Preventing Post Bootcamp Burnout

A pep talk for self-care and forgiveness while doing the job of finding a job

An antique red sign saying “For Hire”
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

After finishing your degree or bootcamp, or just really just anytime that you decide you are going to make a change, comes the job search. At best, it’s a busy and exciting time, but most likely, it’s stressful and a little soul-crushing. (Because how else will you write a convincing cover letter or ace the interview if you don’t actually on some level believe you and the company are kismet?)

After a bit of a break, or well, “part-time” job searching, I’ve just jumped into the real deal last week. Job fairs and proactive meeting scheduling, coding most days, and finding a groove. The ramp up period had been hard enough, and as much as we all need the do’s and don’ts of cover letters and elevator pitches, I think we also need to give ourselves a little grace. Disclaimer: I haven’t found a job yet. 😅 So take all of this with a grain of salt.

You can’t do everything everyone else is doing

Leaving a bootcamp, your classmates are your first lifelines and network in the tech world. Hopefully you’ve bonded with some and will be able to rely on each other through the rough times, and celebrate in the good times! But shortly after classes are over, talking to this social support becomes a constant reminder of all of the things you need to do:

“I really need to dig into learning data structures and algorithms”

“I am working on my resume all day”

“I just got my portfolio site up!”

“I signed up for some mock interviews”

“I just really need a break and I’m going to take a vacation”

“I’m going to learn Python/Node/Vue/[insert language, framework, or tool here] next”

If you’re not careful, you will have the mental to-do list of over a dozen people combined, which one person just can’t do! It’s great to compare notes and keep each other motivated, but remember that there is simply no way to work on what *everyone* else is working on. Anything you get done is a win.

What’s right for them may not be what’s right for you

Similar to the above point of not getting bogged down by the additive effect of hearing too many people’s plans, everyone’s journey is going to be a little different. We’ve all got individual strengths and weaknesses and varying amounts of privilege and resources. Our lives outside of “work” (in this case the job search) are bound to have speed bumps and stop signs at different points.

Some people are in a place to be able to spend the time and energy to hit the ground running and keep running, but that might not be you through no fault of your own. Maybe you have some family or personal issues to deal with, or maybe you haven’t yet grown your network just yet. Maybe you’re dealing with chronic illness and there just aren’t as many spoons available. Maybe you’re still earning money so you don’t fall completely into debt, or taking some other classes, but this leaves you less time to do everything else. Also we’re still amidst that pesky global pandemic, and baseline stress levels are high.

It’s okay.

animated gif of fuzzy anthropomorphized balls of orange and purple giving a hug

You’ll get there in your own time. And if someone finds a job before you, that doesn’t mean you’re any less than they are, or have any less potential.

Job hunting is a job, and productivity tools apply

All that self-forgiveness aside, make sure you’re setting yourself up for success. Getting through bootcamp took a lot of self-discipline and self-motivation. Don’t let those muscles atrophy!

Block out hours in your calendar or planner for tasks (coding, finding leads, networking, studying). Use something like Trello or a spreadsheet to track your job opportunities. Set up standups in the morning or algorithm practice with accountability partners (lookin’ at you, cohort ham fam) as often as is productive for you.

If nothing else, setting aside job search work hours will help you be able to leave the rest for leisure and recharge. Which you also need!

Take breaks. Your brain won’t function without them.

Luck is at play, and you can’t control it

There is definitely value to working towards opportunities and building the no-brainer case for your hiring and fit at your dream job. But there is always some amount of chance, including networking to get you towards said opportunities, around getting your face in front of the right people at the right time. When are these right times? It might be a job fair, or it might be your cousin’s housewarming party. Your dream company might have a job opening this week, or maybe it’ll be in two months and you’ll have no way of knowing! Luck can be kind and luck can be cruel.

Just because you don’t get the gig doesn’t mean you did anything wrong.

This is a giant learning experience, and you’re better for having tried at all

After graduating, friends were eager to set me up with job leads and ask around. I told them at first that I wasn’t ready yet. I “had to” learn more about X, Y, and Z, and clean up my projects, and learn a few new languages, and do a few mock interviews first…

Luckily a job posting that was too easy to try for came up, and I snapped out of that quickly. And literally had an interview the next day. Trial by fire!

I was trying to be perfect before even trying. The fallacy being that there’s no way to achieve perfection. My “official” first mock tech interview will be next week, but in the meantime, I’ve had tech interviews solving brain teasers and discussing RESTful APIs, done a code challenge in Python and Django, talked through a function in Go, and taken a timed assessment in web development which included two coding problems (and some jQuery, which I had to dig deep to remember). I didn’t ace all of these (the Go specifically was a complete surprise…) but despite a lifetime of trained negativity, I didn’t see them as failures. I am more experienced for the next interview, and making mistakes is making me better for the next time around. (And none of the languages or frameworks I mentioned above were ones that I claimed to have any profiency in.)

black cat curled up and sleeping on a teal blanket
channel the chill of your favorite critter

In conclusion, you’re doing great!

Because I have to believe I am as well.

Thanks for reading! I hope to return with my normal coding fare and questionable analogies soon. But I’m actually still taking some breaks while I can this summer, and I hope you do too!

Software Developer with social justice roots. I love cats, Star Trek, and singing to inspire the downtrodden.