We know that 93% of Thinkful alumni are getting jobs at companies like Intel, BBC News, and PeopleVine, and that the online bootcamp even offers a job guarantee for their Flexible and Full Time Web Development Bootcamp. But how does an online bootcamp help people find real jobs in cities around the world? Thinkful Career Services Managers, Liz Parsekian and Stephanie Bermudez, explain their individualized job search strategy for each student, why mock interviews with mentors start early on, and the importance of having original projects in your portfolio. Plus, Thinkful shares their 3 favorite online interview prep resources!
How large is the Career Services team at Thinkful? Which Thinkful students are they serving?
The Career Services team is comprised of a group of folks whose work ranges from career coaching to company partnerships to overall management of our operations and events. Career coaching sessions have the same structure as 1-on-1 Thinkful mentorship, and are completely dedicated to career development and advancement. The career team works with students from all of our bootcamps, too: Full Time Web Development, Flexible Web Development and Flexible Data Science.
What goes into the career development process at Thinkful? Does Career Prep start on Graduation Day or before that?
A lot of thought, detailed planning, and proactive outreach! Initially, the process was built around our other tenets of learning: mentorship and 1-on-1 support. We also have to factor student location, personality, and long-term goals into the process. It’s not a one-size-fits-all for any job search, so while we have structure and proven tactics, we treat all students as individuals.
As for when it starts, students begin career prep while they’re still in the course. After each major unit, students have a mock interview conducted by a developer who interviews real candidates on the same topic.
They also build capstone projects which go into their portfolio. Often times the projects students build can be informed by knowing about the local job market — we encourage students to research what employers in their area are looking for when it comes to portfolio projects. Job opportunities sometimes come up for students before they’ve graduated, so throughout the course, we provide these tools to level up in ways that complement their learning.
In a way, all of that builds the necessary foundation for the full-focus job search and placement process.
When does the job placement process start? Does Thinkful connect students with employers or hiring partners?
Great question! Usually, the first week or so following graduation involves polishing up application materials (i.e., resumes, LinkedIn profiles, portfolios) and devising individualized job search strategies. As soon as those are ready, we get to work connecting with companies we know in each student’s city.
Over the past years, Thinkful has built relationships with tech companies, digital agencies and other industry leaders and each student will get the chance to meet with recruiters from those companies as well as learn about similar companies in the field. It helps students get a foot in the door, which is crucial for competitive job postings.
What sort of advice do you give your students for creating their online presence? How important is that to getting a job?
Application materials don’t stop with your résumé. In fact when it comes to networking, they start online. LinkedIn is not only a resource for posting your credentials, but for connecting with recruiters and research, research, research. The same goes for social media, except it’s a less formal way to establish your brand and connect with other developers. The amount of times I hear a senior developer say “Tweet at me” to get in touch... is a lot! And a personal website is a must.
How can an online bootcamper prepare for job interviews? Are there specific online tools that you recommend?
To apply what they’ve learned online, students attend job fairs, meetups, lectures, and connect with current developers for informational interviews.
What types of jobs are Thinkful students successful at getting after graduating? Are they generally Junior Developer jobs? Remote jobs?
Placed graduates get jobs in web development, but titles vary – different companies use the terms ‘engineer’ or ‘developer’ to describe the same roles. Within that category it really depends. Some students may get jobs beginning on a junior track, some may qualify for senior roles. In general, we see “junior” in a title much less than “engineer” or “developer”. Remote jobs are out there on the junior level but require more work to be considered for and in some cases, aren’t the right choice for a first role. We have special suggestions for students who are looking for remote only work which makes them stronger candidates.
Can graduates of Thinkful apply for job listings that require a CS degree? Should a bootcamp graduate still apply for that job or should they just skip over those listings?
Don’t skip! If you check the fine print on most of those listings it’ll say CS degree or equivalent experience. There’s your window. Now show the company why it is they want to hire you and what your qualifications are, with or without that degree.
How can bootcampers demonstrate that they have soft skills throughout the application process? Is this something they can show on a resume?
Definitely, there’s an opportunity to manage your “personality” and presence just about anywhere. If you’re reaching out on LinkedIn, be friendly. If you’re meeting with a developer for coffee, be prepared with questions. We like to pose the question to students, “Would you like to work with you?” That’s not easy to answer sometimes! But, there are rules we teach students that take out the mystery.
Obviously bootcamps are growing, and there are a lot more graduates in the job pool these days. How can Thinkful bootcamp grads set themselves apart from other candidates to land the job?
Thinkful graduates have a few key ways to stand out, most notably their portfolios and their enthusiasm for programming. Each of their capstone projects is an app that they came up with, planned, and built. That has a big contrast with any bootcamp graduates out there who are building ‘clones’ of existing apps. Employers have told me that they value the originality and dedication that such projects show.
Several other elements come into play, including soft skills such as how a graduate acts in an interview, and throughout an application process. Giving students mock interviews so they feel comfortable doing a coding challenge and coaching them on how to approach hiring managers goes a long way.
In addition to all of that, there is still a ton of opportunity in the job market for developers which bootcamp graduates are filling. The industry still has a talent shortage and, given the rate of growth in tech, we have no reason to expect hiring for developers to slow down.
In your experience, what do employers love about Thinkful graduates?
Employers love that Thinkful grads are ready to hit the ground running. Thinkful’s bootcamp is practical and based on what we see developers doing on the job. On top of years teaching students, we spent a lot of time on corporate training for senior engineers. We’ve learned what works and what doesn’t.
We pass these lessons to students and hear that this leads to faster ramp up times than average in a new hire. Companies also really love someone who’s enthusiastic about programming and problem solving and that’s a spirit we see in our students. Someone who is working a full day and comes home to work out a tough coding problem; trust me, that’s someone a company wants to hire. I also read recently that a greater percentage of women developers come out of bootcamps over CS degree programs. So companies may also find bootcamps like Thinkful are a way to add diversity to their workforce.
Have you noticed that employers are looking for a specific language or specific soft skills right now?
Thinkful was the first online bootcamp to publish verified job placement stats – why was that important to your school?
Verified outcomes are crucial to the future of education in general. Students need to know that they can trust you based on hard data, not promises. Sharing data with students is baked into our mission and process, so it’s an understatement to say it’s important to Thinkful — it’s at the core of what we do.
Students come to coding bootcamps looking to get new jobs as developers. Every school should give them a reasonable expectation of return on investment, it’s the responsible thing to do. We’ve found that students greatly appreciate having tangible reasons to trust us with their education and helping them build their future careers.
Tell us about your job placement guarantee. How long do you continue helping your graduates find jobs after they graduate?
Eligible students who complete the Flexible and Full Time Web Development Bootcamp are guaranteed to find a job as a developer within six months of graduating or we’ll refund their tuition. We work with every student for up to six months after they graduate, but even after graduates are placed, alumni know they can reach back out to us with questions. In fact, we got a nice letter recently from an alum who moved to a new company and told our Head of Education, Grae, that she used his negotiation tactics to get a big bump in pay and a signing bonus, she thanked him for it. The whole team was super happy about that!
Any final thoughts or advice on how to get a job after an online bootcamp for people who are job searching?
The job search is a separate skill set from coding and you’ll want to be good at both, but like coding it takes practice. Get out there and meet people! Feel comfortable among your new peers. Keep learning about this industry.