How to Build Experience During Your Bootcamp
So, you’ve successfully signed up for a coding Bootcamp, and now you’re thinking: what else should I be doing? First of all, well done for taking the plunge! Taking a Bootcamp is one of the best ways you can transform your career and land you your dream career in tech.
Yet, as you may have noticed, Bootcamp sign-ups are skyrocketing, and increasingly, it’s taking more than simply completing the course to land you that job at the end. Stay focused on your goals, network like crazy, keep building on your skills, and we promise you’ll get there in the end! Below, we’ve detailed our top tips for maximising your Bootcamp experience and positioning yourself as best as you can at the end, to ensure you get snapped up by your dream employer.
Continue Learning (and Learning and Learning)
Bootcamps love to emphasise how quickly you can intensively learn to code – as if four months of learning will magically transform you into a qualified and confident Software Developer or Web Designer. The truth is, programming is a never-ending cycle of learning and growing, with some skills only accessible through years of refinement and trial and error.
Consider your course a foundation, giving you the tools to go out into the world and put your theory into practice. Try building a simple app, creating a website, or contributing to open-source code. Very few Bootcamp grads get hired immediately after their course, and for good reason. The months after your teaching stops is when you carry on your learning independently, testing out skills and understanding how they apply to real-world industry challenges.
Get Volunteering/Freelance Experience ASAP
The single best way to sell yourself to an employer is to show them examples of previous work, and there is no reason why this work should have been paid. Build a website for a friend’s business, or even a made-up brief (such as an example website for a bakery).
Use websites such as Taproot or VolunteerMatch to volunteer your services for non-profit organisations. This is a way to real world experience and devote your time to a good cause! Alternatively try using websites such as Upwork to gain freelance gigs, such as one-off projects or tasks.
Have a Solid Portfolio and Resume
Once you’ve got a few projects under your belt, make sure you use them to your advantage. Create an online portfolio of your work, making sure you have the source code well documented for each. Focus on your proudest work and make sure your portfolio really stands out. The best portfolios emphasise a particular skill, something that will make you stand out when applying for a job. However, being able to display diverse skillsets and prior projects is also important.
If your prior work experience is unrelated to your new desired positions (such as if you used this Bootcamp to switch careers), there’s nothing wrong with giving your Bootcamp projects, either from during your course or after, prime position on your resume. Simply detail 2-3 projects, including your accomplishments, skills developed and outcome.
Write a Cover Letter
In cases like this, when you may have made a big lateral step in your career, it is very important to write a cover letter in order to explain your goals and ambitions. Emphasise your enthusiasm for your new sector and the ways in which your previous work can still offer transferable skills.
Do not try to hide the fact that you have only recently shifted into programming but be aware that many employers are dubious of recent Bootcamp grads because of their relative lack of experience. It may seem like a big step backwards, but be open to entry-level positions and internships, as this is a key way to build experience and get your foot in the door. Provided you have the skills and the dedication, you’ll rise the ranks in no time!
Network Through LinkedIn and In-Person Events
The world of programming is surprisingly social, and peer-support is very common. Whether it be looking over your code, swapping tips or connecting you to industry leaders, getting your face out there and meeting other key stakeholders is a vital part of the job search. If the idea of heading into an in-person event gives you shivers, you can always sign up for online social meetups, conferences, or LinkedIn groups (or check out our “networking tips for introverts” article here!).
Prepare for Interviews with Practice Challenges/Questions
There are endless resources online offering practice challenges, similar to (or sometimes identical to) ones offered in the hiring process for major tech firms. It is important that you try these out, so you can get to know the kind of thing they might throw at you and prepare as well as you can. Websites like Codebyte and GeeksforGeeks offer plenty of practice tests to get you started.
Alongside this, you may also want to read over sample interview questions, to familiarise yourself with the type of thing they may ask you. Programmers often find it very hard to talk about their coding and translating technical concepts into conversational English can take more practice than you think. Check out Glassdoor for up-to-date lists of interview questions commonly asked by individual companies.
After grinding so hard for several months on end at a Bootcamp, it can be tough to hear that you are just one of thousands of graduates every year who have gained identical experience and skills from the same course. Therefore, it is vital that you do that little bit extra, to make you stand out from the crowd. This might be reflected in the type of projects you take on, or the way you end up specialising, or it might be that you’ve really taken the time to complete your LinkedIn profile.
Consider your application from your recruiters’ perspective and assess whether what you are offering is different from someone who took the exact same course as you. Just as we said before, it is not necessarily the course itself that makes you employable, but what you do with it afterwards that counts. Demonstrate how you’ve converted those skills into real projects, and how you’ve continued to grow and learn beyond the course. Stay active on Github, engage in forums and coding groups, and lean on your coursemates for guidance and support.
If you follow all of these steps (and continue researching up-to-date guidance), you’re sure to land on your feet and secure the role you’ve been dreaming of. It may take six months or even several years to get there, but keep your sights on your goals and the reward will be all the more sweet.