Landing Your First Dev Job

How I landed my first dev job and how you can too.

Looking for my first job as a software developer/engineer was one of the most trying times of my life. On top of the real world challenges of staying on top of bills, relationships and other elements of life, I had to continuously develop, practice algorithms for technical interviews and apply non-stop. Now that I landed my first job, I’d like to go over some key things that can hopefully be of use to you on your own journey.

Before I begin, I want to acknowledge several “unfair advantages” I had beforehand:

  1. My financial situation was solid before committing to switching careers from finance to development. I had a good job and solid savings. On top of all that, I had a family that was willing to financially help my wife and I during this time.
  2. My wife. It was a tough year for us but thanks to her hard work and reliability, she was able to handle the mortgage and bills mostly alone. A partner can make or break you so choose the right one!
  3. I had a lot of friends in the tech industry that set me on the right path for the most probable success. They reviewed my resume, helped me with algos (algorithms), and a ton of time on discord/phone with me. My experience would not have been the same without them.
  4. Veteran status. From my understanding, companies get some kind of subsidy from the government for hiring veterans. I don’t know if this is completely true but I’m sure it had some positive impact on my job search. Also, the military taught me how to maintain discipline and how to speak professionally. Just those 2 things make my entire time in the Army worth it!

With that said, here are some of my stats leading up to getting hired:

  • It took me 3 months after bootcamp to find a FULL TIME position
  • I applied to just over 200 jobs
  • I customized 30+ resumes and cover letters
  • I completed 1 big and 2 small projects

Post Coding bootcamp

I wish I could tell you that I found a job immediately after or during bootcamp but that wasn’t my reality. The only people I knew that got offers in that timeframe were people that had development experience prior to joining the bootcamp. To be quite frank, I was pretty burnt out from all the material and projects over the course of my bootcamp so I took a week break. It was a good time away to get some mental clarity and a mini ‘reward’ for myself.


I had no form of approach to how my schedule would look like for applications. I ended up spending the first few weeks spending 10–12 hours a day applying for jobs non-stop ultimately burning myself out. I got sick of spending hours of my day researching companies, rewriting resumes, and getting rejected. I seriously needed a break so to my friend’s suggestion, I took a week off. During that week, I knew I had to change something.

My approach to my daily schedule was to treat my job search like a full time job. I began spending only 8 hours a day on my job search with some days going longer and some days less. This approach changed the way I applied to jobs by forcing me to organize and prioritize my hours. The biggest benefit was that I stopped getting burnt out. This allowed me to be consistent and continuously driven.

I would spend at least 3 hours working on projects or practicing algos, 2 hours researching companies and adjusting resumes, and 3 hours applying. I followed this formula with minor adjustments on some days every day except weekends. Weekends were for family and fun, non-negotiable.


There were 3 main strategies I utilized during my application process:

  1. Shotgun

Shotgunning is exactly how it sounds, you just shoot and spread your resume across the internet in high volumes, usually with the ‘EASY APPLY’ feature that LinkedIn and other job search platforms have. It is the most effective for getting applications sent but in my opinion, the LEAST effective for getting an interview. It isn’t exactly recommended, but I’d still do it again. Desperate times calls for desperate measures.

  1. Tailored Resume

This was the most effective method for me as it led to my current job and the most callbacks/interviews. It was definitely the most time consuming but well worth it. You have to do research on the company, redo your resume, and submit it with a cover letter or some version of what people consider a cover letter. For me, instead of writing a formal and typical cover letter, I followed a email format and sent it directly to the hiring manager or CTO:

Hello, I came across [Company] while exploring education companies that integrate modern technologies and noticed the position for Front End Software Engineer. I appreciate the fact that the teams are taking serious challenges associated with enabling education for students around the world with cutting edge technology. I believe that my development skills will be able to contribute to the teams’ mission to power all students of different backgrounds in educational equity. I truly believe that the implementation of modern tech can unlock students’ potential that might have not been admitted before. I’d love for you to see my resume and I would be happy to talk about the role and contribute to the conversation. Feel free to contact me at any time. Respectfully, Sean Gil

It’s simple and easy to read. Recruiters spend hours of their day going through hundreds to thousands of resumes and cover letters. Make yours stand out without being boring.

Here are some resume tips I received and implemented:

  • Don’t put a summary or objective UNLESS you are switching career paths like I did, or you have a large gap in between employment that you want to explain. Besides that, there is really no reason to have one. It just takes up space that could be used for something more important like a project or whatnot.
  • Use the STAR method or something similar for your experience section to show what you did at your previous jobs instead of what the job description was. The STAR method covers SITUATION, TASK, ACTION, RESULT. You want to show recruiters that you made real impact at work. “This situation led to this task, which required this action, which led to this result.”
  • If you’re coming from a non tech industry (like me) make sure you try to inject as much technical relevancy from your previous jobs. Also, list personal and open source projects at the top first to show that you actually worked on to develop projects and that you have contributed with real code. There was some statistic that said recruiters look at resumes on an average of only 7 seconds. I don’t know how true that is, but if that is the case, you’ll want to capture their attention asap with this at the top
  • Add a touch of personality. Once you’ve been able to capture more attention on your resume with your experience, skills, and projects, don’t be afraid to add some personality in there to show who you are. For my resume, I put a ‘Interests’ section and made an attempt to be witty(?) haha. Super cheese but I know it caught the eye of recruiters before (including the one that reached out to me for my current job) and said they had a good laugh. It always led to some conversation beyond technical things.
  1. Referrals

Referrals are awesome because they normally lead to at least a phone screening. In the past 3 months I had 3 different referrals. Referrals don’t always work out, but your chances are definitely higher with them than without one. Don’t be afraid to ask for a referral. Most companies have some kind of referral bonus so many employees are seeking to find someone they can refer. Just remember that when you ask someone for a referral, you are basically asking them to stick their neck out for you and vouch. If they say no, don’t take it personally and move on.


Okay, now that you have those strategies, it should be easy right? Wrong! Super wrong. If your experience is anything like mine or my friends’, then you will be discouraged. Keep Grinding This may be my own ignorance, but there is just no other way but to keep working hard and staying consistent.

Here are some final tips and thoughts I wrote down over the past 3 months:

  • Remember, no one owes you shit. Your bootcamp, friend, mentor, instructor.. no one owes you jack shit. Take ownership of your situation and push. For me, I had to constantly remind myself that this journey was MY decision and that odds were stacked against me. I was convicted that it was up to me to make something happen. Don’t make your career dependent on someone else. It is a recipe for disaster.
  • If time is a constraint, sleep less and do more. I don’t have kids and I did not need to find another source of income during this bootcamp so I had it made, but that is not the case for everyone. I know it is tough with other obligations but if you have to, sleep less. Work hard.
  • Get rid of distractions. Don’t pretend like you’re getting rid of distractions and have them waiting around for you. Completely get rid of them. I promise I loved gaming more than most people but I had to get rid of the PC I built myself to keep distractions away. Extreme, I know, but it worked.
  • Build your own website from scratch and deploy it. My first website was based off some fancy template and I got called out on it. Don’t be me.
  • Don’t be shy. Keep networking.
  • Workout, seriously. Even if you just go on a walk for 30 minutes, do it. I am a big believer that the mind and body are one. If your body feels like shit, so will your mind.
  • Recognize that everyone is replaceable. It is up to you to show employers that you are worth their time and money. There are thousands of people trying to do the same thing you are. Try harder to stand out and back it up.

Again, it is a grind and there will be tough times. If you really want something, it is up to you to go after it.