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Nicole Aldurien
Nicole Aldurien

Posted on • Updated on

My Tech Bootcamp Experience: The Job Hunt

I've been writing most of these posts in a retrospective fashion and trying to stay in order. For this particular topic, though, I think it's worth aiming for something a little closer to real time. On the week-by-week posts, I've been going back to the class Github repo for a refresher on what we did that week. But with the job hunt, there are no reminders like that to look back to.

So, I don't want to bury the lede: I completed DigitalCrafts on May 20th, accepted a paid internship offer with Lumen Learning in late June, and started on July 12th. I've been with Lumen for just over two weeks and I'm loving it! But this post is primarily about the process of getting there.

When I started looking for a bootcamp and trying to narrow down my choices, I definitely looked for those with good job placement rates and robust career services. Learning to code is great, but if I just wanted to learn it as a hobby rather than a career, I would have gone the self-study route. I was a bit frustrated that so many of the bootcamp reviews on places like CourseReport were from brand new graduates who weren't working yet; I wanted to know what kind of jobs they ended up in and how long it took them.

After I finished the last week of my program, our cohort manager sent out a link asking us to review DigitalCrafts on CourseReport. Aha! Suddenly all the I-just-graduated reviews made sense. Other coding bootcamps are likely doing the same thing. I will definitely write a review over there eventually, but I'd prefer to wait until I have a full-fledged non-intern spot (hopefully with Lumen!) so I can write the sort of review I'd have wanted to see.

On the whole, I have only good things to say about DigitalCrafts' career placement support. The work put in by the Career Services staff is plain to see, as is the boost their efforts give to new devs coming out of the program. I know I definitely made the right call in choosing a bootcamp that was going to be in my corner when it came to actually getting a tech job.

A huge part of what Career Services does is Career Week, but I'll talk about that more when I (eventually) get to writing up week 10 of the program. What's proven even more valuable, though, are the connections they build with companies looking for zero-experience, junior, and mid-level talent. By the time I started applying in earnest, I wasn't worried that I just flat-out wouldn't get a job, because I saw so many openings come across their job-postings Slack channel that were explicitly open to bootcamp grads and others with no professional experience.

To me, that meant I had the luxury of taking a bit of time to target jobs I would really like rather than just applying to literally anything that I qualified for. (Not all companies are created equal and Glassdoor reviews are your friend, folks!) I started by applying only for explicitly-remote positions. After dealing with multiple not-at-fault accidents in just a couple years on Atlanta's roads, all of them occurring on my way either to or from work, I'd rather avoid a commute if I can at all help it. My plan was that if time went by and I couldn't find something remote, I'd reassess.

Along the way, I mentally split the job postings I saw into tiers, and planned to move down the list as needed until I landed something. Obviously everyone has different things they value in an employer/workplace, but I still figure my tiers are worth sharing here:

1) Remote full-fledged junior positions. There aren't many of these. Most "junior" spots of this sort still ask for 1-3 years of experience, and if the recruiters I spoke with at a recent career fair are representative, that's a hard minimum.

2a) Remote contract or contract-to-hire. I haven't really seen a lot of truly junior contract positions. Usually client companies looking for a contractor want them to be able to jump right in with minimal orientation.

2b) Remote internship positions. There's a bit of uncertainty baked into these, because obviously getting on full-time is not guaranteed. You also generally have lower pay and fewer/no benefits for the duration of the internship. But I feel like bootcamp grads are stronger candidates for these as compared to many full "junior" roles, and those who were able to build good projects during their studies are in a great position to acquit themselves well while on the job.

3) Remote development-adjacent jobs. These are full jobs for things like tech support, onboarding the company's clients onto their platform, assisting with AWS integrations, etc. They're tech jobs but not development jobs, though some have a future of possibly moving into development.

4) In-office development jobs.

5) In-person contract or contract-to-hire. This suffers from the same problem as #2 as a potential employer of new devs - a lot of places hiring contractors want someone more experienced.

6) In-office development-adjacent jobs. These are pretty plentiful (at least in my large city) and many are explicitly zero-experience-required.

7) "In exchange for extra training, we own your soul for X amount of time" jobs. These often masquerade as remote, but if you read the fine print (sometimes really fine...sometimes only mentioned on Glassdoor), after a period of initial training, you literally need to relocate anywhere they say in the entire US for ~2 years. Some even make you sign a contract to this effect. If you changed your LinkedIn title to "Software Developer" and immediately got a DM from a recruiter, there's a good chance they work for one of these companies.

8) "Jobs" that are really career accelerators, whether free or paid (things like Year One, Make It MVP, Hatchways, etc.) These have their place, especially if it's been a minute since you finished bootcamp and you need something else you can put on your resume to show continued learning and development. But they're not paid work, nor are they an internship for a company that might turn into a full-time role. And some of them want more of your money!

If you're still reading after all of that, thank you! Unfortunately, I still have a few more comments...

I want to reiterate how important and helpful DC-CS staff were on this journey. EVERY single employer that reached out to me for an interview was due to their work. Not only were these jobs ones I found on the DC job-postings Slack channel, they were also all ones whose description read "apply at this link, and then send your resume to (insert Career Service person's email here)". In these cases, DC has a specific contact within the company to whom they send your resume, so you don't get stuck in whatever automatic weed-outs may come from just applying online. Every single job I found on my own via Indeed/Dice/LinkedIn/etc and applied to resulted in 100% complete radio silence. Jobs applied to after seeing them on DC's Slack yielded a couple of tech screens getting sent my way, but nothing more. Only the spots that were BOTH found via the DC Slack channel AND had "hey send your resume to us too after you've applied" as part of that post actually resulted in conversations with hiring managers.

To me, the huge difference in employer engagement between applying with DC's backing and without it is worth what I paid for the bootcamp all by itself. Had I gone the self-study route, or paid less to attend a no-career-help bootcamp, I think would have ended up either paying for one of those #8 career accelerator things or throwing in the towel.

Instead, I had a paid internship offer right around six weeks from the last day of the program!

THE NUMBERS:
(Shared because some have asked)

2.5 months from first application to ultimate accepted offer

37 applications in total, all targeted with cover letters (I am just not built to be a send-my-resume-everywhere kind of job seeker; I think I'm physically incapable of applying for something without tweaking my resume and writing a targeted cover letter.)

  • 24 instances of total radio silence
  • 7 flat-out rejections
  • 2 tech screenings, 1 followed by a rejection email, the other by total radio silence
  • 3 contacts from for-pay (from the job seeker) job placement services that were masquerading as "internships"
  • 4 requests for to set up interview dates at places where further research showed the companies weren't a good fit
  • 3 interviews
  • 1 code review challenge
  • 1 kinda-offer/timing-mismatch (internship start date not mentioned until I asked about it in the interview; I had a conflict; they basically said "we want you for our next internship round in August if you still want it by then")
  • 1 paid internship offer at a place that does valuable, meaningful work and has an amazing culture!

In case anyone else is wired like I am and tried to do the math, no, the numbers don't add up. All of the job-placement services and a few of the not-a-good-fit interview request places were companies I'd never actually applied to. Others are listed more than once - like obviously the place that extended an offer also interviewed me first!

The moral of the story? If you're going to pay for a code school/tech bootcamp, spring for one with good career placement help, or plan to eventually work with with one of the (free or paid) places that focus specifically on placing people in their first tech job.

Top comments (1)

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allthecode profile image
Simon Barker

24 instances of total radio silence

Makes me so mad, there is no reason for companies to ghost people. A quick no is so much better than silence. I think all developers should remember this feeling an aim to make sire that when we are in hiring positions to make sure that no application goes unanswered, even if it is automated - at least people can move on.

Congratulations on your job success though!

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