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Setting Yourself Apart

Written by Manny Perez on February 14, 2018

One of the most common concerns I hear from students as they near the end of an Intensive Course at NYCDA is the fact they are jumping into a completely new workforce, and competing in a massive pool of talent with individuals who have been at it for years. No matter how you cut it - transitioning in a career is no easy task. But despite the challenges that come with that kind of transition, I always sit these students down and help them realize - there is a solution!

It’s not an overnight process, and it takes genuine commitment, but my message to those who are making a transition into the tech world is simple: the solution to snagging your first opportunity in a new workforce is to set yourself apart. Now, this may not sound simple (and to be frank, it’s not), but there are a few steps you can take to start this process on the right foot:

1. Understand which talent pool you’re diving into.

A lot of students’ initial concern stems from the fact that they’ll be competing against industry veterans. With only 3 months of technical training, how is a bootcamp grad supposed to advocate for themselves when Web Developers with five, ten, maybe even fifteen years of experience are vying for the same opportunities? Fortunately for bootcamp grads, those experienced Web Developers are in a different boat entirely! Companies that want to hire a Junior Developer are doing exactly what the title suggests: looking for a Junior Developer. Individuals who have been in the field for over five years are no longer looking for those kinds of opportunities, which levels the playing field almost entirely for someone coming out of a bootcamp.

So who do bootcamp graduates compete against when entering the workforce? Other bootcamp grads, of course! Those with only a few years (or less) of experience are also searching for their first opportunity, so I always encourage NYCDA students to tailor their job-hunting approach with this in mind.

So - you’re in a talent pool with other bootcamp grads and self-taught individuals. Now what? How do you advocate for yourself from here?

2. Eat, sleep, and breathe learning.

A job-hunter’s worst enemy are checkboxes. Those pesky checkboxes in every job listing, laying out the exact criteria for “the right candidate." “How can I land an interview when I don’t check all the boxes on the job listing?” is a question I hear a lot. And the answer always surprises: you don’t have to check all the boxes. Even the most seasoned Web Developers probably didn’t either - and that’s ok! It’s even expected! What will set you apart in your job search is your willingness and commitment to learn.

Companies realize that they’ll be doing a fair amount of teaching within the first several months of any new hire - it’s just a reality of growing as an organization. What recruiters and employers want to see is a keen dedication to taking on new information, leveraging the work, and ability to adapt through failure and change. If you, as a bootcamp graduate, can demonstrate the you are 100% game to learn new skill sets, integrate previous ones, and grow into a role, you’ll stand out and start landing those interviews. That’s your shot!

OK - so you’ve landed an interview by projecting your willingness and ability to learn. How do you demonstrate uniqueness? How can you ensure your interviewer will remember you?

3. Build your story.

Whether you realize it or not, everyone has a story. We all represent an arc, through which we’ve grown - professionally and personally. This should be part of what you showcase in an interview! When talking to students, I usually use a this analogy: if you’re in a large crowd of people, all waving their resumes at a potential employer - the best way to get seen is to “raise your flag."

Standing out becomes significantly more challenging when you simply rely on your technical skills and credentials. Using your story as a “flag” to raise above the rest is one of the most effective tools to being remembered in the application process. Are you passionate about healthcare and medtech? Talk about how that has guided what languages and frameworks you’ve learned. Did you work to improve environmental conservation efforts before learning to code? Wave that flag! You’re a human, and you have a story. Don’t lose sight of that as you throw your coding hat in the ring!

Like I said: career transitions are not easy, and they don’t happen overnight. But if you take time to consistently work on these three steps, the distance between you and your goals will become shorter and more fruitful. Learn more about how NYCDA prepares and supports students through this process here!


About The Author

Manny Perez

A Boston native, Manny moved to DC in 2013 with the hope of building a career in politics. After realizing it wasn't as glamorous as House of Cards tells us it is, he jumped into the world of tech--working in business development, marketing, and regional operations with several small and mid-sized companies in DC's vibrant startup scene. Raised by a family of educators and public administrators, Manny has a fervent passion for "building great products with great teams that solve great problems". When he isn't enhancing the NYCDA experience in the DC area, Manny can be found watching highlight videos of the FC Barcelona match that he just finished watching.