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An Introvert’s Path to their First Tech Job (and Some Numbers)

Another bootcamp graduate anecdote for the enormous pile. Spoiler: it has to do with a lot of luck and timing.

Photo by Drew Beamer on Unsplash

After three months and ups and downs (mostly downs), I accepted a job offer after graduating coding bootcamp. Yay!

Okay, that was enough celebrating.

(Also I’ve dawdled on this post and I’m already a month into my job.)

Because of the cynical New Yorker child-of-immigrants I am, let me also loudly announce what I did *not* manage to do in this time period, which I was expecting to do:

  • make a portfolio site I liked (bonus: stubbornly without template)
  • complete a post bootcamp project
  • finish a data structures course
  • consistently solve Leetcode medium problems
  • learn any number of other things on my to-study and to-do list (including more blog posts, per career services recommendation)

This is all still bugging me a little bit, because of some guilt in getting a job even though I slacked in meeting my post-bootcamp goals. Layers upon layers of imposter syndrome. Not to mention that I actually wanted to do these things. (And am worried I’ll lose motivation to.) I think a lot of us get lost in the hustle and stress of trying to become a “no-brainer hire”. The job search is draining even when it’s going well and really lends itself to a daily feeling that you’ve constantly failed when all that’s happened is that you’ve fallen short of an impossible goal of perfection, which is constantly being redefined. (Today it might be going to a job fair and making 5 new connections, tomorrow it might be doing a hackathon, and next week you might lament not finishing that Udemy course. You need to learn to forgive yourself.)

First, as promised, some numbers

I kept track of my job/apprenticeship applications mostly on a Trello board. I’m missing some data here and there, but here’s the gist of how my job search went:

  • 32 applications, complete with cover letters and/or essays
  • 12 first round interviews/assessments
  • 6 final rounds…ish (I guess I don’t know for sure for sure, ya know?)
  • 3–4 job offers (depending on your definition)

Opportunities were found through:

  • 3 job fairs
  • 3 community Slack workspaces
  • 3 recruiters who found me via LinkedIn or POCIT
  • 2 friends
  • a lot of support from Flatiron School career services
  • I don’t know it was actually kind of a blur that involved a bad cold by the end

The only places I got to the final round with were through friends, career services, or a recruiter…in other words, that key to the job search I think we all hate at least a little: networking.

A laptop with a video conference call on the screen with many participants on a desk with a mug of coffee.
Networking in the pandemic era // Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

Introvert’s mini guide to networking

It’s not news that connections get you places. Even though I’ve known this, until this job search, I couldn’t bear deal with that stress. However, especially with bills looming, I knew I had to get out of my comfort zone. And similar to how I found remote immersive bootcamp to be the best of all worlds for my personality and/or “learning style”, the pandemic normalized more remote options than ever to get my network game on.

Virtual Job Fairs

I think I’ve only been to two in-person job fairs in my life. I associate them with dehydration, uncomfortable shoes, awkward handing of resumes, and fumbling the conversation. Nothing really saves you from that last one, but the first 3 need not apply!

The three virtual tech job fairs I went to this summer followed very different formats. They all had different drawbacks but here are some things they had in common:

  • an asynchronous way to leave your resume and contact information
  • opportunity to speak to people 1-on-1 if you wanted to, sometimes just over text (yay no camera)
  • easy post-fair followup from employers, who already have all of your information from registration

The fairs I went to were also all based around an affinity group — one focused on women, one for diversity, equity, and inclusion, and one for working against climate change. Values-based job fairs were key because:

  • you know the employers care about what you do
  • they know you care about what they do
  • you learn what brilliant madness is out there in exciting fields (lookin’ at you, Terra.do), renewing a sense of hope that maybe you can do good in this world

Virtual informational interviews

Y’all. I’m loving this shift to video meetings. I’ve always been a fan because you don’t have to leave your house, the drinks are free, and you can leave with a click of a button. But now they’re the norm!

I don’t have particular tips for this one, except to not be as afraid of them. I’ve found them less intimidating over time because:

  • Get anxious during conversations? Leave a lot of notes around off screen (sticky notes on the monitor!).
  • People pretty much only agree to meet if they are very happy to be speaking with you.
  • Except you know what else people like? Short meetings. Set it to 15–30 min if you like, so you know exactly how much sweat and smile you have to do. No waiting for the lunch bill or coffee to cool.
photo of a computer screen running a Slack workspace called “Time to Hack”
Photo by Pankaj Patel on Unsplash

Online communities with job postings

Though this includes a wide spread of sites and services, I am mostly talking about Slack and Discord. (Though I’ve heard people have luck in LinkedIn groups.) For those who don’t know, Slack workspaces and Discord servers are where groups of people can chat in organized channels or direct messages in an informal way. These are great because you can observe and read past messages to get settled and break the ice in any way you’d like (whether with a cat pic in the pets channel or a good old intro in a welcome channel). If you’re feeling too shy for that you can get started with reacting to messages with emoji. I obviously can’t vouch for every workspace or server, but good ones are out there! If you search for the name of your closest major city with “tech slack” there’s a fair chance that you’ll find one. I’m also in workspaces like Ruby for Good, Work on Climate, and one for bootcamp alumni.

Still job hunting? Hold on to hope!

It’s hard. It’s kind of random. It’s definitely draining. I often laid down in between meetings or just straight up needed a nap after a 30 minute call. It’s hard now, but you’re starting what I hope to be a long and prosperous career. The extra hours you put in may pay out dividends.

There might (will) be some really hard times. You’re also allowed to take breaks. Real restorative breaks. Those breaks are what you need to make things happen. Bonus: Talking to friends and enjoying your hobbies are what make you who you are, and that is what will shine through in interviews to help you stand out.

Comments or quandaries? Let me know.

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