40s-something Career-Changer James Explains how to "Slay the Lion" that is the Job Interview

James is a Marine Corps veteran and a prime example of a career-changer. In his 40s, burnt out by a long career in operations management, he turned to tech and quickly found Sabio on the web. “They were the only ones that actually offered .NET training.” Since Sabio also accepts all VA benefits, including VRRAP disability benefits which James qualifies for, choosing Sabio was a no-brainer for him.. 

But the collaborative environment and staff support channels that Sabio provides are what make getting through something as extremely challenging as a coding bootcamp manageable. “I'm a firm believer of iron sharpens iron. I clung on to those that I saw who were having an easier time than I. And just the collaboration side of it, you know, I was able to learn so much because we all have a different perspective of how we approach things, how we approach problems. Nine times out of ten, I looked at it in a different perspective.”

James was putting in 13-hour days, 7-days-a-week for much of the program. He recalls how close he was to quitting but kept putting things into perspective. “I almost tapped out like three damn times, you know, because I was mentally fatigued, but rightfully so. You know what, you're looking for $100,000 in four months of experience. I mean, what the hell. What do you expect? It's going to be tough.” 


When he graduated, the hard work didn’t stop there. Out of the roughly 1,700 job applications he put out, he got 8 interviews. But in the first four weeks he wasn’t catching any interviews, so he changed his strategy. He approached several recruiters and kindled relationships with them, familiarizing them with his goals, his situation, and skill set. This tactic of being proactive and telling recruiters exactly how they should pitch him to the type of jobs he was looking for paid off fast.


James got 8 interviews after that. Many had serious technical interviews that forced him into tight corners, but even when the questions were beyond his experience or phrased with unfamiliar lingo, he still benefited. He would always ask for clarification and was able to pick up new terminology each time. “You know, there were a couple of different approaches there. I wasted a lot of people's time. But you know what? It only took one that I didn't waste any of their time and they found value in what I was and what I was able to bring to the table.”


The job that ultimately courted James had a technical interview that was, in his words, “an absolute joke” compared to the others. They came in with a big offer that reflected their appreciation of his personality. It was $97.5k, full benefits, fully remote, 10% bonus plus equity, proving just how much personality plays a role in getting a job, even in tech. “You have to remember, tech can be taught. Personality and team fit can’t. They don't want recluses that sit in the corner that are just running algorithms all day. They want participation, they want personality. So those are things that you need to make light of during those interview processes.”


James stresses how much you need to sell yourself as a person, not just your technical skill set. This is going to require a lot of self confidence. As James puts it, “Each one, you're going into a lion's den. You're going to have to try to slay that lion.”