I started out my adventure nearly 10 months ago with no technical experience and just landed my first job offer as a software developer! How’d I do it, and what is my advice to others? In this article, I will discuss life after a coding bootcamp. I will help you figure out what to do, how to keep learning, and possible careers after a coding bootcamp.
Here are some of the pitfalls I would caution others to avoid and some tips I would encourage you to try after a coding bootcamp. Learn more about life after a coding bootcamp, how to prepare for job interviews, and more below.
Take a Vacation After Coding Bootcamp
Since I had worked so hard during the bootcamp, consistently studying 12–15 hours each workday, I convinced myself that I was entitled to some downtime after I graduated. This “vacation” wasn’t a productive one and simply consisted of a poor sleep schedule and extra media consumption. However, this is not the best option when choosing what to do after a coding bootcamp.
The reason this impacted me so harshly was due to the dulling of my newly acquired programming skills. When I finally made my way back in front of a computer I spent my remaining time on the job search process and speaking with recruiters. This did not leave me with much time or energy to practice software development, and as a result, my skills suffered greatly.
While I would definitely encourage coding bootcamp graduates to reward themselves for their heroic efforts by doing something nice and fun, that reward needs to have a specific and definite start and end date. Ideally, this reward should be constructive and rejuvenate your mind, body, and soul. A skiing or hiking trip are excellent ideas, as is visiting a tropical beach for a week. Sleeping in, eating pizza, and watching The Office are less ideal.
Remember, the point of this reward is not to become a sloth, and you aren’t rewarding yourself because you “deserve it”. Reward yourself carefully and judiciously in a manner that will rejuvenate and invigorate you so that you can tackle the next step in your career with joie de vivre. When done right, this is one of the best choices of what to do after a coding bootcamp.
Focus On the Coding Skills That Matter
Obviously, that was ridiculous and not an example of what to do after coding bootcamps. That amount of work, especially for a relative newcomer (I only had four months of total software experience at that point!) was impossible. Add that to the fact that my working day was about four hours long due to my horribly mangled sleep schedule as a result of my “deserving a break”, and you get a perfect recipe for disaster.
The result of all my scatterbrained approaches was predictable. I didn’t manage to pick up any of the new skills I had hoped to, and I forgot much of what I had most recently learned (C#/.Net stack). After a month or two of this backward and destructive state, I had effectively reverted my skills and abilities to a very primitive level where, although I still understood much of the programming concepts that I had learned and could read other people’s code, I could barely write a new line of code.
The answer to this problem is to focus! This is perhaps the most important lesson I learned and the most common piece of advice that I give for life after a coding bootcamp. When you graduate, do not try to learn everything! After a coding bootcamp, pick ONE tech stack and split your time between applying to jobs and working in that stack. Do not neglect any of the pieces in that stack for too long lest you forget them.
If you want to know what to do after a coding bootcamp, remember, focus on ONLY ONE stack and study it in-depth. Do not hop around from technology to technology.
Be Reasonable in Your Job Search Expectations
When it comes to getting a job after a coding bootcamp, there are several elements I will address. I know as well as anyone that when you are unemployed after a coding bootcamp, it may feel very stressful. However, bootcamp graduates have the technical skills to land a high-paying career in tech. In addition, bootcamp grads often have access to resources like career coaches and interview prep. Even with in-demand skills and expert advice, I know firsthand that the career transition period is overwhelming.
When it comes to life after a coding bootcamp, finding career opportunities is the most crucial. So, in this section, I will provide various tips for getting a job after a coding bootcamp. The bad news is that it will take a lot of work. The good news is that a job in tech is well worth it. Here is how you can find the right career opportunities.
Which Positions Should I Apply to?
If you are applying to jobs, or have recruiters calling you with potential job leads for a career in tech you had decided not to focus on, you will be tempted to apply to them regardless (“maybe I’ll get this job!”). The problem then arises once you start doing interview prep or coding challenges in these unrelated areas since it totally distracts you from your focused stack.
My recommendation is not to apply to those jobs after a coding bootcamp at all. If you want to, apply and let them know in the interview that you aren’t focusing on those areas but can pick them up again very quickly while showing off your abilities in the area that you are focusing on. I have several friends who went off and got jobs after their coding bootcamp in Java or other languages by demonstrating their skills in C#. A good company wants you for your ability to think and learn quickly, not for how many methods you have memorized.
Think of a laser; if you diffuse the light over a wide area, it won’t penetrate anything. However, if you concentrate it over a small area it will penetrate well. That’s my perspective on which jobs to apply for and how to study. So, when looking for careers after coding bootcamps, stay focused.
How Long Will It Take Me to Find a Job?
I was a bit naive about what happens after a coding bootcamp. I honestly thought that I would land a job within a week of graduating, two weeks at the most. Obviously, that was an insane projection (I’m starting to see a pattern here…).
To that end, I turned down the opportunity to apply for the open TA position at the Coding Dojo, which was an enormous mistake in hindsight. My friends who became TAs out of the gate maintained their schedule and vastly increased their knowledge and experience, in addition to earning a paycheck as part-time employees.
So, how long did it take me to find a job after my coding bootcamp experience? It took me a little more than six months for me to land a job offer. However, my experience may not best reflect yours since I also had a long period where I was barely applying due to my perfectionism (“if I’m not the best developer in the history of the world, then there is no point in even applying….”) as well as spending several months relearning C# after my coding bootcamp.
All told, I recommend budgeting a minimum of three months, both financially and emotionally, to fund a job after a coding bootcamp experience. The job search process can be grueling, and sometimes us bootcamp grads just need some time to decompress before we set out on our new career path.
Do More Than Simply “Business as Usual”
Something that I think helped me land my new job (although this is simply based on my musings and has not been verified by my new employer) was my willingness to learn more than the standard curriculum.
Instead of simply studying the same basic algorithms again and again (reverseArray()…) I also like to learn more theoretical and higher-level concepts. During my life after my coding bootcamp, I spent time reading some Git documentation, learning the SOLID principles, and spent two days designing a messaging system using a technical diagram for a job interview.
In the scope of your job search, however, you can bring up this more in-depth knowledge that you have gained and differentiate yourself in a positive manner. This indicates that you are interested in learning concepts comprehensively and this may pique an interviewer’s interest in you.
Be careful not to fall too deep down this rabbit hole, however. Make sure you work on your actual coding while also learning more theoretical concepts, which will be invaluable during your software development career.
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Have a Schedule
It took me six months to find a coding job after I graduated from a bootcamp program. Six months! That’s a long time! Sometimes, however, this is just what happens after a bootcamp. Some of my friends who also struggled to gain employment as a developer resorted to other tech-related positions or simply gave up and switched their industries.
I won’t fault anyone for their choices, after all, everyone has their own personal situation which may or may not be conducive to long-term job seeking with a narrow focus. However, if you want to sit there for months, bashing your head against the wall of job seeking, you need a schedule and place to carry that out.
The Coding Dojo has a six-month access agreement with bootcamp alumni, and I took full advantage of that. Every morning I woke up and came to the Dojo where I sat, studied, worked, and applied. The Dojo staff was extremely accommodating and allowed me to use their space as long as I didn’t bother or disturb the current students. I was even granted permission to retake the C# stack, with provisions that prevented me from interfering with the students who were learning it for the first time. This is not just my experience: if you read any Coding Dojo bootcamp reviews, you can see that many other students have only good things to say about the instructors.
The ability to be in an environment where I was surrounded by people studying technology and where there was a schedule really helped me persevere. Especially since, at first, I didn’t know what to do after the coding bootcamp program ended.
Some of my friends who didn’t feel they needed to come back to the Dojo after graduation eventually lost their passion and spent lots of time playing video games. Unfortunately, this is often what happens after a coding bootcamp. Since I know that I’m not strong enough to work out of my home without losing focus I knew that having a place to go to work, one where I was required to wear adult clothing, was indispensable to my long-term success.
I kept a normal schedule as if I was working a normal job. I woke up on time (5:30 AM!), learned, prayed, and went off to “work”. At 7 PM I would either go to a networking event, the gym, or head home. Creating and maintaining this structure was essential in helping me prevent burnout while I studied and searched for a job. As such, setting a specific schedule, whether you have a job or not, is one of the best things to do for life after a coding bootcamp.
Prepare for Interviews Thoroughly
This is something that I wish I had taken more seriously at the beginning of my job search. The interview stage of the job search process is often the hardest to get through, at least for me it was. They can be intimidating for job seekers. It always feels like there is so much on the line, and oftentimes there is. One thing that helped me was practicing the practical skills that are needed in an interview.
I did a lot of mock interviews with my friends so that I could work on my eye contact, posture, and pronunciation. I also did technical interview practice by finding different coding challenges online. One thing that I really had to learn was how to communicate my soft skills effectively. At the beginning of my job search, I was so focused on my technical skills (as you have probably seen in this guide already) that I totally overlooked how important things like critical thinking skills and teamwork are to employers.
So, coding bootcamp grads, even if you are applying for an entry-level developer role, you need to practice your communication skills. Any career opportunities you go for, no matter how techy they are, will require more than coding skills. It is easy to get wrapped up in the technical coding world during life after a coding bootcamp, but don’t forget how important soft skills are.
Lucky for us job seekers, there are many different books out there that can help you prepare for an interview. The process of interviews is as old as time, and everyone has gone through them from store clerks to presidents. And, as we all know, they aren’t always a walk in the park. This is especially true for technical coding interviews.
When I got lost trying to prepare for my interviews, I decided to turn to the experts, or at least those who had enough credibility to get published. The books listed below are helpful resources for learning the practical skills needed to ace your next technical interview!
Top Books to Nail Your Interview
- Cracking the Coding Interview by Gayle Laakmann McDowell
- 40 Algorithms Every Programmer Should Know by Imran Ahmad
- Programming Interviews Exposed by John Mongan
- Coding Interviews by Harry He
- Coding Interview Questions by Narasimha Karumanchi
I know I just told you that books are great, but my preferred way to prepare for technical interviews is through online courses. Luckily for me, there are tons and tons of online courses that can help bootcamp grads better prepare for coding interviews. Although they often come with a price, here are some of the best online courses I found.
Top Courses to Prepare for Your Interview
- Master the Coding Interview on Udemy
- 11 Essential Coding Interview Questions + Coding Exercises! on Udemy
- Technical Interview Practice with Python by Codecademy
- Nail Your Next Full Stack Development Interview by Interview Kickstart
Again, I know I said I prefer to learn through online courses (I am a bootcamp grad after all), but if I am being honest, free online courses are truly the way to go. Life after a coding bootcamp can be difficult financially. From recovering from tuition payments to the uncertainty of finding employment, I was not willing to throw money around during my life after a coding bootcamp.
Top Free Courses to Ace Your Interview
- Technical Interview Prep by CodePath.org
- Mastering the Software Engineering Interview on Coursera
- Coding Interview Prep by freeCodeCamp
- Java 8 Interview Questions Preparation Course on Udemy
- Front-End Interview Prep on Udacity
There were times that I felt quite alone during my life after a coding bootcamp. Before I started going back to the Dojo, I felt like I had suddenly lost touch with the coding community. Sure, I had friends who were in the same boat as me, but, like I said earlier, they were playing a lot of video games.
Then, online coding communities came to my rescue! I don’t know why I didn’t think about it earlier but there are tons of online communities that anyone can join to discuss and learn about all things coding. The big benefit of these communities is that you can talk to people who are also new to the industry and also learn from experienced developers. All in one place! Check out the best online communities for coders for life after a coding bootcamp below.
Top Communities to Help You During the Job Hunt
- Stack Overflow
- Digital Ocean
Life After Coding Bootcamp: Lessons Learned
Here’s a synopsis of what you should and should not do after you graduate from a bootcamp:
- Give yourself a time-constrained reward for getting through your program.
- Determine what tech stack you want to focus on and what jobs you want to apply to.
- Create a maintainable schedule.
- Spend some of your time learning high-level concepts.
- Find somewhere to go every day where you can work (not at home).
- Expect the job search to take you a minimum of three months.
- Keep on working!
Remember, if you’re feeling discouraged, inadequate, or like an imposter, don’t! This is often what happens after a bootcamp. However, you have come far, and your skills are likely far greater than you appreciate. Do not expect perfection from yourself since literally nobody is perfect. Work as hard as you are able to, and you are sure to succeed! Especially if you follow these tips on what to do after a coding bootcamp.
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