But what’s next? The following step—getting hired as a developer after completing these courses—isn’t as simple as slapping your new skills on your resume and sending it off.
If you’re looking to put your new programming skills to good use, these seven tips will help you boost your post-training portfolio, network with the right people, and effectively break into the tech scene.
1. Practice, Practice, Practice
First things first: Don’t start applying to developer jobs immediately. Instead, channel your energy initially on continuing to work on personal coding projects. This will help you both fine-tune your coding skills and start a portfolio of real-life work to show potential employers. Hackbright Academy alumna turned professional developer Melissa Skevington notes: “The biggest thing I did once I left Hackbright was to continue to work on my personal project. Not only did it keep me learning, [it became] what I talked about during interviews.”
2. Code as Part of a Team
Despite the stereotype of the lone programmer hacking away solo in a basement, the reality is that most software development happens in team settings. According to Rachel Ober, senior developer at Paperless Post and an instructor at General Assembly, employers want to know how a candidate will fit into the larger team and whether he or she will be comfortable receiving feedback. So, find a few friends interested in working with you on a project, join forces, and get started coding as a team! The experience will serve you well in the working world.
3. Join the Open Source Community
If you’ve not already become active in the online developer community, now is the time. Get yourself an account and upload your projects to GitHub, a code collaboration and management tool, and begin asking (and answering!) questions on Stack Overflow, a Q&A site for developers. Not only will you gain valuable feedback from experienced programmers, you’ll be more likely to get job leads—hiring managers and recruiters often use these sites to find candidates who are truly passionate about coding.
4. Gain Exposure to as Much as You Can
To help you decide which areas of tech and software engineering most interest you, it’s important to see what’s out there. There is so much activity in the tech space, and attending Meetups, conferences, hackathons, and other networking opportunities can help you meet new people, learn about up and coming companies, and stay up to date on what’s happening in the developer world. Even if you don’t live in a tech hub, you can keep up by reading sites like TechCrunch and following developers and organizations on Twitter.
5. Focus on Something That Interests You
Once you have gained a sense of what opportunities exist, then it is time to zero in on what most interests you—whether that’s mobile, web development, or data visualization. Even if you’re not sure it’s the area you want to stay in forever, don’t let that prevent you from seeking out contract projects or pursuing job opportunities in that space for now. After all, you have to start somewhere! “As soon as I became more focused,” said Skevington, “more and more opportunities started to pop up.” It’s also more attractive to professional contacts and hiring managers. “It shows you have interest in something, rather than answering with ‘I don't know what I want to do yet!’, which can kill a conversation,” she adds.
6. Find a Mentor
Some coding academies match students with mentors, but once you’re out in the real world, you can also find your own. Most people love talking about themselves and sharing advice, so don’t be shy about inviting that interesting person you met at a recent Meetup to chat more over coffee! You just may gain additional insight into the tech sector. Plus, you never know where these conversations may lead, and your new friend could become a long-term advisor who helps connect you to a future job.
On a related note, once you do land that future real job as a developer—having a dedicated mentor, either formal or informal, to whom you can ask questions can help you integrate into the company faster, which helps ensure your long-term success.
7. Stay Confident in Your Abilities
Getting your foot in the door can be hard, and you may find yourself with some rejections before nailing that first job offer. Learning a new skill and changing the trajectory of your career can be scary, but it can also be empowering. Try to stay confident in your abilities by regularly reminding yourself how much you love the art of coding and by surrounding yourself with a support network of family, friends, mentors, and fellow newbie coders.
It can also be helpful to view the process as a learning experience. After all, the technology landscape is constantly shifting, and even the expert developers need to learn new tools and languages to keep their skills sharp. To be a developer is to be a lifelong learner. Enjoy the ride!