Coding bootcamps are hugely popular now. Some of the old guard (Flatiron, Fullstack Academy) are still going strong, and new ones are popping up every day (Grace Hopper, NYCDA, App Academy, Byte Academy, General Assembly). Most are drawn into the programs by the promise of a career change, a higher salary, or a happier work environment.
With the flood of recent grads entering the job market, it can be tough to get that first job out of a 3 or 4 month program.
This guide hopefully offers some tips to help you stand out and land that first gig! (And many thanks to cassidoo whose github post I forked and whose brilliant ideas I regurgitated below)
- Your Resume - Do’s and Don’ts
- Your Cover Letter - Do’s and Dont’s
- Keep on Learning
- Put Yourself Out There
- Attend Networking Events
- Contribute to Open Source/Hack Contests
- The Power of Referrals
- Tailor Your Online Presence
- Learn to Talk About Yourself (& to Others)
Your Resume - Do’s and Don’ts
- Make your name big and bold at the top of the page. You want to be remembered.
- Include links to your professional social profiles (github, LinkedIn, personal portfolio site)
- Make it fit on one page. Unless you have a long list of publications or awards, you don’t need a multi-page CV. Recruiters/hiring managers spend all day looking at resumes so the more concise you can be the more likely they are to be able to process everything you want them to know about you.
- Include an objective/summary section. No one looks at them and you’re better off using the space to describe activities or projects.
- Include your mailing address. Companies will email or call you. Listing the city you live in is sufficient.
- List every technology or language you've touched. That will make your resume look unrealistic.
Your Cover Letter - Do’s and Don’ts
- Keep it short and concise (1-2 paragraphs is enough!)
- Emphasize the value you’d be adding to the company with your skillset. (Ex: if they’re looking for a data engineer and you have experience with Hadoop, mention that)
- Make clear that you’ve looked them up and have a basic understanding of what their company does.
- Include links to your professional social profiles (linkedIn, Github) under your signature.
- Include a couple times you’re available for a quick phone call.
- If you reference projects in your cover letter, be sure to link to them within the email.
- Focus on how much working at the company would help you (Ex: “I feel like getting familiar with AWS and cloud services would be helpful for my career.”)
- Express interest in too many different areas of technology, rather focus on one role you're applying for and mention flexibiltiy.
Keep on Learning
Your education doesn’t end when the bootcamp ends. The time between the end of your program and when you start you first day at your new job as an engineer (you’ll get there!) is a prime time to strike out and find new resources to bolster your newly acquired skills.
Did your bootcamp not put heavy emphasis on foundational CS skills like data structures and/or algorithms? Or do you feel like you need to solidify your knowledge base?
Here's a checklist of commonly tested CS areas in technical interviews:
- Data types
- Basic Bitwise Operations
- String Operations
- Linked Lists
- Singly Linked
- Doubly Linked
- Circular Linked
- Binary Trees
- Binary Search Trees
- Self Balancing Trees
- Traversing Trees
- Breadth First Search - BFS
- Depth First Search - DFS
- Preorder, Inorder, Postorder
- Dijkstra's Algorithm / A* Search
- Hash Maps
- Handling Collisions
- Sorting algorithms
- Time Complexities
The internet has a wealth of resources for you to beef up your knowledge and practical skills in these areas.
Here are some good links to check out:
- General Guides
- Sorting Algorithms
- Big-O Cheat Sheet
- Data Structures and Algorithms Overview
- Algorithm Implementations
- Top 10 Algorithms for coding interviews
- Problem Sets
- Online Judging Systems
- Mock Interviews
- Here are some books that might also be useful.
- Algorithms, 4th edition, by Robert Sedgewick and Kevin Wayne
- Introduction to Algorithms, 3rd Edition, by Thomas H. Cormen, Charles E. Leiserson, Ronald L. Rivest, and Clifford Stein (also referred as CLRS)
- Think Complexity, by Allen B. Downey
- Problems on Algorithms, 2nd edition, by Ian Parberry and William Gasarch
- Data Structures and Algorithms in Java
- Cracking the Coding Interview, 6th edition, by Gayle Laakmann McDowell
When practicing, try not to rely on an IDE to catch your errors or for syntax highlighting. Technical interviews often involve coding on a whiteboard (either in person on a physical board, or over digital whiteboards like coderpad). Likely you won’t be able to avail yourself of any AI shortcuts.
Put Yourself Out There
Attend Networking Events
- Meetup - Find groups of people who meet regularly about specific topics.
- Look for engineering meetups that are hosted at companies. You'll get to see an office, and meet people who actually work there.
- Keep an eye out for groups that host events like hacker hours/co-working/hackathons.
- After you join Meetup groups, you’ll organically receive more and more info about events/other groups out there.
- Resist the temptation to sign up for any and all mailing lists that are remotely relevant - rushing will only cause you to become overwhelmed and end up with tons of mailings to sift through. Quality over quanitity!
- Eventbrite - Find one-off workshops, networking events, parties, and classes.
- Lanyrd - A social conference directory that can be used to follow your favorite speakers or search for conferences/events related to a particular language or technology.
Contribute to Open Source/Hack Contests
You know how job descriptions often mention wanting to hire people who are “passionate” about engineering? Working on OS projects, or participating in hackathons are a great way to show your dedication to the field. Here are a few resources for finding projects:
- OpenHatch - A non-profit that matches free software contributors with communities, tools, and education.
- Your First PR - A twitter account that regularly posts easy first pull requests for people looking to make their first open source contributions.
- Open Source Rails - A ruby-specific community that identifies and ranks open source projects.
- Github Mentorships - A resource for finding OS opportunities. You can peruse their list of projects and apply through their various listed programs.
The Power of Referrals
Do you know friends/family members/acquaintances/someone you once donated an organ to who works at a company you’re applying to? That’s your in!
- If you can get a referral from that person, they’ll likely be able to get your resume straight to the top of the pile on the desk of the hiring manager.
- Don’t be afraid to ask around and let your network know you’re looking for a job.
- And, if someone does do you the favor of referring you, don’t forget to thank them regardless of whether you end up getting the job!
Tailor Your Online Presence
Recruiters/Hiring Managers will google you. They will! So why not make sure the content they see portrays you in the best (most hire-worthy) light? Some basic things you can do to boost your job-seeking online presence:
- Build a website and tell everyone about it - post about it on twitter, facebook, LinkedIn...but keep it classy!
- Avoid only self-promoting on social media! (At a party, the most aggravating person who won’t get invited back is the guy who spends all night talking about himself)
- Once you’ve shared your new website with your network, if you’re on social media, start posting occasionally about interesting engineering problems/cool companies you’re following.
- Start an engineering blog and set yourself a weekly calendar reminder to post to it. You can post about new open source projects you’re working on, new skills you’re trying to learn, old bugs that still plague you...etc.
- Include screenshots or code snippets of technical problems you’re solving.
- Start a twitter account if only to follow companies/languages/frameworks and retweet.
- Follow Influencers everywhere (LinkedIn, Twitter, Quora, Github, Stackoverflow, etc.) and engage with them as much as you’re comfortable (retweeting, liking posts, etc.)
Learn to Talk About Yourself (& to Others)
Learn to Talk About Yourself
- To prepare for talking to recruiters/hiring managers, practice talking about the specific projects you’ve worked on. In particular, if your bootcamp had you work in groups for your final project, prepare to discuss your individual contribution and not just what the entire team worked on:
- What did you make? What does it do? What impact has it made? What was the hardest part? What could you have done better?
- Why did you make it? Was it for a hackathon, a school project, an open source contribution, or something else?
- With which technologies did you make this? Did you use a specific API? What parts of it did you work on?
Learn to Talk To Others
- Here are some tips for getting the most out of social interactions at events:
- Introduce yourself to someone who looks like they are alone. Tell them your name, and get their name. Now you have a buddy to navigate the event with.
- Make small talk about tech. You’re both there because you’re technologists. A common interest already!
- Exchange contact information before leaving the event so that you can follow up with them later. Today’s event buddy could be tomorrow’s referrer or hiring manager!
- If you don’t want to directly ask someone you just met for a job (awkward!), instead ask for advice/expertise a way that will indicate 1) that you’re on the hunt, and 2) that you’re passionate about programming/the tech world. Some example convo starters:
- “How did you get your first programming job?”
- “I’m finally out of school and on the job hunt - I finally have some free time and would love to learn a new language/start a new project. What new framework do you think I should try to pick up? Any cool open source projects you’ve heard of?”
You don’t need to drive yourself nuts trying to follow everything on this list. Pick a few things that you think make sense for you. Job hunting can seem like a full time job in itself sometimes, but it doesn’t need to take over your life.
After you get a couple years of solid experience under your belt, consider coming back to Clutch Talent so we can help you with future career moves!
You’ll find something great - good luck!
Please contribute to this list!