How to find a developer job after coding bootcamp

If you want a real developer job, a coding bootcamp won’t get you in the door. But if you add some real experience, you’ve got a shot. Here’s how to get that experience

I'm not a big believer in those code bootcamps. And I was reminded why recently as I was hiring for developers at my company. So far, few people I've interviewed from one of these bootcamps has managed to convince me that they'd be any kind of asset—even as an entry-level hire.

The folks that did convince me to go further have had one major thing in common: They had actually gained some experience outside the code camp.

Here are some ways you can do the same:

  1. Work for local nonprofits. Local nonprofits are almost always in need of HTML and JavaScript and especially help with WordPress. Don't go after your A-list big-money non-profits like the United Way; they have full-time teams. But do go for your local groups. There is no money in this, but usually the bar for participation is low and it also shows employers you're a decent human being.
  2. Participate in open source. I guarantee if you try and fork Angular the day you finish coding camp, you'll probably not be too successful. However, you may have found a component or two that you want to improve. Maybe you want to fix your favorite JavaScript presentation framework up a bit. The best place to start is a project's bug database. Look for something small and achievable at first. I rate candidates with an active GitHub account above those who don't have one, because I can go look at their work on something real. I’m not the only hiring manager who does that.
  3. Get some gigs from Craigslist. While it wouldn't be my first resort, there are usually some odd jobs listed under "web/html/info design" at this classified-ads site. You might have been going to Craigslist to find jobs, but you'll also find some freelance work there. Sometimes this is just a local restaurant or small business, who are more willing to try newbies.
  4. Check out startup events and incubators. When you see "Seeking technical cofounder," that means they want you to do the work on their "idea"—which is usually a really dumb app that is a derivative of something that already exists—for free (I mean, um, equity). Also, if you haven't found this out yet, there are a billion ideas but never enough time to work on them, and most ideas come from people who think the "idea" is the hard part (actually running the business and marketing is harder). Still, find one of the talkers who can give you a good reference. Again, this is not your first choice.
  5. Try or similar site. You'll have to compete with people in countries with extremely low costs of living. So again, you're doing this for the experience and to build a portfolio. However, the bar to participation is generally low, and some of the same people trolling the startup events and incubators will be on there, but this time they may actually pay (but not very much).

What you're looking to do in the process of such efforts are these:

  1. Build a portfolio. You want something that lets a potential employer see what you can do—that you can actually code, not just talk about it.
  2. Learn to run a software project in a less-structured environment. Knowing how to code in class is different than knowing how to code something completely from scratch.
  3. Build your people skills. I'm not talking about winning friends and influencing people, I'm talking about learning how to negotiate requirements. That's probably a more important skill than any language you'll learn.

Even though it is not hard to get a job, getting a better job means climbing a bit higher in the candidate pool. Your bootcamp or self-learning courses (which are probably better) gave you some basics. But to stand above the other people in your bootcamp when jobhunting, do some real projects and build your skills, portfolio, and GitHub record. You’re much more likely to get a real job that way.

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