The following post was contributed by Joseph Rauch.
With the wide availability of coding bootcamps across the country, simply graduating isn’t enough to stand out among colleagues and attract the best employers. Spending an average of 12 weeks hacking day and night with qualified mentors will give you the necessary coding skills, but being an amazing programmer goes beyond your code. Keep reading to learn what coding bootcamp students should do after they graduate.
Continue Coding While Looking for Programming Jobs
The majority of coding bootcamp graduates find programming jobs shortly after they graduate, according to coding bootcamp curation site Course Report. There is, however, at least a brief period of time where many graduates are job hunting and networking.
People say job hunting is a full-time job, and it can be—but be sure you make time to continue coding. Coding bootcamp students spend more than 60 hours a week learning, on average, so simultaneously coding and job hunting should be doable. Employers would not like it if your coding skills were dull by the time you started the job.
Continuing to vigorously code after graduating demonstrates passion, said Audrey Scrugham, who works in enrollment and career services for Oregon-based coding bootcamp Epicodus.
This proves you enrolled in a bootcamp because you love to code. Employers can’t stand graduates who enrolled only to quickly find a high-paying job without any passion for the work. Don’t give them a reason to assume you are one of those graduates.
Continue Working with Your Mentor
The word “mentor” varies in its definition, depending on the context. Coding bootcamp mentors help you complete projects and learn more through the duration of the bootcamp. You say goodbye at the end, but that doesn’t mean they can’t teach you anymore. Consider staying in touch with them.
If they are too busy or you want a new mentor, try meeting more experienced programmers at networking events or work. There are also sites to help you find a mentor, such as Codementor. A mentor is anyone who knows more than you and invests time in improving your skills, so don’t think graduation means your mentee days are over.
Speaking of Passion, Have Great References Who Can Talk About It Along with Your Soft Skills
Employers won’t just look for passion via your online presence. They will ask your peers and seniors about it.
“When employers talk to me, what they’re looking for is passion,” said Eric Wise, founder of coding bootcamp Software Guild. Bootcamp administrators, Wise said, rate students on their soft skills as much as on their technical abilities.
If you were passionate during your bootcamp, ask mentors and administrators to act as references. Provide their information to potential employers, acquire LinkedIn recommendations and maintain professional relationships with them.
If you demonstrated leadership and other soft skills during your bootcamp or shortly afterwards, ask references to speak primarily about that. Employers will look at portfolios and projects to verify coding skills.
Then Show It With Coding Projects
Having an excellent GitHub, portfolio with websites you have built or a functioning app for employers to peruse is crucial. It’s all about visually demonstrating skills, according to Epicodus Employment Coordinator Rachel Bussert. This makes employers feel you are worth the investment, Bussert said, and less of a risk.
Many bootcamp students build a website or app as a requirement for completing a bootcamp. Nonetheless, this might not be enough. Your skills will improve after graduation, so use them to build something better and add to your portfolio.
These Projects Can Be Pro-Bono Work for Nonprofits
Nonprofits usually don’t have the budget to hire several full-time programmers, so they turn to crowdsourcing via online communities such as Free Code Camp. This allows programmers to meet this demand for free coding work and use it as an opportunity to build their portfolios, demonstrate passion, and, ultimately, land a job.
Software engineer Branden Beyers is one of many Free Code Camp alumni who improved his skills using the platform. The community gave him the confidence to succeed, Beyers said, which made it easier to find a great programming job and build his career.
The Government Needs Free Coding Work Too
Have you heard of civic hacking? Wise told Codementor about this trend where programmers unite to create technology that improves our interactions with the government.
Here are ways people commonly sign up for these projects and join civic hacking communities:
These are more opportunities to improve your skills, expand your network, and create projects employers can browse.
Volunteer at Schools Using Sites Such as Code.org
Kids need to start coding earlier to meet the demand for programmers, so schools need mentors. You can be one of these mentors and use it as a chance to stand out. Code.org is a great site for finding ways to volunteer and use your skills to benefit the next generation of coders.
You Can Do These Things — And More — With Hackathons
Employers hire from hackathons because the frantic environment tests programmers’ ability to work well under pressure, meet deadlines, and demonstrate soft skills such as leadership or the willingness to collaborate with other programmers. Hackathons frequently produce apps or websites for governments and nonprofits, so it might be an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.
Here are popular hackathons and relevant communities you can join:
On a side note, remember that it’s not about winning. There are programmers who lost the hackathon but walked away with a job offer and valuable contacts.
Going to Meetups Will Help You Hear About These Kinds of Things and Further Build Your Network
Articles such as this one will help you get started, but going out there and meeting other programmers is invaluable. Meetup is a helpful site for finding other coders who are interested in the same work, programming languages or hobbies.
The people you meet at these events will talk about things you couldn’t possibly research, so take a break from your screen and make eye contact. And again, employers attend these events, too.
Stand Out in Online Communities
Platforms such as GitHub serve as more than a method of displaying your work. They are communities and social networks similar to LinkedIn or Behance.
Consider others, like GitHub, along with sites that are not specifically about programming but are helpful nonetheless:
- AngelList: a community where people look for startup jobs and fund startups
- Dice.com: a site for finding tech jobs
- Web.dev: a Google project that includes articles and tutorials
- Quora: a site where people ask and answer question in forum-style pages (surprisingly popular among programmers and coding bootcamps)
- Reddit: a popular forum site and online community that is more anonymous and unregulated than Quora but surprisingly popular among programmers as well
- Stack Overflow: think of it as a programming-only version of Quora
There are hundreds like these, so search away if you want more options. Don’t underestimate these, though. Programmer and product designer Nicole Dominguez found an opportunity via Reddit as she was building her career. You could have a story like hers.
Programming Is Only Half the Job
As is the case with most careers, having the minimum technical skills isn’t enough to stand out. So don’t spend too much time in your coding cave. Try at least several of these tips.