The following is a guest post from SendGrid engineer Jeffrey Matthias.
As a graduate of Dev Bootcamp, I am often asked for advice as fellow graduates begin their first job search. Admittedly, it can be a daunting task, perhaps harder than the bootcamp itself.
Your New Job: Find a Job
You want to get a job working full time as a developer? Landing that job is your new job. I don’t care what the situation is, plan to spend at least 40 hours a week on finding work and keeping your skills up. Don’t go too crazy beyond that, as it needs to be sustainable. It took me three months after leaving Dev Bootcamp to land a job at SendGrid, but it was totally worth the time and effort.
Spend half of your 40 hours per week learning and coding. The other half you should spend networking and job hunting. Go to every meetup under the sun. Take people out to coffee who seem to have common interests, even if they don’t have a direct connection for you. Volunteer to help organize and run events.
Learning and networking are equally important. I find that when I give that advice, people tend to do more of whichever they are more comfortable with. That won’t be as effective.
The Interview Process
Don’t turn down any interview and don’t be picky about who you apply to. A company’s product is absolutely second fiddle to the culture and the people you will work with. The common joke about me at work is that I suck at email and I am not particularly fond of it. But I do love my company culture and the team I work on and wouldn’t trade them for the sexiest product under the sun. Email is not sexy. Job happiness is.
On top of possibly missing an opportunity to land the perfect job, think of every interview you can get as an opportunity to practice for ones that really matter.
Both the learning and the networking are helping prepare you for interviews, too. As far as the learning goes, start a project that you care about. Invariably, it will force you to learn something outside of vanilla Rails and that will be very helpful. More importantly, it will give you something to talk about in interviews. Even if your code isn’t amazing, writing something that works and you can talk about will leave you leaps and bounds ahead of someone who has just gone through a lot of tutorials. No one wants to review the code for your Hartl blog. However…
Make sure you’re comfortable test driving your code the way that the Hartl tutorial does it. There are plenty of styles out there, but I’ve found that most are a variation of his flow with capybara and rspec.
You’re Riding a Roller Coaster
Prepare your significant other for how long the job hunt can take. You are suddenly more marketable and you can find work, but it isn’t easy. Get buy-in that it is likely a one to six month process. Remind your significant other than you are treating the job search like a job itself. You won’t always be available in the middle of the day to do non-job-hunt related things. Remember, this is your job, get buy-in from the people who matter. Dealing with undo pressure from people in your life makes the whole thing harder.
Remember that this search is a roller-coaster. I had a solid verbal offer that was a dream job. I accepted, only to have the non-technical CEO personally rescind my offer because she couldn’t get over my experience. But, I met some awesome people through that process. I would be surprised if in the future, either I help them into a new position, or they help me. And besides, I’m actually happier to be where I am now than if that job had worked out.
Not every company will be open to hiring junior developers. Right now, SendGrid isn’t hiring at bootcamp experience level and I’m sorry about that. But keep in touch, because this might be a great place for you down the line. Maintain the same attitude with any of the firms that don’t hire you, regardless of the reason. It’s part of the roller coaster.
Engineering Empathy is Your Special Sauce
I’m not kidding. Up until now, this advice could apply across the board to any graduate of any developer school. But engineering empathy makes you a Big Mac. Learn to play it up, to use your new communication skills to wow people with your honesty and your ability to take feedback like no other. Every company is now getting hit up left and right by coding school grads. Your coding skills aren’t going to blow anyone’s mind. But being technically competent on top of being someone who people want to work with is your best way to get your foot in the door. I still stand 100% by my quote on the alumni page.
I wish I had known the 4Hs way back when… SendGrid is a company focused on culture fit. No matter your skills, you don’t get hired unless you are a match for the culture. I wish I had known their standards when I had walked into any of my previous interviews. There are four of them–Honest, Hungry, Humble, Happy. They are very good to keep in mind when you interview, no matter where you are trying to find work.
So, set your expectations. Believe it or not, getting through Dev Bootcamp may end up being the easiest part of your transition, but you did make it. And if you survived that insane schedule without your brain frying, you can tackle this next phase.
If you’re just getting started, read some advice from experts on the best language to learn programming.