So you enrolled in a reputable coding bootcamp, showed up every day, drank enough Red Bull to kill a real bull, and graduated with a solid understanding of OOP, MySQL, Heroku, and twenty other terms that are not, it turns out, foreign swear words. It’s smooth sailing from here on out, right? Wrong. Too many coding bootcamp alumni assume that graduation marks the end of their journey when, in truth, it marks the beginning. Here are 5 mistakes coding bootcamp grads make, and Coding Dojo contributor Justin Marshall's tips on how to avoid them.
1. Assuming the job will come to you
Web developers are in strong demand, and most coding bootcamps have resources to help you gain employment. But that doesn’t mean you can sit back and wait for the employment offers to come flooding in from the job fairy. While you’re waiting, other graduates are actively marketing themselves, snatching up jobs that you might be more qualified for—had you bothered to apply.
Instead, you need to be highly proactive with your job search. If you didn’t establish a good relationship with your bootcamp’s career center, reach out to them now, and then follow up every 2-3 weeks to stay on their map. Remember, we want to help you get a job, so to paraphrase the immortal words of Jerry Maguire, help us help you.
Motivated coding bootcamp alumni apply to multiple companies a day; start with companies in your extended network and then utilize resources like job search sites. This process will require research, outreach, and a strong cover letter (which you will need to customize for each company). Finally, create a GitHub profile before you graduate or create one ASAP and do some learning repos to show you’re up to snuff.
2. Not Networking
The students you went through coding bootcamp with are one of your single greatest professional resources. Even that weird bearded guy who left Cheetos dust on every keyboard he touched is going to be a senior developer one day. So make sure you stay in touch. Whether it’s a simple “how ya been?” email every few months or starting a monthly poker night for your cohort, you need to keep those relationships strong. Many coding bootcamp alumni (such as Coding Dojo’s own AJ Agrawal, co-founder of Alumnify) have created successful ventures with fellow students; if you didn’t do this while you were a student, it’s not too late to start. Just reach out, keep those relationships strong, and let the power of your network do the rest.
3. Not continuing to refine your skills
By the end of your coding bootcamp experience, you will have learned a lot of skills (especially if you attended Coding Dojo, the only bootcamp that teaches three full stacks in 12 short weeks, wink-wink). However, that doesn’t mean your learning is complete. Just as you forgot half the French you learned in high school because you stopped using it when classes were over, you’re going to forget programming languages you learned but don’t use on a daily basis. To prevent this from happening, work on personal projects that force you to use languages and software you never work with on the job.
In addition to staying current on the skills you already have, you need to stay abreast of new developments. New software and languages are introduced all the time, and as a professional in the industry, you are expected to stay current. When you go into an interview, you don’t want to be caught with your pants down when asked your thoughts on something you’ve never heard of (cue awkward silence). So read up, stay current, and do your research.
4. Not preparing for interviews
From my personal experience, I know Coding Dojo provides our students with lots of preparation for interviews; hopefully your coding bootcamp did as well. But even with proper training, it’s still up to you to keep those interview skills strong. Think of interviewing like a muscle—if you don’t use it, it atrophies. Therefore, before every interview, make sure you practice answering questions, even if it’s in the mirror or for your pet cat.
Even more important is to practice the common tests that interviewers give. Some companies use technical interviews, while others might give you a coding challenge that you’re expected to solve overnight. There are many good resources to help you prepare for these, but a particularly good one is Cracking The Coding Interview.
Last but not least, don’t forget the basics. Keep your resume updated with your skills and knowledge, and list your Coding Bootcamp under your education section. Do your research so that you know what the company does and can ask intelligent questions. Make sure you dress appropriately. And don’t forget to send a brief thank you email after your interview is complete.
5. Getting discouraged
It happens. We know, because we’ve been there ourselves: that sense that nothing you do is good enough, and that you’ll never get what you want. During a lengthy job search, these feelings are unavoidable, so don’t beat yourself up for having them. Let yourself grumble and moan for a few minutes a day—venting is healthy. But then pick yourself back up and force yourself to push on. Instead of second guessing yourself, double-down on your training and practice. As a coding bootcamp alumni, you have the basic knowledge and skills to succeed—your path might be longer than others’, but the effort you put in will eventually be rewarded.