As we begin our outcomes period, we’ve started to have one-on-one conversations with our students about how they can be successful in the job search. This part of the program is always the most stressful, but at the same time anxiety can be a powerful motivator. The job search is never easy, but I wanted to outline a couple of rules and dispel some rumors about the job search.
1. Instead of focusing on what you don’t know, sell employers on your potential
It’s easy to think of your first web development job as a situation where you’ll take the first option available or will work for anyone “who might want you.” Many students and recent grads view themselves as a giant risk to companies, but that’s not the case at all. For the first couple weeks and even months, most junior and mid level developers are almost useless. We’re not trying to be harsh, it just takes time to get up to speed with a production codebase (something all of our students learn the hard way during company projects). No company with a large codebase will expect you to write hundreds of lines of code on day one, which means you don’t have to know everything.
Instead of focusing on how new you are to web development, spend time discussing just how much you have done in a short period of time. For many of our students, we use company projects to tell these stories. Almost all of these projects involve technologies that we do not cover in detail like Ruby, Rails, Go, Elasticsearch, React Native, Amazon Web Services, Relay, and much more. We encourage all of our students to frame the conversation around how employers should invest in their potential, not dismiss their inexperience.
2. Tell the truth
It’s tempting to want to hide your bootcamp experience from employers to make sure you’re not being pigeon-holed into a junior role, or ignored because of your lack of experience. At Rithm, this is something that we actively discourage. If a company is going to reject you because you are a bootcamp grad, there’s not much you can do, and that company is most likely not one that would be beneficial for your learning and growth. At the same time, there’s nothing worse than making it through most of the interview process and thinking you’re doing well, until a company realizes you’ve been hiding information.
It’s almost always easy to see if someone is a recent bootcamp grad based on their LinkedIn, GitHub, and other social profiles. Instead of hiding the fact you have recently learned web development, focus on the first rule, which will enable you to tell a story of just how much you’ve accomplished in a short period of time.
3. Leverage your network and the people around you
We encourage our students to apply to a variety of web development roles on platforms like AngelList and LinkedIn as they are easier to send out, but we’ve seen most job search success come from the existing network and outreach that our students do. If you do not have a large network in tech before starting the job search, that’s absolutely fine; it just means that there is some more work you’ll have to do for that outreach.
So what else can you do? The answer is to leverage reverse recruiting. The idea here is that instead of finding or working with a recruiter, you essentially become your own recruiter. You can read more about it here. Through sending emails and LinkedIn messages, you can start to build a small network of employees at companies that are hiring and willing to refer you to a position.
4. Networking isn’t always what you think it is
For many of our students, networking has the connotation of going to large events like meetups or conferences and trying to talk to as many people as possible. While this is one way of growing your network, it’s not the only way. For some people, being overtly social in large groups is challenging, and while we encourage our students to try to get out and introduce themselves to the tech community as much as possible, we acknowledge that it’s difficult.
Instead of focusing on large events or meetups (which are less frequent), we encourage our students to reach out to engineers at companies they are interested in to learn more about the culture, technology, and what the day to day looks like at these companies. Most of the time, engineers and even engineering managers are happy to chat for a few minutes or grab coffee with students. It’s during these conversations that students can ask about the job search process and get a referral to that company. A referral to a company (especially a larger one) is hundreds of times more valuable than cold applying.
5. Be disciplined and collect data
Finally, and the most important rule of them all: be disciplined and collect data. It might seem obvious, but when job searching it’s essential to make a schedule for yourself and adhere to it as much as possible. At Rithm, we encourage all of our students to share their schedule with us, which includes time for reviewing technical concepts, practicing data structures and algorithms, building web applications, and most importantly – applying for jobs! During this search you’ll be anxious and will need to be far more independent, which means you need to hold yourself accountable to managing time and being as efficient as possible.
The second part here is to always make sure you collect data. At Rithm we use Jobtrack to help our students track their progress in the job search. It’s essential to keep detailed records of the job search so that if you’re not getting momentum, you can diagnose the problem.