Evaluate Experience

I can’t get a car
‘Cause I ain’t got a job
I can’t get a job
‘Cause I ain’t got a car

Alice Cooper, Lost In America

You’ve just graduated a coding bootcamp, you know you have skills that are applicable to the real world, but you may be finding it incredibly tough to convince potential employers that you would be a useful addition to their team.

It’s the ol’ catch-22 in getting hired: to get experience you need experience. Employers don’t want to gamble on making a “wrong hire.” They want to know that you can do the job, and do it well, before hiring you. Their goal is to reduce their own risk in hiring, and to do that they would prefer to hire people who have proven their worth via their experience.

Fortunately for you, graduating from a coding bootcamp is a great baseline for showing you have some experience in software engineering. What graduating from a bootcamp provides you is evidence that you have experience in software development and, therefore, are able to do the jobs asked of a typical junior software engineer.

The more evidence you have to show that you will be able to get up to speed quickly in a new job, the easier it is to convince employers of your value. Thankfully, as we’ve just seen, experience does not necessarily mean full-time work experience. Experience can come in many forms.

Supporting Evidence

Imagine you are a lawyer for the defense. The prosecution is trying to pin you down for lack of experience, but your job is to find the evidence and build the case that your client is experienced enough for the job.

This metaphor breaks down here because you are both the lawyer and the client, but roll with it for me. Please.

Think back to your past – what experiences do you have that support your being a capable employee? You’ll want to include examples when you’ve proven yourself to be*:

  • Communicative
  • Collaborative
  • Creative
  • Dependable

Your goal is to show you are all of those things and more.

If you’re making a transition from another industry and have a lot of work experience, that’s fantastic. If not – did you mow the neighbor’s lawn? Did you volunteer? Join the track team? Each of these experiences can also lend themselves to showing evidence that you would be an excellent employee. Write down each of your jobs or relevant experiences and the pieces of evidence that support your claim that you exemplify the traits above.

Show, Don’t Tell

Rather than saying “provided courteous customer service”, instead say “received 4.9 star rating from customer feedback”. In making a case for yourself, irrefutable evidence is your ally. Be specific – what did you do?

I’ll include the jobs I had before I was in software as an example:

  • Dealership Porter
    • Delivered ~3,500 cars in one year with fewer than 10 customer complaints
    • Washed ~$30,000,000 worth of new and used vehicles
    • Detailed new vehicles for the showroom
  • Internship
    • Created 10+ videos with a combined 10,000 views for YouTube
    • Created 20 blog posts
    • Received $200 bonus for going above-and-beyond
  • Pizza Delivery Driver
    • Entrusted to pilot a 2,800 lb. vehicle over 30,000 miles
    • Delivered ~3,000 pizzas and subs to customers

I do recall actually washing about 3,500 cars in one year as a car dealership porters. I worked 6 days a week and washed about 10-15 cars a day. I would guess that the average value of each car to be around $10,000, which would mean I would have washed about $35,000,000 worth of vehicles (~$10,000 * ~3,500).

That’s all guesswork, hence the tildes. But the point stands: I can be trusted with millions of dollars worth of inventory and I can probably be trusted writing some code.

Alternatively, I could tell this story in an underwhelming way: “I washed cars for a living.” That’s equally as true, but certainly does not spark in people’s minds that I’m communicative, collaborative, creative, and dependable.

References

* Why show these traits in particular? According to a survey of over 200 recruiters done by employment company Monster, in 2022 the most important soft skills employers want (in order) are Teamwork/Collaboration, Communication, and Problem solving/critical thinking. The skills they are most finding difficult to find include Communication, Problem solving/critical thinking, and Dependability.