When Your Good Isn’t Good Enough
Life after a coding bootcamp is tough. They tell you this from the start. During my time in school they joked about the final module being life and your journey as a programmer never stops. At the time they were just words, something to deal with after the avalanche of homework, projects, and COVID. You can give someone advice based on your experiences in life but they will never appreciate it until they live it themselves. Now it is 4 months after graduation and the reality of those words are setting in. For most of us that don’t get that job right out of the gate the job hunt can become a grind, a marathon of mental toughness and self-doubt. If you are having a tough time with the job hunt, allow me to share some techniques that continue to help me stay positive while facing rejection.
You Are Not An Island
To put it plainly, COVID has changed the world we live in. It has crept into every aspect of daily life and disrupted almost all industries. To speak personally, I have never felt so alone in my life. Couple that with the stress of the job hunt and things can spiral quickly. I have always believed personal communication is a key to mental health and is important now more than ever.
One of the best resources you have are the people from your cohort. I have been lucky enough to keep up with several of my friends from school and it is truly awesome to be able to speak to people that know exactly what I’m going through. We are all fresh-faced coders, navigating the waters of an industry most of us aren’t too familiar with. Their stories have become a barometer with which I can encourage myself to push harder, while also being able to laugh about some of the more awful experiences. I had a particularly tough interview recently and felt like I bombed the technical portion. That frustration was bottled up in me for weeks until I talked to a cohort mate who recounted their worst interview experience and it made mine pale in comparison. It turned into something we could laugh about. It helped me immeasurably to truly feel like I wasn’t alone in my job hunt struggles.
I’m continually surprised at how many connections I make to job opportunities through people outside of the tech field. I’ve spent countless hours cruising sites like LinkedIn and Monster trying to find someone, anyone, to reach out to on a personal level in the hopes that I can catch the ear of a recruiter. Most of these are basically cold-calls by salesmen trying to sell themselves as the product. I’ve had a couple opportunities through this method but I continue to discover how much more successful my search becomes as I expand my connections to family and friends. It is not secret that it is all about who you know when it comes to getting a job. Knowing someone who knows someone in the tech field can be an incredible resource. For instance, I have a life-long friend who is a principle at a high school. While he has no need for a junior developer at the school, he does have several friends in the tech world. Out of one phone call, I was put in touch with 3 separate contacts, 2 of which resulted in interviews. Another time I texted a bar regular I used to wait on out of the blue. After we caught up for a bit he asked how coding was treating me. I told him I was still actively looking for jobs everyday. Turns out his company was just about start interviewing for a Java developer in the next week and I was one of the first names brought up. I didn’t land the job but I was put in an excellent position simply from reaching out.
Have a Mantra
In a previous blog I covered the importance of having a mantra. After a couple months of rejections I can say that it has become vital for my mental health. A developer friend told me his mantra on his job hunt and it was this:
“I will get a job, just not this job”.
It’s simple, effective, and helps me to diffuse some of the stress I feel when getting ready for an interview. One thing to be thankful for during life in COVID America is that the tech industry is in need of programmers now more than ever. It is comforting to know that even if you don’t land your first couple job opportunities, there will be more.
The important thing is you choose a mantra which works for you. What works for me might seem defeatist for some. As long as it is something that resonates with you, it will improve your mental state and center you for the next challenge to come.
Finding Your Balance
I want to get across that it is important to have self-care through your job hunt. Part of this is finding balance between how you cultivate your relationships and how you are processing things internally. If you can find the time to connect with yourself and others during this challenging time please do. You might be surprised at how much the subtle things outside of coding can mean all the difference in the next interview. Remember, you are not alone.