I graduated from a code school. Now what?
I attended a Dev Bootcamp hiring fair in search of a junior web developer to assist me at Zugata. Most of the applicants at the fair were recent graduates (less than 2 weeks out of the program) and they presented projects that they coded together in the previous weekend.
Unfortunately, after several interviews, I wasn’t able to find a candidate in the bunch that could fit the role I was looking for. Many of them came really close, but they needed a few more months of study before I thought they would be ready for the position.
If you just graduated from a bootcamp, here is what you should be doing:
Don’t waste time applying for jobs, yet.
Code schools give you an awesome foundation for breaking into the tech space, but they can only do so much in the 12-16 weeks of their program. There are still many things you need to learn before you are ready to start interviewing and hopefully the code school you attended has given you the tools you need to learn these new skills.
Build a cool project
When you graduate from a code school, you are a wild card. No one really knows what you are capable of doing. Building a side project demonstrates your ability to have creative ideas and to execute them. Projects ideally should be something you are passionate about and are more advanced than what the code generators spit out.
Startups want to see that you are creative and can solve problems. Having a side project shows that you can identify problems and can build solutions to them.
At the end of the day, you should pick a project that solves a problem in your life. I really like the idea of building tools that can help you in your job search. When I lived in Atlanta, I wanted to work for a startup, but I struggled finding what startups were hiring. I built Atlanta Startup Jobs to help me in my job search. As part of the project, I had to write a web crawler to search the internet for job postings which made my project much more interesting than a simple generated app.
Focus on programming fundamentals
Spend a couple hours every day studying algorithms and programming techniques. Interview Cake is a great place to get started, but I would search around the internet for interesting coding challenges. The daily programmer on reddit has some fun coding challenges to help prep you for your interview.
In SF, there are coding interview prep meet up groups which are awesome for solving these types of coding challenges. When learning how to solve algorithm questions, focus on the process of determining the answer and not so much on the answer itself. You will be hit with a question you have never heard of before, but if you figure out a system that works for you for solving algorithm questions, then I am sure you will be able to solve it :).
Attend local meet up groups
Show your face in your local community. Start establish a brand for yourself in your area as a developer. Meetup.com is the king for finding these.
Write about what you learned and what cool things you are doing. I write this blog because when people want to find more information about me, I get to control what pops up in google.
People that are good at what they do like talking about what they do. So start building yourself an audience.
Apply for jobs
After you have continued your education and feel confident in your interviewing skills, start applying for jobs. Hired.com accepts code school graduates, but they are very picky about who they choose.
Hacker news has a monthly job posting requesting applications for tech startups around the world. The post usually happens on the first of the month. So setup a calendar notification to catch that early.
At meet up events, many recruiters or hiring managers attend coding meetups to help source candidates for open positions. Typically they announce at the start up of the meet up who is hiring and what they are looking for. Definitely a good way to get face to face with someone.
I would also consider not mentioning you attended a code school. I think that the industry itself has a few premonitions about code school graduates that may not help you in your job search. I would focus your resume more on what cool projects you have done and what you know rather than where you got your education.