In the early years of coding bootcamps (circa 2011 - 2013), there was a lot of hype around graduate success and landing software development jobs. Many bootcamps touted too-good-to-be-true job placement statistics, such as 98% of graduates landing six-figure jobs within three months of graduation.
Meanwhile, the disparity between senior-level and entry-level job success rates cannot be ignored. While software developers are in great demand, it appears that the demand for entry-level developers is not as impressive a statistic.
This begs the question: What is the truth? Are coding bootcamps effective at helping their students actually become software developers or not?
In my four years of experience of the CEO of Actualize learn by doing, I’ve learned many things about the software developer job market and what it takes to land a job in this field. One of the most important things that I’ve learned is that there’s a secret about the job hunt that is overlooked by most coding bootcamps and their students:
That is, you can be great at coding, but still not know how to write a resume, or land an interview, or perform well at an interview once you get in the door. In fact, I’ve seen the “weakest coder” students in the class be the first to land a job, and the “strongest coder” students be the last.
The truth is that this applies in almost every industry. You can be a great accountant, but still struggle to land an accounting position. You can be a skilled nurse but apply for job after job without hearing a single response. It’s important for coding bootcamps and their students to acknowledge that while learning to code is critical for allowing one to keep one’s job as a software engineer, one needs to learn how to job hunt in order to land that job in the first place.
So, how does one learn the skills to land a job?
At Actualize, we believe that teaching and coaching our students on the job-hunting process is just as important as teaching them how to code. That’s why we teach our unique “Job Hacking” curriculum as part of the bootcamp itself and then work individually with each graduate after they graduate on a personal and weekly basis.
We spend a lot of time researching the most effective job-hunting techniques. We’ve read more job-hunting books than people know exist, and we experiment with each technique to see how well it works for our grads. (For the record, there’s a lot of contradictory and just plain bad advice out there.) In fact, we’ve become experts on the job hunt, finding that these skills apply to most white-collar careers. I also started a separate blog about the hunt at JobHacking.com.
So, what are the most effective techniques to land a job after bootcamp? While there’s way too much information to relay in a single post, here are the most salient points:
Get a mentor to hold you accountable for your job search.
At Actualize, we work with each graduate on a weekly basis, providing job-hunting “homework” assignments for that week and check to ensure that the assignments were completed. At every juncture, there is a clear next step as to what the grad needs to move forward in the job search. There should never be a point at which a grad is stumped as to what to do next. If your bootcamp doesn’t provide this service, find someone who can. It’s like a personal trainer at a gym: They hold you accountable and make sure that you’re always making progress. Our graduates have told us that this accountability is one of the most helpful aspects of our service to them during their job search.
Understand the hidden job market.
Most people think that the only way to get a job is by applying to online job postings. Little do they know that this approach is extremely ineffective, as hundreds of other people are applying to the same role. Know that 80% of jobs are secured through referrals - that is, someone you know recommending you to a hiring manager for a position.
Micronetworking is the key to expanding your network.
We elaborate upon this in JobHacking.com, but another great book I recommend is “The 20-Minute Networking Meeting” by Nathan Perez and Marcia Ballinger. Personal branding sets you apart from your competition. We have all of our graduates create a personal website, in addition to a blog and video screencasts. While we have a special approach for personal branding, simply having a significant professional online presence already sets you apart from the 99% of bootcamp grads who don’t.
Understand the employer mindset to crack the interview.
While the technical interview is important - and we practice over 100 tech-interview questions during our bootcamp and apprenticeship, most people don’t pay enough attention to nailing the behavioral interview. At Actualize, we train our grads how to be unstoppable at their behavioral interview by getting them to think like an employer.
We’ve only scratched the surface here, and I recommend following JobHacking.com to gain access to all of these topics in greater detail, as we add new posts each week. But if there’s one thing bootcamp students should take away from this article - it’s that you must learn how to “job hack.” Simply knowing how to code is not enough to get a job. That being said, once you do learn how to get a job and apply those skills, you’ll be on your way to a very successful programming career.
Want to learn more about Actualize? Check out their Live Online course and reach what alumni have to say on SwitchUp.
Plus, Actualize is offering 20% to SwitchUp members for its Online Live course until April 15th! Check out the part-time online coding bootcamp that is 100% live over video conferencing for both instruction and exercises.