Week 12 at Hack Reactor LA: Career Week!

At last, we make it to the last week of the 3-month bootcamp. And with it, we finally get to learn what we’ve all been the most concerned about: how to land a job. After all, this is the main product that all the bootcamps are selling. They all promise 90%+ job placements rates and salary ranges that would put you well on your way to the American dream of being upper-middle class.

To put it succinctly, I was disappointed with the career support, but satisfied enough to not complain. My cohort and I were sold on a notion that there was ample career seeking resources, a network of employers, and possible introductions to companies / recruiters that were hiring. Upon arrival, we quickly found out there was close to none of that. Finding a job is pretty much 99% up to you. I’ve heard the same story from other bootcamps as well and many students often feel cheated upon coming upon that revelation.

However, what the company does do well, is give great job seeking advice. There were many lectures and a sprint that helped give us the tools to succeed in finding a job. Building a resume from scratch, developing a job search strategy, managing expectations, and salary negotiation were all taught to us along with some whiteboarding and interview practice. I won’t spoil the curriculum for the school, but here’s an example of an expectation that I feel helped Makersquare (now HR) succeed at job placement.

Recently, I attended a meet up in LA of other junior programmers and began talking with another ex-bootcamper about the job search. She attended another bootcamp…let’s call them, Generic Gathering, and was six months into her search without landing any interviews. I asked her, “How many applications are you sending out a week?” She answered, “Maybe five.” That was a immediate red flag for why she isn’t getting any interviews. Either she is slacking or the school did not adequately prepare her for reality.

The reality is sometimes hard for students to accept. Being a bootcamp graduate, you’re not a hot commodity. Companies aren’t lining up to hire you based on your three weeks of React/Angular experience. Hack Reactor expected us to send out up to 100 applications before receiving an offer or two. They expected five applications sent out PER DAY to maintain their hiring rate. While that isn’t a firm requirement for everyone to get a job, it does put into perspective what it takes to punch through that first wall into the software development industry. I personally did not send out five a day, nor get to even half that amount before I got companies interested in me, but many of my classmates did. And many even well over 100 applications. Fortunately, I already had some software development experience and a personal mentor to intensely prepare me for interviews.

In the end, I can see why the system works. The vast majority of my cohort is now employed as software developers or at least have an internship which they can use to hopefully land a full paying gig later on. The biggest trend I saw in making it easier to find a job was quite frankly, having a better resume. Having a science degree, experience in a technical field, and even just a few years of job experience helped some find jobs quicker than others. The ones that struggled were often younger and just out of school. And that’s perfectly fine. If you’re 22–24, and you’re searching for a job for 6+ months, it’s okay in the grand scheme of things. When you do eventually find a job, you’ll be years ahead of us oldies at bootcamp who are finally getting paid in their late 20’s and 30's.

I hope that summarizes what one can expect out of career week. While lacking in some aspects, it gets the job done. It’s possible that after Makersquare merged with Hack Reactor, the career support has expanded due to a larger network of alumni and a stronger reputation. In my next a final post about my bootcamp experience, I’ll summarize my time at Hack Reactor LA and post final thoughts for anyone still on the fence about attending.

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