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James Cox
James Cox

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How long did you have to wait?

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QUESTION

How long did you have to wait until you got your first interview?

Background

I graduated from Flatiron School in March. I had a couple projects and not much else to show for my studies, except a tremendous hunger to keep learning and creating as many apps as quickly as I could.

After moving to Austin, Texas in mid-May I have:

  • sent out over 300 applications
  • built over 10 new apps and two different portfolio sites
  • had a few different conversations with recruiters
  • attended virtual meetups
  • networked on all the social media platforms
  • coded consistently every day between 6-10 hours a day

And I have yet to have ONE interview. Is that crazy?

FOLLOW-UP QUESTION

Do you ever wonder what in the world is wrong with you?

I would love to hear YOUR experiences and how you deal with these kinds of obstacles / pressure to stay relevant and hopeful that things will turn around!

I am not a negative guy, but when I look back at all the hard work I've been putting in, I am almost astounded that I haven't even had one interview. Makes you think!

Discussion (44)

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190245 profile image
Dave

Let me flip the script here a little - I'm a hiring manager (though, not in your country, and not in your languages/skillset). I've been interviewing a fair amount recently (despite the economy), hired 2 juniors and I'm looking for maybe 1-2 seniors.

One of the juniors I just hired, is currently waiting for his final marks from his university course. I couldn't care less about where he studied or what his grades will be, the interview told me everything I needed to know to make my decision (and the only coding test he got was me sharing my screen on Skype).

The whole industry has a number of problems with recruitment and candidates having to jump through hoops, but I know what it's like to be in a candidates shoes, so I changed things up.

Keeping this specific to you... you graduated, two months later moved to Texas, and have since applied for 300 positions. In 4 months. That's 75 applications a month - around 2 and a half a day! You've been networking lately - recruiters network, and hiring managers network (across companies & industries). I can promise you, in my industry & country, at least 7 people would have talked to me about you, and the conclusion that almost everyone would have is that you're "spamming" applications - you don't care where you work, you just want to get your foot in the door so you can start climbing the career ladder. As a result, your resume would be almost instantly filtered out by HR before someone like me sees it, and you would probably never know why.

I'm sorry if this sounds harsh, but it's the reality of the job market. Sure, all candidates just want to get paid, but as a hiring manager, we would like to at least pretend you want to sit in our office because you like what we do as a company.

And that, is the one thing you can do to save yourself from the current situation.

Putting in 2.5 applications/day, there is no way you can dedicate the time to tailoring your application/resume for the specific company (and hiring manager) that you're targeting, especially while also coding for 6-10 hours a day. Slow is fast. So slow down, use a sniper rifle (and breathe) instead of using a shotgun.

You might think that putting in the effort to tailor applications is a waste, because most of the time you never hear back. But we have a lot of different needs as hiring managers, and as I said, we network too - so why not use that? For example, if I see a well thought out application/approach for a junior dev, but I don't have a seat to fill, maybe the candidate knows other languages that one of our team uses and their upcoming projects mean they'll SOON be hiring - I'll forward it over. Maybe a friend in a completely different industry is hiring for the same skillset that I was - I'll forward it over. If a hiring manager forwards your resume to another hiring manager, you completely bypass the HR selection process, and word of mouth virtually guarantees you an interview.

Imagine what it would be like to apply for Joe Blogs Inc, who have a total of 3 developers on staff... and you get a reply from Google inviting you to apply there instead, and your work comes with a glowing recommendation from the CEO at Joe Blogs Inc because she saw your personal projects. That's why you need to slow your roll a little.

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jamesncox profile image
James Cox Author

Dave,

Thank you so much for writing such a thorough and insightful response. That was the wake-up call that I needed. I had not considered that putting in so many applications would actually hurt my chances.

This is incredible advice, and while it stings a little to think I may have damaged my chances or even my reputation, it also comes with a little bit of relief. Not only is it okay that I slow down and take my time with applications, but it is seems critical!

I have a lot to think about: how and when I apply to roles, researching roles more and tailoring my resumes more specifically to that role. I am so grateful to you and everyone who took time to give me feedback. That is exactly WHY I posed this question and this community is awesome.

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190245 profile image
Dave

The one thing to remember about the IT world (and it probably translates wider still) - everyone makes mistakes.

We estimate tasks, the estimates are wrong. The tasks themselves are at best, inaccurate. The requirements that drove us to create those tasks are wrong. Customers complain about our software being wrong, and sometimes the customers are wrong.

In your position now, if a recruiter phoned/emailed with something along the lines of "I've got a guy to talk to you about, he probably has a bit of a bad reputation - but that's simply because no-one told him how to get things right at the start, I think he's worth looking at, can I send the resume across?" ... my reply would be "sure, lets have a look."

Getting things wrong isn't a problem, especially when you don't know any better. Putting things right when you know they're wrong is the true sign of character.

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jamesncox profile image
James Cox Author

While I will agree that I didn't "know any better", I could definitely sense that something was wrong. More specifically, I knew I was doing something wrong. But I didn't know what that was! Which is why I posed this question and I am glad I did.

I always think about the definition of insanity (apparently not a direct Einstein quote!), "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

I am just glad to break out of that cycle and explore new methods and practices, and hopefully learn from my mistakes and right my wrongs!

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jamesthomson profile image
James Thomson

The bonus to this approach is you are more likely to end up in a position (and at a company) that you ACTUALLY want to be in. There's nothing more soul sucking (even as a jr because let's face it, we deal(t) with some shit as jr's) than working on projects that you have no interest in for a company that you don't value.

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jamesncox profile image
James Cox Author

One of my teachers in school always preached about how important, in his opinion, that you carefully consider your first position and that you are able to both willing and able to stay there for 1-2 years at least. According to him, you don't want to be bouncing around from role to role, gaining little experience, traction, and possibly even a bad reputation.

So I guess in a way it's a blessing that I haven't been in serious consideration for some roles, because truth is, there have only been a handful of roles that I've really wanted and been excited to apply for.

I think it will really help me to spend some time just researching and narrowing down roles that I truly want to apply for.

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jamesthomson profile image
James Thomson

That's some sage advice from your teacher. It's far better to take your time and find a jr role with a solid mentor (or at least prospect of one).

It also goes the other way, if you happen to find yourself in a toxic environment, get out! Some jr devs make the mistake of thinking "I just need my 2 years", but it will be detrimental to your mental health and possibly career where it's possible to burn out or become jaded.

I wish you all the best and know if you focus on what you want, it will come your way 👍

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pedrogaspar profile image
Pedro Gaspar

I think this is super important, yes. This blog post should be very helpful in helping you change your mindset into crafting unique applications.

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lhebia profile image
Lawrence Hebia

"So slow down, use a sniper rifle (and breathe) instead of using a shotgun."

Love this.

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nibble profile image
Joseph Mawa

Wow. That is an invaluable tip there. Thanks a bunch.

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khrome83 profile image
Zane Milakovic

I recommend looking for internships. It’s a great way for companies to try you out. The downside of schools like Flatiron is that they are somewhat untested for most employers.

I think given the pandemic, many companies are also making less investment in growing tech teams. You typically only backfill positions with the same level. So for a role to be open, it’s a entry level person having to leave the role. Which is kinda rare since after a year or two they are no longer entry level...

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jamesncox profile image
James Cox Author

Thanks for comment. Not gonna lie, you paint a pretty bleak picture 😭

I guess considering an internship isn’t a terrible idea. I mean I’m just coding for free at home. Wouldn’t be too much difference coding for free for someone else lol.

I keep hearing there’s a “serious need” for developers even now. I guess they mean “developers with 10+ years of experience” etc

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khrome83 profile image
Zane Milakovic

A lot of internships are paid! My company has paid internships. It’s just maybe a better job fit. Hopefully you find a paid one.

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jamesncox profile image
James Cox Author

Oh! I would gladly accept a paid internship! I’m definitely not too proud for that. I think tomorrow I will readjust how I search for jobs and see what there is in the way of available internships. Thanks for replying!

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khrome83 profile image
Zane Milakovic

A few years ago I hired three interns from a boot camp in Denver. Worked out really well. The next year I hired one, didn’t wrk as well.

I am not in the position to hire right now, so I wish you the best. But keep optimistic. You got this!

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jamesncox profile image
James Cox Author

Thank you, Zane! I am just encouraged that people ARE getting opportunities out of bootcamp and even if you aren’t able to hire at the moment, hopefully there are others who are able!

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ruannawrites profile image
Ruanna • Edited on

I agree with the internship idea – it ended up working out well for me. After a six month intern role I am transitioning to a full time role! I know it may not be your first choice, but it’s a great way to gain experience and get your foot in the door. Continuing to network and attend virtual events, etc. are also good ideas. Even volunteering is another way to add experience to your resume and make connections and gain experiences you might not have had otherwise. Most important, keep putting in the work! Sounds like you certainly have been. Don’t give up – I know it can be discouraging. For me, when I was on the job hunt and making a career change I re-evaluated what wasn’t working and tried some of the things I mentioned above and then it was a chain reaction of opportunities that started things moving forward for me. I’ve written a few posts on job search / career change tips on here that might be helpful - keep up the great work!

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jamesncox profile image
James Cox Author

I would be very open to an internship, especially if it’s a paid role. It sure as heck would beat not working at all!

I mean I do enjoy working on random personal projects etc. But I’m getting antsy for a transitioning into a dev role and growing my career.

I agree about volunteering and in a similar vein, contributing to open source. Those are both things I could be doing more for sure.

Thanks for the encouragement and great ideas. I’ll check out your articles soon!

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sebnitu profile image
Sebastian Nitu

Just taking a glance at your portfolio, I'd recommend trying to get some "real" projects under your belt. Have you tried freelancing at all while you're trying to land a gig? The apps you have are for sure cool, but they do come off as quick side-projects for the sake of having things in your portfolio, if that makes any sense.

One other critique I have is that they all have a very similar aesthetic (Material UI). Especially if you're selling yourself as a full stack, that includes front-end and companies wants to see that you can implement custom designs without a design-opinionated framework.

The hard part is getting that kind of work into your portfolio is hard without that first job or an internship unless you're picking up freelance projects. That's my advice, at least. I think your work is awesome by the way, best of luck to you!

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jamesncox profile image
James Cox Author

Sebastian,

Thank you for both your kind words and feedback about my projects.

I have not tried freelancing yet, and it is something I definitely want to explore. I guess a little bit of "imposter syndrome" has crept in in terms of putting myself out there, offering my services in an official capacity. But freelancing would definitely push me to level up my skills and, like you mentioned, showcase "real" projects in my portfolio.

As far as using Material UI, I hear you! My first few projects were styled with my limited CSS skills. Someone suggested intergrating something like Bootstrap, Tailwind, etc. and I really liked the Material UI documentation and community support.

Now that I've used Material UI successfully a few times, I have improved my design and styling chops to the point where I can implement my own CSS ideas and skills.

Thank you again for your feedback and I am so grateful to you and everyone who replied with their insight!

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charlesdesiderio profile image
Charles Jerome Desiderio

Yeah, not a single interview for me, either. I guess the real take-away is that putting out applications doesn't really work and that networking is where it's at. There's apparently a whole world of 'unadvertised jobs' that you'll never hear about unless you find out about it through connections.

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jamesncox profile image
James Cox Author

That’s what I’m starting to understand too. I am going to attend more virtual meetups and learn to be more bold on LinkedIn, twitter etc asking for help, recommendations, inside scoops etc. What’s the worst that can happen??

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charlesdesiderio profile image
Charles Jerome Desiderio

Yeah I need to do the virtual meetups thing too. I’ve been making more connections on LinkedIn but I’m not mentally at the ‘message people and ask for jobs’ phase yet. 😅

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karandpr profile image
Karan Gandhi

3-4 years.
Bombed my first interview spectacularly.
Got ghosted by recruiters a lot. My mistake . My resume was crap and I had high opinion of myself.
Aced the next interview. I got an interview on a fluke really. Was not really keen on doing a job but decided to do it cos I was bored anyway.
Aced the one after that. I was fully convinced I bombed this one.Learnt lot of stuff in my second job. And they just kept me around for way longer time.

Bombed the next few ones cos well I had a high opinion of myself ....

Follow up answer.
It's pretty much a fluke. It's more of what the interviewers/company want rather than what you are capable of. Don't read much into it.

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jamesncox profile image
James Cox Author

Karan,

I definitely agree there is some level of "flukiness" when it comes to the job hunt. Some things are simply out of our control. I am okay with that. But I am glad I asked the question, because I've gotten some great feedback about specific things I was doing wrong. If that is something I can control, I definitely want to improve those and course-correct.

I don't know if I have as high of an opinion of myself like you described (nothing wrong with that!). I try to always keep a realistic view of myself. But after X-amount of failure, it's hard to always remain positive and keep pushing forward.

This helped re-center myself, my priorities, my understanding of the market, etc. I'm going to take a day or two and reflect on what changes I can make and then get back to work!

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karandpr profile image
Karan Gandhi

Of-course !
You asked the question, and you have received over a dozen perspectives already. This one is mine ofc. Someone else will have different insight.
Oh yeah it's difficult to be positive, but you don't have to be positive all the time. It's ok to be feel discouraged and overwhelmed. Then you just have to regain composure and look at the solutions in hand and fight another day.

One of my friends gave roughly 200-250 interviews. Basically one interview everyday and 2-3 on some days. After his interview , we used to chat up, look at his possible blunders ,have a laugh and then prepare for the next interview. Those were crazy times but it was cool. He was very happy the day he finally cracked an interview. We celebrated in the usual manner though.

I suppose having a friend or someone to discuss makes the difference. Maybe you won't be able to crack interview but atleast you will be able to have a laugh at the end of the day.

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annietaylorchen profile image
Annie Taylor Chen

Sorry to hear this, but... all grads this year is particularly unlucky due to the pandemic. Before we have to compete with CS grads, now, not only them, but also other seniors developers who lost jobs!

One possible way is that you dig into algorithm, if you can pass those, there is a chance to work for some remote work companies.... those often use that as a first step of screening. Of course, to us self-taught people this is just as daunting as getting a CS degree...

As for portfolio, think about what your potential clients would want. Build an MVP that's as serious as possible. Companies often want to see if you understand the whole aspect of project, not one page app.

Seeking open source project and contribute to that, or even consider unpaid internship (I hate that but now it has to be an option) to gain "team work" experience, mentorship, and possible recommendation from another developer. With this, it would be easier as you're somewhat "vetted" by some developer. I've seen quite a few graduating from the same school you mentioned posting msg, none had an easy time. So you're not alone.... it's just not easy, especially this year. :(

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jamesncox profile image
James Cox Author

Annie, thank you for your reply and insight!

Open source is something I've been thinking about a lot lately. I have yet to contribute on any serious level (other than silly typos and things like that) and a huge part of me has some serious imposter syndrome when it comes to contributing to other code bases, but I know it's an important step and I should definitely dig in sooner than later.

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annietaylorchen profile image
Annie Taylor Chen

Yeah I understand. I often feel the same! But maybe you can also do a larger project and put the code on github, it’s kinda open source too except there’s no pr etc... but it’s a start! Some, but not all, good companies do look at those. Unfortunately if it’s only recruiters or hr they are unlikely to check your code but you can still persuade them by having a good portfolio with meaningful projects.

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stereoplegic profile image
Mike Bybee

Formal (not freelancing), full-time (not as a client value-add in an IT role) development? More than a decade.

After school (non-traditional college grad)? A few months after getting an IT degree I no longer had any interest in using (but got just to show that I knew what I already knew for SysAdmin jobs I was no longer looking for upon graduation), and a month before I began my second degree program (this time for development, and again just to prove I knew what I already knew, just as useless as the first).

I advise neither the shotgun nor the sniper approach to applying. Get yourself a nice kitted-out AR-15 instead. You want both accuracy and capacity; taking not a few, but rather several, well-placed shots.

What do I mean by this?

  1. Set up catch-all templates for both your resume and your cover letter, but apply with variations on the latter at the very least. a. Your resume shouldn't change much. You're just adding skills and experience (and/or education/certs). When you add, chances are you'll want every company you apply to to see it. Only tailor it if there are things in your skills section obviously irrelevant to that particular role. b. You cover letter needs to be personalized, or else it's pointless; not just to the job description, but based on your own research of the company, its stated vision/mission, and any opportunities you may have identified in said research (Stack Overflow Careers makes this easy by pre-populating the cover letter you filled in from your last application).
  2. Your application is unique, though you may still be able to form a text template based on recurring questions you encounter (no matter how stupid they may be, e.g. "In 150 characters or less, tell us what makes you a great fit").
  3. Think long and hard about what a company reveals about its culture by making the application needlessly difficult. This includes those who ask you to upload a resume and then still expect you to manually fill your employment/education/certs, those who try to exploit "Quick Apply" (for greater reach) but then hide "Send an email to blah@blah.blah to apply" to filter out those who actually use the mechanism, or those who expect you to record a one-way video interview (because they can't be bothered to give you their time, while expecting you to give yours). Such behaviors are red flags about what it's like to work for them, and your time is better spent on other potential employers.
  4. "Real projects" need not be huge. I love it when applicants create utilities. Maybe it's an ESLint config, or some nifty little CLI tool, or a shell script to provision a fresh Mac or Linux install. If they're useful, give them repos and link to them on your portfolio site (note to self, both GitHub and portfolio are ridiculously out of date).
  5. (adding to the gun metaphor, defend those you care about): Don't ever waste your time on someone who demands your references upfront (most likely a staffing agency). You depend on these people, they're doing you a favor, and you need to protect them from overexposure (which they will get if you submit them for preemptive reference checks).
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190245 profile image
Dave

I submit that an AK would be better than an AR, and the trigger should be on single shot (maybe burst, at a push). Never full auto.

The most important part, is the gunmanship. Are you standing right? Are you holding it right? Are you breathing correctly between shots? Etc.

But I think the gun metaphor still holds up in both our cases.

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nibble profile image
Joseph Mawa

300 applications! Dude that is serious. I am in the same situation too, though i haven't sent a single application yet. I have been learning web development for almost a year now (I started in September) last year, 5 months full time since lock down started in march but the difference is i haven't sent a single application yet. Still building my portfolio. Unfortunately for us, these are not normal times but we need to keep trying. Hopefully things will turn out for the best.

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jamesncox profile image
James Cox Author

I am positive things will definitely turn out for the best! I am sure that I will look back at this post and laugh a lot. I am glad I asked this question, because I have received a lot of great feedback and advice! So I don't regret putting myself out there and now I've got a lot of work ahead of me!

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hemant profile image
Hemant Joshi 😼

How long did you have to wait?

I am in hurry and had a overview of your post, but the answer to the title come from my heart..

The same what I ask myself before sleep every day, how long will I have to?

I remeber it was a buzz in my head

  • how long I have to wait untill I learn react? When I learnt react
  • how long will I have to wait to learn nextJs After I learnt.
  • how long will I have to wait to graduate and placed in Facebook, Google or a Tech Giant?

🙎

I kinda feel like Life is for a loop of buzz how long will i have to wait
Where the arguments are (i>0, i<infinity, i++)
🤔

Day 0 waiting for day 1

Day 99999 waiting for day 100000

The title got into my head🙂

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jamesncox profile image
James Cox Author

I hear your point! We are ALL waiting for the next thing. Whatever that might be.

But, I'm still glad I asked the question. I got a lot of great responses and feedback, and a nice little wake up call, so I don't keep running around in circles and never finding my path!

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stargator profile image
Stargator

Hey James,

I graduated in May of 2010. It took me 4 months before I had prospects respond to me. Like you I spent every day working on my resume and searching for jobs. As others have stated, I spent time to Taylor my resume to each job I was working on. I didn't have as much experience as you, so I tried to tailor as much as I could. But I also wanted to show my broad experience.

Uou seem to have more experience and can likely cut some of it out to only the experience that directly relates to given ad can stay in the resume.

For me, after 4 months I went to a job fair at my university and I applied to a job online. There was a recruiter at the job fair that'was interested and gave me the info to apply for opportunity.

The recruiter for the online ad called me and asked me a few questions. And then asked when I would be available for a phone interview. The job was in another state. The point of view was scheduled the next day and very quickly afterward they gave me an offer.

I took the offer and started working two weeks later. That was then this is a whole another market and it's unique to the current situation.

But just take it one day at a time, give yourself time to breathe and reevaluate what opportunities you actually interested in. There's no point in applying for a job if you don't think it's interesting to you or that you would be engaged in it every day.

However, one big piece of advice I would give you is concerning after you get a job offer. As a Junior level person, you may not be able to negotiate the salary much. But do take a look at the cost of living where the job is located and make sure that the salary offered Will be able to help you live there.

For me, I moved to Washington DC and had a $49,500 salary. At the time that, covered my rent and utilities but didn't leave much for savings. Luckily, after 9 months I found a place I could split with a roommate. Stayed there for 3 years and I never paid near the same rent as I did when I lived alone.

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jamesncox profile image
James Cox Author

Thanks, Stargator, for sharing your experiences.

I do understand that the current climate has its own unique challenges. I think more companies are offering remote-only roles right now, which actually could be a factor that works in my favor. But, like you and others pointed out, I was going about it all wrong.

There is one wrinkle to all this I didn't mention before. It is a bit maddening, but I can only laugh about it now. When I attended Flatirion, I was slated to graduate in January, but I was struggling with the JavaScript section, and even though I could have pushed on, I decided to re-do that section over. I switched to a different cohort with a new teacher and new classmates, and I am incredibly glad that I did. It was just the right environment for me and I learned how to push myself and found the passion for coding that was missing prior.

However, my first cohort graduated in January and they were able to attend in-person meetups (before everything shutdown) and I know that a few of them landed offers and roles almost immediately. Flatiron had a lot of resources to help new graduates make connections and connect with employers. Unfortunately Covid disrupted a lot of those resources. And that's when my cohort and I graduate. Mid-march when all the s*** was hitting the fan. Shortly after that everything shut down.

Had I graduated in January I might have had the face to face time with companies. However, in my heart I know I would have still been struggling, not in love with coding, and not nearly as strong a candidate.

I think that's partly why I threw my resume at anything and everything. Almost like a panic move, because I wasn't going to get to meet employers face to face, and I wanted my name out there. I am pretty sure I received advice from some to just apply and apply and apply. What's the worst that can happen?

Well, apparently you can get a bad reputation!

I know we are all doing our best. I just need to do my "best" differently.

Thanks again for replying and hopefully sooner than later I look back at all this and laugh a little.

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annietaylorchen profile image
Annie Taylor Chen • Edited on

I came to this article and thought I could share with you:
dev.to/jacobjzhang/getting-your-fi...

"In today's job climate, provided you keep improving your resume, it could take anywhere from one to six months to land something after graduating from school or a bootcamp. If you've been building up your resume with personal projects, contract/consulting work, and OSS projects-- and it takes longer than six months-- you should try to identify what the biggest blocker might be."

There there, maybe a number you can refer to. ;)

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justinwozniak profile image
Justin Wozniak

I'm in the same boat 😔

Graduated in January... I've had a couple interviews but no takers yet.

The day will come tho, for all of us!!

Just keep at it bud 🐸

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jamesncox profile image
James Cox Author

Thanks Justin, sorry you're having to deal with all this too. But I'm sure you're right and we can laugh at all this one day.

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annietaylorchen profile image
Annie Taylor Chen

Hi James, yesterday I read a wonderful book on how to create an awesome portfolio, especially for juniors. He has a lot of experiences coaching students and has been at the hiring side too. I think you should give it a read: (it's FREE)
joshwcomeau.com/effective-portfolio/

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andrewbaisden profile image
Andrew Baisden

Getting interviews was quite easy for me in 2019 it did not take more than a few days or even a week. But now because of covid the world has turned upside down 😅

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allenmiller304 profile image
Allen Miller

You graduated in the middle of pandemic, tons of software developers lost their jobs, so the market is full with developers with tons of experience at this moment.
But the good news, since you are very active, start a Startup, and look for funding and grow from there, this should be the best time for it.

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jamesncox profile image
James Cox Author

I actually love the idea of trying my hand at a startup. Even if it fails miserably. But, I'm currently devoid of ideas that inspire me to put my all into it. I have a few ideas rumbling around, but I'm not sure they are at the level I am truly passionate about.

I need to take time and reflect on what I really want and what really matters to me, identify a problem and how I could address that issue with code.