What You Need to Know Before You Apply
So, you’re a coding graduate. Hooray! Now what? Resumes, along with your website, are the most important tools for coding graduates, so you should make sure both are as up-to-date as possible. Your website is an ongoing showcase of your work: it’s where you tell your story, as well as a place to show your value and professionalism. Your website should have a custom URL, easy-to-find contact information, and a responsive design.
Here are some things coding graduates should have on their website:
- A bio or “About” section will help recruiters put a face to your name and get a sense of your personality and interests.
- A portfolio section including your past and current projects with documented source code.
- Links to social media accounts.
Next, remember to keep your LinkedIn profile up-to-date, since ensuring your career interests are accurate will help recruiters find you. LinkedIn also has a sophisticated algorithm to help you specify the types of jobs you are open to. It’ll even help you find mentors in your industry that you can ask for advice, and it’s a great place for networking—not to mention keeping up with the friends you made at bootcamp!
Last, but not least, don’t hide! Speaking to recruiters is the #1 way to boost your chances of getting your dream job. Attend tech events and conferences in your area—you’ll learn, meet some people, connect with people on LinkedIn, plus get some free pizza and snacks.
Completing Your Resume
You have a website. Check. You’ve been talking to people. Check. You have your bootcamp experience. Check. So, now what? There’s a high demand for coders, but there are also many coding graduates—competition is fierce. Now it’s time to make sure your resume is up to par.
- Take some time to document your coding career. First, write down all the jobs you’ve had and think about how they can relate to coding. Remember: coding is used in all industries, so even if you haven’t been a programmer before, you’ve probably had to work with code. Work on finding the right angle.
- Make sure the format is professional and non-hyperbolic. Recruiters don’t need your life story: they want to know who you are, what you know, and how you know it. Make sure you include contact information, a professional summary, a bullet point list of your skills, experience, and education.
- Don’t forget about soft skills! Do you have a great attention to detail? Are you a team player? Soft skills like these are key.
- Use strong action words. Replace passive phrases like “responsible for coordinating a workshop” with “coordinated a workshop.” Highlight your impact.
- Keep it up-to-date and concise. Make sure the information on your resume matches your website. It shouldn’t be much longer than a page if you’re in your early career.
- Make it scannable. Do some research about keywords in your target industry and include them.
How to Ace the Interview
Hiring managers will ask a lot of questions, especially if you don’t have professional tech experience. Here are some great tips to help you prepare for an interview.
- Beef up your background by entering coding challenges. They range from simple FizzBuzz challenges to more complex things, like building an entire app. Bootcamps give you the skills, and it’ll give you a good start, but it’s still up to you to put those skills to work so you can prove you can deliver results.
- Do your homework. That is, you should always research the company. What technologies and frameworks do they use? What are their long-term goals? What markets are they in? It’ll give you good talking points, it’ll help you understand what they’re looking for and how you qualify for it. The most important part of that is finding something the company needs you for. If you can come up with a statement that says, “I see your company needs innovation in this field, and I already have some ideas,” you’re well on your way to acing the interview.
- Come up with some questions about the job ahead of time. Remember: it’s an interview for them as much as it’s an interview for you. What’s the company culture like? Would you really enjoy the job? You’re looking at people you’ll be spending at least 8 hours a day with. Ask them questions, and they’ll see that you’re qualified and professional.
- Be personable. Remember, hiring managers are people, too, and they like to be treated as such! Give them a warm smile and remember their names. If you can bond with them, you’ve already done half the work.
What About Freelancing?
With an increasingly flexible economy, doing freelance work is an option. In fact, in a world where you have to have experience to get experience it can be the only option to start out. Many coders start out with freelancing, as it helps to get a sense of different work environments. Think of freelance as dating: you’re seeing what’s out there to figure out what works best for you.
Freelancing is hard though! Income is unreliable, and if you don’t have a network, it can be hard to find gigs. Remember, the most important thing clients want is credibility: they want to know that the job will be done on time and done well, so they need to be sure you’ll be able to do that. That said, fake it till you make it! Sort of.
You probably have more experience than you realize. After all, you did coding in your bootcamp, and you probably did some coding before it too. Make these experiences look as impressive as you can and use them.
And don’t forget about your bootcamp contacts! Advertise that you’re open for work. Let your previous professional network know that, too.
Remember websites like Fiverr and Upwork have a bunch of small opportunities. They may not be the glamorous Silicon Valley job you’re aiming for, but they’re a way to accumulate experience, even if each project is tiny.
Finally, remember: every business can use a coder. All of them. If there’s a business you like that doesn’t have a website, sell one to them!
Pros and Cons to Freelancing
Freelancing: can’t live with it, can’t live without it. With more and more people leaving desk jobs for an infinitely instagrammable digital nomad life, you might be wondering which is better. Well, thankfully we’re here to help you come to some conclusions.
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These days, the line between freelancer and salaried employee is beginning to blur, but for the purposes of this article, salaried employees are working full-time with a single company, while freelancers are self-employed.
Let’s start with freelancing. First of all, there’s all that freedom you’ve heard about. You can choose to take or not take a job, you find your own gigs, you choose who you work with. If you don’t jive with a client, finish the project and don’t pick up another one with that client.
A lot of freelance work is short-term, and you’re likely to be working on a few different projects at the same time, so it stimulates different parts of your brain. And if you work best from your poolside hammock, then that’s your new office!
But you should also remember that freelancing has its drawbacks. You don’t have coworkers, which is great for avoiding office politics but can leave you quite isolated. Perhaps most importantly, freelancers can’t unionize. This means that, across the board, coding graduates going into freelancing are seeing lower pay than their salaried counterparts and none of the benefits, leaving them to pay for insurance out of pocket. So, while freelancing gives you more freedom, if you’re looking for job security and a reliable income, freelancing may not be your best bet.
Career Karma Mentors Can Help Prepare You for Your First Coding Job
Finally, Career Karma mentors are here to help! Having a mentor can be a huge help for coding graduates. They’ll help you navigate the industry. It’s tough out there, even with skills as valuable as programming, but they know the ins and outs of the industry and may even have some contacts for you. That’s one of the most important benefits of a coding bootcamp and a center like Career Karma: experience and contacts to help you get on your feet.