So you’re nearing the end of your coding bootcamp and the job search is about to commence. How do you really show an employer what you’re made of? And how do you show off new tech skills after a coding bootcamp to land a new role? The life of a job seeker can have its highs and lows, so we spoke with Betsy Leonhardt and Seth Novick of General Assembly’s Outcomes Team to get their tips for rocking the job search. With 15 campuses in 4 continents, General Assembly has extensive experience helping their bootcampers find their next gig.
Our takeaways? Be yourself when on the job hunt and understanding that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to landing your dream job!
What goes into the career development process at General Assembly? Does Career Development start on Graduation Day or before that?
Career Development (Outcomes) is a major component to the student immersive experience. It begins week one and continues throughout the entire immersive, building week over week to develop hard and soft skills that ultimately help students develop themselves as technical professionals. Outcomes is a program and curriculum that augments and compliments the immersive programs and is delivered by career professionals and coaches with an in depth understanding of the job search process as it relates to the field. It supports the belief in empowering students to be active stewards of their job search and trains them to be confident and motivated in order to achieve career excellence and success.
How long should a bootcamper wait after graduating until they start to apply for jobs? Is it more important to perfect your portfolio or to get your first interview?
There is not a one-size-fits-all answer to this question. We teach our students that the building blocks of their job search should be developed while in class; they should begin to develop a professional network and an understanding of the market and industry they are about to enter. While perhaps not a formal job search as a current student, it is important to lay a solid foundation to be able to kick off a strategic job search upon graduation. A student in a full-time course should start formally applying for jobs once they have the tools they need to run a successful job search (resume, portfolio, online presence, and understanding of self– a professional brand/point of view) and it is General Assembly’s goal that our students have these tools upon graduation.
Portfolios are a very important tool to be able to conduct a successful job search. A professional portfolio will forever be a work in progress, so waiting until it is “perfect” can often be a roadblock. Portfolios should most certainly represent your best self and work at all times.
At this point, should a student assume that all employers know what a “coding bootcamp” is? How should they explain this concisely?
One should never assume that employers know or understand what a “coding bootcamp” is or what’s even involved. Not all bootcamps are created equal. Educating employers of what immersive graduates are capable of along with informing them of the opportunity to hire our graduates is a responsibility that General Assembly & graduates co-own. Graduates should focus on what they can do and what they have learned (as well as their previous professional experience) and rely on the merit of their own work. This not only shows what they’ve learned but how they apply it.
In your experience, what do employers like about General Assembly graduates? What makes them stand out during the job search?
It’s been my experience that employers particularly like the fact that our grads have a very distinct point of view and professionalism that represents the entire package. Since most of our students come from a myriad of professional backgrounds, employers appreciate how they embrace their entire experience to include their GA experience. Our grads define themselves not just as “GA graduates” but as technical professionals with a variety of experience in a wide array of industries.
If someone has a non-technical background (a poet, writer, etc), how can they incorporate that into their job application? Or should they be hiding that background?
It is never advisable to “hide” a previous background of any kind. Rather, redefining how that background makes them a stronger candidate is much more appropriate. It’s important to recognize non-technical backgrounds as a unique skill set and embrace them as strengths, not weaknesses. Understanding what brought them to this point in their career and why they were drawn to tech is a much more compelling story. It’s about having a clear picture of where you are going, and how you envision your career moving forward rather than focusing on the past.
How should students approach a gap in their resume? (Maybe they took time off to raise children).
Own it! There’s nothing wrong with having gaps in traditional employment but how you decide to acknowledge it and explain its value to your career is the key. We are not one-dimensional people and we all have a story to tell. What did you learn and gain from this time? How did it help get you to this point in your career?
What advice do you give students for creating their online presence (LinkedIn, Twitter, personal website)? How important is it to show off new tech skills via these channels?
It’s incredibly important but that doesn’t mean they need to be on everything. LinkedIn is essential but other social media presence can be pointless if you’re not prepared to contribute and be consistent. On the other hand, they can be absolute gems if used correctly and to your advantage. Choose what works for you and stick with it by contributing relevant and valuable content. It’s a great way to establish a credible and professional point of view and connect with like-minded pros.
Your personal website, or rather your professional website portfolio, is your calling card. This is home base and should be what everything links to. You should be prepared to keep it relevant and update it with additional work on a consistent basis. A blog can also be a terrific way to maintain a consistent presence but it’s crucial to maintain regular content. Deciding on its focus will make a huge difference.
How can bootcampers demonstrate that they have soft skills throughout the application process? Is this something they can show on a resume?
A resume should not be viewed as a timeline and inventory of everything you’ve done in the past. Rather, it should tell a story and focus on where you are going and not just where you’ve been. Consider writing a brand statement that defines who you are as a professional and allow it to describe your value proposition. Use this as your thesis statement and have the body of your resume be the supporting documentation that supports it. Soft skills are incredibly important but listing them doesn’t give context to how you apply them. Focus your resume on the application of those soft skills rather than listing mundane tasks. Tell a story of your professional life.
Have you noticed that employers are looking for a specific programming language right now?
Nope. It varies from market to market and industry to industry. Besides, our students are taught the fundamentals behind programming and understand the process behind learning additional and new technologies.
How does GA help with networking? What are some best practices to make networking useful? Do you have advice for shy bootcampers who aren’t natural “networkers?”
GA is very focused on community. It is critically important that we incorporate the outside world view into our Outcomes programs whenever possible and appropriate to provide professional context and insight. The tech community is such a welcoming group of people, allowing us to thrive on opportunities to bring industry pros into the classroom to reinforce expectations and share advice. This also fosters networking opportunities for students and helps break the ice to develop a robust professional network.
Networking doesn’t always have to consist of in-person activities and involvement. Face-to-face is one of many ways in which people can and should network. Online resources (i.e. Slack), social media (i.e LinkedIn, Twitter) and online contributions (i.e. blogs, Github) are excellent ways to demonstrate an involvement in the tech community while also sharing best practices and personal work. Thought leadership does not have to mean you're an expert but rather encourage practitioners to be part of the conversations that are being had online and in person every day. Align yourself with other like-minded professionals who share the same interests and passions that you do.
What should bootcamp grads factor in the “whole package” of compensation? What is your advice for negotiations?
The “whole package” is the optimal term here. Remember, most GA students come from a wide array of backgrounds so it’s important to consider everything a candidate brings to the table. Professional maturity is something to keep in mind but most importantly, have a realistic sense of what the market commands, what you are worth, and what the opportunity will ultimately mean for your professional development.
Desperation never looks good on anyone. Have confidence in the fact that a company wants you. You’ve wowed them by showing off your new tech skills, knowledge, personality, and potential -- negotiation is part of the process. It’s expected and it’s not personal, it’s just business. Have a list of non-negotiables so you know what to stay firm on and have a list of “it’d be nice to have” so you can review the entire package.
Be transparent and keep it real. Doing your research is crucial. Think creatively and ask the right questions. Make sure it’s in writing!!! It’s not real unless you have it in writing!
What can a bootcamp student expect in a Junior Developer interview?
Expect the unexpected. Not all interviews are equal. Do your research and come to the interview with your own questions about the company. Remember, you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you.
Always be prepared to talk about yourself. Having a good sense of who you are as a developer, your value proposition, and what you specifically bring to the table that makes you different is a good place to start. Have a solid narrative and practice communicating it.
What if a job listing says that the candidate should have a “four-year computer science degree?”
I’m a believer that unless it says “required” then game on. It’s a technicality. If you meet 75% of the job requirements and can back it up, you should always apply. You never know what’s going to spark an employer’s interest. Be prepared to answer what makes you just as good (if not better) than a traditional CS degree candidate.
Obviously coding bootcamps are growing, and there are a lot more alumni competing for junior developer jobs these days. How can bootcamp grads set themselves apart from other candidates?
Have a point of view! Don’t just think showing up to class and doing the work is necessarily going to land you a job at the end. Sure, you’re developing a whole new set of skills, but show how you apply these skills and show employers what you’re really made of by being able to communicate your process and how you challenge yourself beyond just the project requirements. At the end of the day, employers want to see how you think, and how you illustrate that can really make the biggest difference amongst your peers.
Any final thoughts or advice to bootcampers who are job searching?
Bootcamp grads are generally the most dedicated, self-motivated, and passionate employees. Taking a bootcamp and making it through successfully is not for the faint of heart and takes commitment and grit. Chances are you were taught how to learn so learning new technologies is a skill set in its own right that grads should embrace. Never stop learning and believe in yourself. A job search is not just about applying for jobs but taking control over a strategic career process that will not only benefit you to land a job but also achieve career success.