So, you’re planning on going to a coding bootcamp… It’s an exciting adventure that’s helped many people transform their careers. Over the last few years, I’ve seen over a thousand students attend Fullstack Academy and go on to the job search afterwards. Fullstack has one of the highest CIRR Compliant job placement rates, but there is also a range of success in individual outcomes among graduates.
That begs the question - What helps one person secure a job 1 month faster than someone else? Making $10k more?
And more importantly, how can you ensure you get the most out of your own journey at a coding immersive?
Today I’d like to share 6 strategies with you that I’ve seen help students get more out of going to a coding bootcamp. Some of the strategies are straightforward, others are a bit counter-intuitive. But you’ll get explanations of why they work and how you can use them to enhance your own coding school outcome. This all assumes that your final goal is to get a job as a developer.
Before we dive in, we need to cover an important point about how recruiting for software developer jobs works… Software roles are very much “hard skills” positions. Companies are looking for people who have the skills needed to write good code. That means your technical knowledge is the most important thing in your job application/interview.
This differs from many other jobs, where things like a brand name school/company on your resume, your personal network (“who you know”), and soft-skills are bigger factors in securing an offer. Those other things still may play a role in finding a developer job, but they’re not as important as your actual programming knowledge (and ability to demonstrate it).
Now, let’s get to the strategies you can use to maximize your time at a coding bootcamp. Here they are:
Since your future technical skills will be an important success factor in your job search, it stands to reason that you’ll want to learn a more advanced coding curriculum. To do that, you’ll want to do your research on different coding schools, aim for the more advanced ones like Fullstack, and then spend time preparing for the admissions process.
Now this might mean a longer timeline before actually starting a course, since it can take weeks or even months to get fully prepared for admissions at a selective school. But it’s worth the wait. If you rush things and join a school that has an easy admissions process, you’ll likely be attending a program with a more beginner curriculum. That translates to finishing with less overall knowledge, and likely not being as prepared for job interviews. Which is why you’ll want to aim high early on, for the more technical programs.
Once you’ve decided on a coding school, then it’s time to…
During the actual immersive course at Fullstack, students are strongly discouraged from applying to jobs until after graduating (it’s essentially forbidden). The reason is, your portfolio and skills are a driving force behind getting you a job. If you apply to jobs before you’ve completed your final project (the most impressive one), you’ll be selling yourself short in job applications.
But Strategy #2 isn’t about applying to jobs before graduating - It’s about warming up your personal/career network before you even start. Here’s how - Once you’ve decided to attend a coding bootcamp, go look into your professional network. Search and browse LinkedIn for connections in software related roles, and just at tech companies/startups. Build a list.
Now, reach out to them with a soft informational note saying that you’d love to catch up over coffee or a phone call, let them know that you’re planning on getting into software/tech yourself, and (here’s the kicker), you’d love to hear any advice they have on what technologies/career areas you should focus on in the coming months. Keep this note short (2-3 small paragraphs).
Why does this work? Because, unlike reaching out right when you graduate a coding bootcamp, which can easily seem like a veiled attempt at asking for job, this is a much lighter conversation seeking only their advice early on. Almost everyone is happy to share advice - it feels good to help other people, and it’s also empowering.
If you can get some advice phone calls or coffee meetings at this stage, you’ll get 2 immediate benefits: 1) High quality knowledge on the industry, direct from an insider 2) A warmed up connection who is much more likely to help you if you reach out 3-4 months down the line. After you finish your immersive program, you can then drop them a note saying something like “Hey, just wanted to let you know I just finished Fullstack Academy, and your advice to focus on XYZ technology really helped. I used it in my capstone project (link here). I’m on the job hunt now and am excited to showcase this skill along with the others I’ve built. Thanks again for the advice awhile back. If you’re available next week, I’d love to catch up again to get your thoughts on the good types of roles to target, and good technical events I could attend to network and continue building my skills”.
Now this person feels valued and invested in your success, since you followed their earlier advice. If they know of anyone recruiting developers, you’ll be top of their mind to recommend and share opportunities with.
As you’re warming up your network, it’s also good to...
This is another “do the work upfront” strategy… If you have any time before your immersive course starts, a great thing to do is to get familiar with the curriculum being taught. Obviously you won’t be teaching yourself expert level programming, that’s what the coding bootcamp is for. But if you can learn the basics of the important curriculum topics before you start the program, you’ll be well positioned to move through the curriculum faster once you get to campus. And there are plenty of free (or cheap) introductory tutorials on coding technologies available online.
The process is simple - in the weeks before the immersive course starts, download the curriculum and then find/complete beginner tutorials for as many of the topics as you can. Then, when you get to the lectures and workshops for these areas in the actual course, you’ll have already seen the syntax before, and had exposure to some of the underlying principles. Many of the topics taught at programming bootcamps are deep and complex - You’ll need to review them several times before getting a strong grasp on how to use them. So doing a first review before class starts, even if you don’t fully understand a tutorial, goes a long way.
Once you’re actually in the program...
Immersive code learning is different than any higher level education you’ve ever done before. 8+ hours per day, 5-6 days per week. Fullstack’s educational experience has often been described as “drinking from a firehose”, since it involves absorbing so much information in such an accelerated amount of time. It’s good to be aware of this going in, so you have proper expectations about how hard you’ll need to work, and how you should arrange your life during the course (hint: don’t plan many social events).
Because an immersive educational structure is different than what you’re used to, and can be stressful, this sometimes leads people to question the overall learning process. It’s unfamiliar and, quite frankly, at times a little unpleasant. So it can be natural to wonder if you really need to do everything asked of you. But remember this - At well established coding schools with long success track records, like Fullstack, the curriculum and educational structure has been refined and tested many times over. Everything is intentionally designed to help you be job-ready after graduating. So even if some small part of a course might not be appealing/convenient at the moment, you need to trust the process and follow directions to a T. It’s key to getting your best outcome.
We covered this earlier, but it’s important enough to be its own point - You need to wait on applying to job until you graduate. Your coding project portfolio is your new resume, and the final project you build at coding school is going to be the most impressive one. I’ve seen some students anxious to get to the job search and apply early, but this never ends well.
You’re not putting your best foot forward if you apply without a complete portfolio. And at Fullstack, a lot of the career services prep is also concentrated in the end of the course. This includes job search strategies and technical interview prep, which can mean the difference between a getting the dream job interview (and maybe offer), and not getting any response. Job searching while studying in the course also splits your attention, and prevents you from going as deep as possible with the technical curriculum.
Once you graduate, make sure you...
This one feels obvious, but you’d be surprised at how few alumni I see that truly leverage Fullstack’s Career Success team. Once you graduate an immersive program, you still have a lot of work ahead of you in the job search. And a high quality coding school will have a hands-on career development team that helps you in all stages of that.
At Fullstack, that help starts on campus, but much of it is available as a graduate: 1-on-1 “office hour” phone calls, introductions to other alumni at your target companies, new job leads from partner hiring companies, and more. Fullstack’s Career Success team is there to help grads with whatever roadblocks come up in securing a job. Whether that’s trouble finding positions to apply to, difficulty getting called in for interviews, challenges passing the actual interview, or even salary negotiations.
Remember: A top coding bootcamp’s lifeblood are its graduate outcomes. And if you’ve followed advice point #1 to get into a top school that follows CIRR outcomes standards, then the program you’re attending will be very invested in your success.
You now have proven strategies for getting your best possible outcome from attending a coding bootcamp. These recommendations aren’t necessarily easy to do, but if landing a top software developer job was a cinch, everyone would already have one! So keep all this advice in mind, and good luck on your journey!