Looking for a career change? Here's what you need to know as you prepare to jump into a new career.
You dedicated countless hours to learning new skills at a bootcamp, and now it’s time to find a job. The good news is that 72 percent of employers say bootcamp grads are “just as prepared” for the workforce compared to university grads (12 percent even said bootcamps grads were more prepared and more likely to be high performers).
But looking for a job is never easy. Looking for a job in a new field can be even more difficult and stressful. That’s why we asked Derek Plewes, BrainStation’s Manager of Career Services, for advice on how to navigate the post-bootcamp job search.
Here are some tips about how to get started, and how to manage your time and stay positive during the job search.
What’s a Bootcamp?
Bootcamps, also known as specialized skills training, offer students an accelerated way to learn digital skills.
“Rather than going through a four-year degree, you’re doing a lot of application. Instead of focusing solely on the theoretical side, you’re applying what you’re learning right away,” says Plewes.
As we wrote about, this type of training has become increasingly popular among people who want to switch careers, start a career in tech, or immerse themselves in the latest tools and technology to bring back to their current role. To meet demand, BrainStation now offers three diploma programs (Data Science, User Experience Design, and Web Development) that would be considered “bootcamp-style” courses.
Programs vary, but students can expect to fully immerse themselves in a subject for a short period of time. For example, BrainStation’s 12-week diploma courses include about 40 hours per week of in-class time plus another 20-30 hours outside the classroom.
Perfect Your Elevator Pitch
So you made it through a program and it’s time to find a job. Even though grads are often just as (if not more) qualified than other applicants, you might be worried a lack of on-the-job experience will hold you back. Why should a recruiter hire a newbie coder or UX Designer over a more experienced candidate?
That’s the question you need to answer in a clear and compelling way in application materials like your resume and cover letter, and during the interview process.
“A lot of people who apply for a diploma program are coming from different paths and different backgrounds into new fields. How do you sell that and position yourself as someone with unique experience? Try to narrow it down and talk about your reason why,” says Plewes.
Start by thinking about the transferable skills, characteristics and personality traits you could bring to a new job. For example, when BrainStation grad Nathan Devey was transitioning from accounting to web development he emphasized his attention to detail and compared his ability to balance the books to his ability to develop code that executes cleanly.
By highlighting his transferable skills and a passion for tech and entrepreneurship, Devey was able to tell a story that helped him get hired as a developer at two companies since graduating.
Once you’ve identified your “why me” story, build it into your resume and LinkedIn profile, include a few anecdotes in your cover letter and practice telling your story in person. Storytelling and personal anecdotes go a long way to establish your personality and make you more memorable.
“Highlight the skills you see as transferable and articulate why you’re making this transition,” says Plewes.
Work Your Networks
Once you’ve nailed down your story, it’s time to get out there and share it.
Plewes recommends immersing yourself in the local tech community by attending or volunteering at local events and using online tools like LinkedIn and GitHub to make connections that could become job leads.
“If you’re putting yourself out there in the community, you’re more likely to get noticed and more likely to have people be aware of you,” says Plewes, adding that there are a number of things you can do to get the most out of networking opportunities.
In addition to networking in person, leveraging online connections is a good way to build your network. For example, you can use LinkedIn’s search tools to identify people who work at companies you’re interested in. Check if you have any shared connections and ask to be introduced, or write a short introduction message telling someone why you want to meet them. Make sure these messages are pointed, concise, and specific. Avoid simply wanting to “pick someone’s brain” or “hear about their day-to-day.” These will get much lower response rates.
Always be sure to respect other people’s time and remember the golden rule of networking: aim to offer something valuable before asking for anything in return.
Process vs. Perfect in an Interview
Interviewing for a job in a new field is stressful. You might not know what to expect and you probably won’t be able to answer every question perfectly. The good news is that you can impress recruiters by focusing on how you would answer a question, even if you don’t know the right answer.
For example, if you’re a Web Developer working on a coding problem and you’ve tried to approach the problem from a few different perspectives, it’s okay to tell the interviewer you would typically use Google to find the answer before moving to the next step.
“Show you can tackle a problem independently but are comfortable not having all the answers. Focus on the process whether you have the right answer or not and show them how you’d try and get there,” says Plewes.
Being able to talk through a process and troubleshoot shows a hiring manager that you can think on your feet and solve a range of problems you might encounter on the job.
Beating the Job Search Blues
Most people feel rejected or unsure of themselves at some point during the job search and that’s normal. To manage the stress that comes with job hunting, Plewes suggests following a schedule and staying connected to your peers.
“We’ve noticed that if people try and do things on their own, they’re much more likely to get discouraged versus if they stay in touch with their peers,” says Plewes.
Plewes encourages diploma program graduates to set up a weekly meeting with peers to talk about goals and give feedback, and to create a shared calendar to tell each other about local networking events and hold each other accountable for attending.
Another way to manage job search stress is to create a schedule. Plewes recommends spending about 20 percent of your time researching companies, 40 percent of your time applying for jobs, and 40 percent of your time networking. Break your goals down and map out your time a few weeks at a time.
“That’s excluding time we encourage students to continue building on their skills to make sure that their technical knowledge is solid and to confirm that they know what they know,” says Plewes.
“If you think you’re done learning after a diploma program or bootcamp, you probably won’t be successful. There’s a long way to go. You need to have that growth mindset and hunger to learn more and do more.”
Visit BrainStation’s 2018 Student Outcomes Report for more on graduate employment outcomes.