4 Austin career coaches share job searching tips for recent coding school grads

December 7, 2016

While there's always a demand for quality tech talent in Austin, finding a job after graduating from a coding boot camp can still be difficult.

To help, we caught up with four career advisers from area coding schools to hear resume and cover letter tips as well as common mistakes to avoid while you launch your job search. 

 

Responses via Nicole Umphress, career coach

What resume tips do you recommend for coding graduates?

This is true for any job seeker: your resume should only be one page.

  • Have a headline statement along with your contact information.

  • Highlight relevant experience for the job you're applying to. For example, if you were a marketing manager prior to a coding school and you're applying for a junior web development position at an advertising company, combine your skills and knowledge of the industry into one organized list.

  • Use relevant verbs/keywords throughout your resume.

  • For projects that you worked on in class, highlight your specific role and contribution in the team. 

How can graduates overcome experience requirements on job postings?

In your cover letter, acknowledge the requirements listed on the job description, and although you may not meet some of the criteria listed, highlight your excitement about the company and the applicable experience and knowledge you do have.

What's a common mistake recent grads make, and how can they avoid it?

Not sending cover letters, or if they do send them, leaving them generic and not being specific to the role they're applying to because they just "want a job in tech" or "to make more money than their last job." Being passionate about the company and role is important and often overlooked. 

What advice do you have for recent graduates in the job market?

The Austin job market can be tough and competitive. Job seekers need to be creative in their search and try a variety of tactics like using their school's alumni and community networks, going to meetups, finding mentors and using LinkedIn to make direct connections. 

 

Responses via Whitney O'Banner, campus director and career developer

What resume tips do you recommend for coding grads?

Non-technical skills can be transferable to technical jobs; dig deep when evaluating previous work experience, and include employment history that demonstrates leadership, results, efficiency or other relevant skills for a career as a software developer.

How can graduates overcome experience requirements on job postings?

This requires a shift in the mindset of job-seeking code school graduates. Experience requirements on job postings are often templates for “the way things were” – a (sometimes arbitrary) requirement of three to five years of experience or a traditional computer science degree.

The experience of code school graduates is a look ahead to “the way things will be” –  less chronological experience, but a demonstrated ability to ramp up on practical tech skills quickly. Understanding this fundamental idea and how to navigate a job posting with this understanding are part of the career services we offer at Dev Bootcamp.

As a result, graduates are less likely to be deterred or discouraged from applying for jobs for which they may feel underqualified.

What's the most common mistake recent grads make, and how can they avoid it?

While in the midst of a job search, most bootcamp alumni neglect to measure the successes they achieve along the way because the only win they see for themselves is getting a job.

As part of building their portfolios between interviews, many grads are working on open source projects, participating in hackathons, and volunteering on friends' projects. Whether you ship code, automate tests or anything in between, quantify your contributions to track your progress over time. Revisit this often to reveal exactly how much you have improved, which can help combat impostor syndrome and make for great interview material.

What's the best piece of advice you have for recent graduates in the job market?

Find a programmer (or two) with a style that you like and emulate it. Different types of creators – musicians, writers, architects – can be inspiring role models, so identify a developer who does what you want to do and use their work as a motivational guide.

 

Responses via Jeremy Bergeron, director of career services

What resume tips do you recommend? 

Your resume format will likely depend on whether you are changing careers or not. Most coding bootcamp students are changing careers. Your resume is about your future and not your past.

It's not a confessional; it doesn't have to be a "tell-all," so stick to what's relevant and marketable. 

  • Don't write a list of job descriptions; write achievements!

  • Promote only skills you enjoy using. Never write about things you don't want to repeat.

  • Be honest. You can be creative, but don't lie. 

Know what jobs you'll be applying for so you can target your resume.

How can graduates overcome experience requirements on job postings?

Leverage a thoughtful cover letter. There is no silver bullet to overcome the "experience requirement."

  • Explain why you should be considered anyway.

  • Highlight what you can do and are currently developing to show you're serious about the path of development.

  • Avoid this altogether by attending meetups, and start meeting people in the community. A large percentage (70 to 80 percent) of jobs are filled before they reach the job boards. 

What's one of the most common mistakes recent grads make, and how can they avoid it?

A common mistake I see is a lack of networking early on. Start going to meetups, conferences, hackathons and tech events. Do this consistently. It's a mistake to wait until you've graduated from a bootcamp. Start now! Find a mentor, find folks who are on the same path as you. The community is amazing, but you have to step out. 

What advice do you have for recent graduates in the job market?

This journey is worth it. Remember why you chose to dedicate all of this time to learning a completely new skill. Challenges can and often do arise throughout this job search process. It's how you perceive those challenges that mean everything. Stop being afraid of what could go wrong, and start being excited about what could go right!

 

Responses via Sam Kapila, director of instruction

What resume tips do you recommend for coding graduates?

For code school graduates, resume advice comes in two buckets: general tips to make your resume stand out and specific tips to position yourself for a technical role.

If you’re a recent code school graduate, don’t downplay your non-code experience. Talk about how it makes you a better developer or designer. 

For example, let’s say you trained dogs at the puppy obedience school (like one of The Iron Yard’s Austin grads). Mentioning that you know how to work with clients and can communicate to them how their pet did each day is worth mentioning because communication skills are crucial for any tech position. 

Do not trust a built-in spell check to do the work for you. It may not grab all grammatical mistakes and some employers will (rightfully) disregard your resume if there are more than one or two errors.

Use an active voice: e.g. “Managed a team of 20” rather than passive voice: “I had been managing a team of 20.”

How can graduates overcome the experience requirements on job postings?

In design and development, there are a ton of job titles thrown around and used differently by different employers. This is especially true in Austin. Instead of getting attached to a title, review the job requirements closely.

It’s always a good idea to reach out to someone who works at the company, or is familiar with the company, to ask questions about specific requirements. It is also important to remember that even if you don’t meet every single requirement, you should still apply or find out which requirements are absolutely necessary. 

If you interview for a position and don’t end up landing the job, respond to your point of contact thanking them for their time, and ask if they have a few minutes to give you feedback on what you can improve on. This will be helpful during your next interview. If they can’t, that’s okay too, but take the time to think critically about what you can do differently next time.

What's one of the most common mistakes recent grads make, and how can they avoid it?

Not saying thank you for an interview, coffee or portfolio review. There are a lot of amazing people willing to assist new developers and designers, and sending a thank you email or handwritten note goes a long way. 

And on that note, when it comes to asking for help, even though someone in the industry offers it, don’t just shoot off a quick email with an attachment saying “please review.” Take the time to craft a personalized email when asking for help, reminding them how you know them and give them ample time to provide feedback.

What's the best piece of advice you have for recent graduates in the job market?

I have a few, but below are my top pieces of advice:

  • Take the time to get to know people in the industry and build relationships. Be interested not interesting, and ask them about their experience and their advice on how you can get your start. 

  • Not all “front-end junior developer” or “UI Designer” roles are the same. Read those job descriptions and study them with a fine-toothed comb.

  • Read blogs and articles about the company you’re applying to. Referencing these in an interview will show you went the extra mile to familiarize yourself with the company and are excited about working for them!

  • Don’t stop learning. Use Oprah Winfrey or Elon Musk’s weekly five-hour rule and learn something new every week, whether it’s related to code or not!

 

Images provided by Shutterstock and featured companies. Responses have been edited for length/clarity. 

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