So, you’ve just finished an intensive and exhausting programming course and you’re embarking on the first job search to kick off your career. Exciting? Yes. Difficult? Definitely. I have a few handy tips for you to help you steer your career in the right direction. Just read on!
Few Words about My Path
I’ve graduated from a 5-week bootcamp course about 18 months ago, and right now I’m a happy Frontend developer at Netguru – I work in my favourite technology, I have tons of ambitious goals ahead of me and I engage in community by giving talks on meetups and conferences and working on open-source libraries.
It does not really matter what path you choose to teach yourself programming. Coding bootcamps become very popular lately, so remember it’s a market. Choose wisely, and be prepared for ton of work during the course and after it. You will learn a lot in a small amount of time, but the important thing is to stick to it. You’ll still have a lot to learn after the graduation, so don’t plan long holidays just after the course – it’s important to exercise your new skills every day after learning so much.
I’ve started my first job 3 days after the course, but finding it can take up to 3 months, be patient! It’s important to keep yourself motivated, but also not to set yourself the highest possible target.
This is not a popular opinion, but I truly think you should start working as fast as you can. The first job does not have to be perfect, you don’t have to know yet in what direction you want to evolve. The most important thing is to gain any experience at all. Coding bootcamps are mostly great, but there are things they won’t teach you – as simple as working in a team, solving real issues, communicating clearly about problems and blockers, using tools popular in IT world. In your first job you should learn as much as you can, try new things, have time to see what you’re really into. And as soon as you’re bored or frustrated – start looking for a new one, there’s nothing wrong about searching and exploring the market before fully committing to one employee.
If you’ve ever heard, that retraining / making a complete career change takes just 2-3 months, you’ve been lied to. To fully grow into your new programming profession you need at least 6 month of working experience (working within a team) and at least one new technology or tool learned on your own. Find your specialization and put time into it – it can be prioritising UX or accessibility, vast knowledge of specific framework or library. If you don’t know something – be honest about it but also always read on the topic. Remember, documentation is you friend!
On the very start of your path you’ll be nor experienced nor skilled, therefore you will never be able to speak will 100% certainty about technological details. However, I’m sure that you know at least one person, who is on your level of experience, but always talks with pride and confidence. That’s probably because he or she forgot how to be honest about not knowing things. Some experienced programmers joke around that the more you learn, the less you actually know (especially in the JS world!). It takes courage to say outloud on a meeting that you are not familiar with a tool or a pattern the team is talking about, but remember – everybody is happy to share their knowledge with you. It’s never a bad thing to ask around and be honest about your knowledge. The best teaching you can get is your colleagues explainings on a real code example. If you won’t be honest with them, you’ll never get the chance to experience that.
Sharing new knowledge is as important, as gaining it. Even with only few months of experience you can find people, who don’t know something that you already do. Don’t be afraid to take a part in pair-programming, look at your buddy's code and give reviews or share your reflections. Talk with your team or colleagues about interesting cases or problems you’ve had. Whenever you learn something new – share this insight! There is no better way to consolidate knowledge than by explaining the topic to somebody else than yourself and gaining another point of view. The most interesting talk on every conference is the one coming from experience and having a real use-case as basis. Be sure of one thing – you have something interesting to tell!
Frontend world gives plenty of occasions to feel like part of a group (or even family) – meetups, workshops, being involved on social medias and tech communities. Get to know new people and don’t be afraid to be nerdy during these meetings – it’s ok to spend three hours arguing about which IDE is the best one.
If opportunity presents itself take part in big event like a hackathon or a conference – don’t think you’re not ready! You can also have fun doing small projects on a side – a simple open source library or an eye-catching basic web game. Whatever will give you fun and make your activity bar on github greener!
With few months of experience and few small projects in your portfolio start thinking what’s the dream job for you. At this point you may still feel uncertain about your skills, but remember – you’re not the only one having these emotions. Experiencing an impostor syndrome after retraining is very common. If you’re feeling like you don’t deserve to be admired it probably means you’re ambitious and you’ve worked hard to be where you are. It’s the time to look beyond next three months and peacefully think about what you want your career to be like. What’s important to you in a work culture? What kind of projects do you want to work on? How can you make impact on the community or technology? Answer to those questions should help you with defining your goals.