If you’re getting ready to start a bootcamp course, congratulations! You’re making a giant leap into a new and exciting career in tech. But with all the time and money that goes into attending an intensive coding course, you’ll want to make sure you’re making the most of these months so you’re job-ready by the end of your program.
To get an idea of how to prepare for the best, we talked to Gretchen Jacobi, the head of career services at Flatiron School. Her career advice to students begins not with the job application process, but at the beginning of the bootcamp journey.
“Dig in. If a new concept is proving difficult, spend MORE time on it, not less,” Jacobi says. “This will apply to the job search later on, in addition to the curriculum. And focus on learning first. We know that students attend bootcamps with an eye towards the jobs they want to get on the other side, but there are no shortcuts.”
Jacobi emphasizes that, despite the impending job search, knowing the material you’re learning is the most essential part of attending a bootcamp — over any networking or self-branding.
“The most important thing a student can do to get a job as a developer, is to be a great developer,” she says. “When we combine their stellar technical skills with a compelling personal narrative and their passion for code, employers will take note, and students will end up in jobs doing what they love for a living.”
At Flatiron School, students are paired with a career coach about a month before graduation. The coach helps them finalize their job search collateral, do mock interviews, and start the research and self-reflection process to identify the types of roles and companies they’re interested in. In addition to knowing the material, Jacobi recommends these tips — which you can do with a coach or on your own — for setting yourself up for success after a bootcamp.
Build a clear online presence
You don’t need a full on lifestyle blog with a logo, but Jacobi says a strong online presence is a necessity for the modern job hunt.
“A personal website is one of multiple options to build this presence,” Jacobi says. “Students should also use LinkedIn, Twitter, Medium, GitHub and other sites. However, building a personal website is a fantastic way to show more personality or strong design skills, especially if a student is interested in front-end roles.”
From her experience, she notes students often use Heroku, GitHubPages, AWS or DigitalOcean for their personal websites. Each has a different pricing model, but most include a free option.
Work with your portfolio in mind
When job hunting, you’ll need to put your best foot forward. The easiest way to do that? A strong portfolio.
Jacobi recommends that about two-thirds of the real estate on a resume be taken up by projects.
“A portfolio of projects is absolutely essential for our students,” Jacobi says. “Since most of them don’t have prior professional experience as developers, their projects are the primary vehicle to showcase their new skills.”
During a bootcamp, you should take the time to work on your portfolio. Keeping in mind the importance of learning as much as possible, students should aim to go above and beyond on their projects.
“If you have a passion for politics,” Jacobi says, “build an app that helps users find their nearest voting location. Passion for puppies? Build an app that scrapes shelter websites to pull in adoptable dogs. When students get creative, they can really leverage their projects to stand out from the crowd.”
Network like a human
Jacobi encourages students not to think of networking as a purely transactional career tool. Instead, view your personal and professional communities holistically.
“Networking is just making human connections — building your circle of friends and contacts to enrich your life,” Jacobi says. “The stronger the networks that students bring into the program — from their dodgeball teams, undergrads, prior professional experience, religious communities, marathon-training buddies or acapella groups — the easier path they’ll have to their first opportunity.”
She recommends, for students who find they have time, attending Meetup groups that emphasize particular interests. In addition, if students are transitioning from careers in other fields like fashion or publishing, consider investigating tech roles in those fields.
“Students’ experience in other fields… is absolutely a leg up in their job search,” Jacobi says. “We have students who used to work as editors end up as engineers at publishing houses. We have students who used to work in sales end up as client solutions engineers, where they leverage their customer-facing skills. We have students who used to work as fashion merchandisers end up as engineers at e-commerce apparel companies.”
While prior experience in a particular field is not necessary, Jacobi says employers truly value the professionalism, communication skills, drive and self-directedness that bootcamp students bring with them from those previous careers.
This article is sponsored by Flatiron School, an outcomes-focused coding bootcamp offering transformative education in person and online. In as little as 15 weeks, Flatiron students learn to code and launch lifelong careers as developers. Learn more about their Atlanta campus offerings and start coding today.