by Anthony Morris
What to do — and how to find success — after a coding bootcamp
It’s almost been two years since I graduated from the Lighthouse Labs Web Development Bootcamp. If you’re reading this, you probably already know that a coding bootcamp is an intensive program that teaches folks a little bit about software development. I say a little bit, because bootcamps are usually short, but they really do enable you to grow into a new career if you put in the work.
Plenty of people have discussed the pros and cons of attending a bootcamp (For example, on Quora, Reddit, and Medium). Should you go? Is it better than a computer science degree? Maybe, maybe not. I’m not here to talk about that.
I want to talk about what to do after a bootcamp. How will you succeed?
For me, I didn’t want to leave success to chance. I quit my job and with a small amount of savings, and I was finally ready to become a real software developer.
My journey was hard, but I like to think that I’ve been successful coming out the other side. The success came from the work I put in during and after the bootcamp. Success can be yours as well — all you have to do is put in the work.
Here are the things I did to get to where I am today.
Start applying to jobs early
I started applying to jobs somewhere around three weeks before graduation. During my bootcamp, I started to get an intense fear that I wouldn’t find a job after bootcamp. This fear helped me decide not to leave it to chance. I started spreading my résumé like wildfire. ?
Leading up to graduation, I had already applied to 50 different positions. Did they all respond to me? No. Did I get interviews with most of them? No! The majority of them didn’t even respond to me, but guess what? I got a job before I graduated.
Applying for jobs is a full time job. This step is essential. You need to cast your line and get your name in front of as many people as you can. You’ll see this theme carry throughout the rest of this article.
My favourite place to apply for jobs has always been AngelList. I like the user experience of their website. It’s clean, simple, and there are a ton of companies using it. Plus, who doesn’t like Naval Ravikant? Other than that, LinkedIn, Hired, TripleByte, or even Craigslist could help.
Go to meetups
I’m going to preface this part by saying that I’ve got an INTJ personality. Being in large crowds of unknown people makes me feel like I’m being pulled to the bottom of the ocean. Small talk with strangers is one of the most difficult things for me to do. But pushing through this struggle allowed me to realize the true potential for meetups.
If you haven’t been on Meetup.com, you should take a peek. If you have access to a relatively large city, I am willing to bet that there are endless possibilities for meeting folks on that website.
Remember when I told you to get your name in front of as many people as you can? This will help. People remember faces, good conversations, and fun events. Quite often there will even be job boards where you can share your email!
Pick a couple of meetup groups that you find interesting and are related to tech or software development. Put yourself in these social environments once a week. You will find plenty of people to exchange numbers with. Add them to your LinkedIn. Reach out to them later.
Bring your best elevator pitch!
Volunteering is something that I will always find valuable. We don’t have much time on this planet, so why not give back a little of what you’ve been given? So many people helped me during my journey through bootcamp. I decided I wanted to give this back to others.
There are tons of volunteer opportunities that you could find. The most valuable ones are probably related to the tech meetups you find. They will enable you to meet a lot of people while helping out the community.
Eventually, once you feel comfortable, I’d suggest finding some opportunities for mentorship! Help people learn to code. You never know whom you might end up helping through the process.
No matter where you volunteer, it’s a good opportunity for making others aware of who you are. Another bonus: it looks nice on your résumé.
Practice, practice, practice
There is only one way to get better: practice.
There are a very large number of options when it comes to practicing your hard skills. Practicing solving problems with algorithms is a great way to flex your mental muscles. You might even need to end up solving some of the same problems in the real world.
This type of practice gives you two important ways to learn.
- The first one is clear: you really have to learn by doing. You’re never going to get good at math just by reading about it, and coding is the same.
- The second is more subtle, but is easily just as important. Read other developer’s solutions. They will likely be better than yours in the beginning. That’s a good thing!
Solve, decode, iterate.
One of the challenging things about bootcamp is, all of your classmates will have the same projects as you. You’ll want something to showcase to help distinguish yourself to potential employers.
Do you have a problem that you’d like solved? What about your friends? Your mom? Ask them. Then build it.
It doesn’t matter what you build. Just build something! Your passion projects will be a great conversation starter at all of the meetups you go to.
Contribute to open source
This is probably one of the most intimidating suggestions. Are you good enough to contribute? Will people even want your help? Yes and Yes! No doubt about it.
Open source projects need all of the help they can get. You may not be able to program their next big feature, but there are plenty of ways to get involved. Do you like doing design? Do you have a passion for documentation? What about writing tests?
Most of these projects are passion projects. The developers have full time jobs. Go take a look at some issues on your favourite projects and see if there is anything that excites you.
Once you start submitting pull requests to open source projects, you will begin collecting some invaluable feedback. It’s like having access to an infinite list of senior developers. How great is that?
Much like what I talked about in the section on practice, contributing to open source really gets you surrounded by code written by other folks. This helps open your eyes to a new perspective and new ways to solve problems. Read as much code as you can and try to think about how you would have done it differently.
If this sounds exciting to you, then you have to read GitHub’s guide to contributing to open source. It’s extremely in-depth and covers everything you need to know. Including giving you lots of ways to find projects looking for help.
Expand your knowledge
We live in a beautiful time. The internet is full of resources for learning. If you have an idea of what you want to learn, chances are you can find it online for cheap or even free.
It wouldn’t be hard for me to endlessly list online resources here, but I’ll leave the searching up to you. I was personally very curious about computer science so I started to self-study.
What you decide to learn about doesn’t really matter. Just continue to learn. Showing potential employers that you are a self-starter and capable of picking up things on your own is a huge asset. As a junior you become an investment. You need to sell to them and let them know you’re a valuable investment.
Never be afraid to ask
Hopefully your bootcamp is similar to Lighthouse. We have access to a Slack channel that has a thriving community. Even if your bootcamp doesn’t, you can find online communities to be a part of. These communities provide an excellent alternative for you to fill your knowledge gaps and get feedback.
No one is dumb who is curious. The people who don’t ask questions remain clueless throughout their lives - Neil deGrasse Tyson
Ask people your questions directly. Share some of your code. Read what other people are struggling with. All of these options are opportunities to learn.
Accept recruiter communications
I have one final suggestion for your post-bootcamp journey. Let recruiters on LinkedIn know you are open to communications. It never hurts to be on their radar, and they might just be able to find you a good fit.
That’s it! Those are a few things to increase your chances of success.
As you can see, there are a few common themes spread throughout these ideas. You need to get your name out there, continue learning, distinguish yourself from others, and give back where you can.
Like most things in life, you’ll get out what you put in. Put in the work, believe in yourself, and have fun doing it.
Best of luck!