Wordpress if you don’t want to build a blog yourself from scratch. Create a list of must-read blogs - I use Feedly to curate a few hundred developer blogs, and then I use Zapier to email me a digest of the new articles every day. If you want to use my list as a starting point, it’s public on Feedly. Work out - Staying in shape is a long-term investment in yourself and your career. I know it seems easy to take a pass on working out when you’re job hunting, but don’t. It’ll help you keep your confidence up and give you a reason to wake up and shower every morning. Read some books - Another good habit you can build now while you’ve got the time is reading. I recommend keeping a list of books you want to read (here’s more info about how I do it), and making a commitment to read a few pages every night before bed. That’s it. If you have questions, feel free to mention me on Twitter, and if you’re interested in learning more about developer bootcamp programs? Not sure what you should expect? I wrote more on the topic a while back, so check the article out.