Charlyne Fothergill is an integral part of Lighthouse Labs as our Director of Career Services and is also a well respected member of the Canadian Human Resources and Tech industry. She has helped hundreds of our students secure employment as Junior Software Developers over the years and continues to strengthen our connection to each community we serve. So, to wrap up our Job Search series, Charlyne provided us with her top five tips for landing a job out of Bootcamp.
Take Ownership of Your Job Search
From my experience, the students who get jobs the quickest are the ones that take ownership of the search. Although Career Services does connect students to employers, a large part of what we do is preparing students for and coaching them through the job hunt. It’s important that students understand that they are ultimately responsible for landing a job. From ensuring your resume is up to date, to researching companies and preparing for interviews, there is a lot of work that has to be done to receive an offer. The students who put in the work are the ones who are going to have the most success.
Tell People You Are Looking
A lot of the time, the job search comes down to who you know. The job offer might not come from your friends but from those second and third degree connections. Don’t be afraid to tell people that you are looking and scream it from the rooftops! Go to as many meetups as you can and tell people that you’ve just completed a Bootcamp and are looking for a job as a Junior Developer. A common mistake that I’ve often seen in networking is that a lot of people think you have to talk directly to executives or the hiring manager. In reality, it can be just as good to talk to the developers in the companies you are interested in and learn more about what they do. A lot of developers enjoy talking about coding and they are the ones that will understand where you are coming from. Make sure to follow up with them and they could end up referring you to a job with the company.
We had a student a while back who really wanted to work for Unbounce. He went on Linkedin and connected with a lot of their employees, went to their open houses, and learned how to use their software. He ended up getting a job offer from Unbounce. The tech community is really tight knit in a lot of cities and you’ll be surprised how quickly you can get traction into a company through networking. Sitting at home and sending resumes into the abyss is not going to help you that much if it’s your only strategy for finding a job. As a junior developer, it’s really hard to differentiate yourself on paper. You need to go meet people in person and show them who you are.
Fine-Tune Your Portfolio and Skills
Make sure that your resume and Github account are up to date and include all your most prominent coding projects. Github is especially important because some employers will only look at your Github account when evaluating whether to invite you in for an interview. As a Bootcamp grad, you probably don’t have a ton of prior coding experience so it is important to show off your coding chops in your portfolio. Also get specific about what you did and the technologies you have experience with. Companies need to know exactly what you can do if they are hiring you for a technical role. At Lighthouse Labs, during week six of Bootcamp, we check over all the student’s resumes and we have found that the ones who have the most up to date portfolios generally do better in the job search. It is also important to fine tune your resume and skillset to fit the industries and roles that you want. If you really want to get into a specific industry, Fintech for example, go do some research on what tech stacks they use and start learning those tools. Also fill out your resume with skills relevant to the roles you are applying for.
Prepare for Interviews
If you are lucky enough to get an interview, make sure you do your due diligence beforehand. First off, do research on the company that you are interviewing with. I do most of the hiring for Lighthouse Labs and it is a big red flag to me if someone doesn’t know what we do. Also, prepare for the questions the interviewer might ask you. Forbes has a Top 50 Most Common Interview Questions article that I recommend that everyone read as part of their preparation. Rereading the job postings can go a long way in anticipating what will be asked as well. If they ask specifically for time management skills or proficiency within a certain tech stack, you are probably going to be asked questions about those things. Come up with very specific examples about times when you used skills they ask for and prepare answers for the interview. Also don’t fall into the trap of “what you can do for me” in the interview. It’s a common mistake that I see a lot of junior developers make. Make sure the emphasis is on why you are right for the role and not the opposite.
Bootcamp students at Lighthouse Labs come from very diverse backgrounds and I find that sometimes they discount their abilities when they go into interviews for development roles. Many of our students have very interesting work and life experiences that have given them numerous soft skills that can give them a leg up on the competition who might have very little work experience. Take the experiences from your past that may be relevant to the interview you are going into and make it part of your narrative when discussing the role.
A lot of interviews for development jobs will involve a specific technical interview as well. For most Junior Developers, this will be the toughest part of the interview. Make sure that proper steps have been taken in preparation of this. There are a lot of free resources online that you can read to prepare. We encourage all our students to read Cracking the Coding Interview as well. Some companies have open source projects online you can look at and those are a great way to prepare for the technical interview also.
Finally, when you are in a technical interview, remember that the interviewer is there because they want to see your work and thought process. Make sure you are showing your work and don’t be too focussed on getting the right answer. A lot of the time the questions are made intentionally to be above your skill level as a Junior Developer. If the technical interview is done remotely, a good trick to use is to attach a readme document to the Github Repo explaining your steps. If it is in person, make sure you talk through your thought process thoroughly.
Most importantly, remember that finding a job is tough work. You can spend a lot of hours networking, practicing technical interviews, and preparing your answers and not land that job you really want. It’s important to stay positive and not get too down on yourself throughout the process. Some people get lucky and they find a job immediately, some take a bit longer. Remember, there is a role out there for everyone and at the end of the day it can come down to just one person liking you enough to give you a chance.