looking for entry level job or advice


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  1. #1
    Mike Guest

    looking for entry level job or advice


    I'm in a tough situation, my current position is in the civil engineering
    field. I make decent money and have a wife and two kids. I'm a undergrad
    computer science major with 3 semesters left at the University of Maryland.
    The problem is I started with my company as a civil draftsman 3 years ago
    and have expressed that I am not interested in the civil engineering aspect
    of the company, but the IT division. I have only been given extremely small
    pieces of programming and network projects. My company is holding me in my
    drafting position although they know how unhappy I am. I have been looking
    for a career change opportunity, but unfortunately, because of my family
    I can't take a low paying internship without benefits.

    I spend just about all of my free time with computers. I have school experience
    and a small amount of work experience with VB, C++ and networks. I would
    love to be able to work in programming or networking, but don't have the
    hands-on experience that most companies want. If anyone can give me some
    advice on how to change careers without going bankrupt, I would appreciate
    it.


  2. #2
    Elena Guest

    Re: looking for entry level job or advice


    Hi Mike!

    Well, you might get different advice from others, but I'll give you my thoughts.


    You've already figured out this won't be easy. I think the first thing you
    need to do is complete your Bachelor's degree. That's an important credential
    for a lot of companies and I'm sure it's sucking up a lot of your free time
    (whatever is left over from the wage-earning, child-raising portion of your
    life.)

    Once you've completed the degree, you can start interviewing with other companies.
    However, at that point you might run into resistance because you will want
    more than an entry-level salary and have little relevant experience. So
    you need to find ways to apply these programming skills. You can look for
    nonprofits or other organizations that can't afford to pay for consulting
    services and see if you can do some work for them. You could also start
    doing that right now but I fear it would bleed time away from your schoolwork
    and you don't want to let that slide when you are so close to completion.


    During this time, don't stop trying to get whatever programming assignments
    you can from your current employer. Even if you do the work on your own
    time. It will be important to be able to say in the interview you've done
    something other than just study it in class. And who knows, once you actually
    COMPLETE your degree, your current employer might be more interested in providing
    you with new opportunities. But whatever happens, just don't give up. In
    my own career there have been times when I spent YEARS trying to get the
    type of work I wanted. It takes patience and persistence.

    Good Luck!

  3. #3
    Mike Guest

    Re: looking for entry level job or advice


    Elena,

    You mentioned that I could look for nonprofits or other organizations that
    can't afford to pay for consulting services and see if you can do some work
    for them. I would love to do some of these projects. Do you have any advice
    on where to find them. I'm not worried about losing some school time. I currently
    have a 4.0 gpa. Working with computers isn't really about money for me. If
    it wasn't for my family I wouldn't care about my salary. Thanks for your
    advice!

    Mike

  4. #4
    IvyS Guest

    Re: looking for entry level job or advice


    Finding a nonprofit organization that could use your help should be pretty
    easy, Mike. I'm a member of a couple (unfortunately, I'm in Canada, or I
    would pass on your name) that would love to have someone who was willing
    to help them out with computer programming. Take a look in your local phone
    book or drop by a community center and start calling people; non-profit organizations
    usually try to make themselves visible because they know it's the best way
    to get more volunteers. It's great if you can go to them with specific ideas,
    too, like offering to build them a web site or improve an existing system.

    Another suggestion for while you're still in school might be to try and get
    into a coop program. My sister and I are both enrolled in coop programs
    at our schools, and we've both gotten programming jobs through the coop system.
    A lot of universities also sponsor career fairs or have job centers where
    students can browse through employer's job postings. If your school doesn't
    have one, you can attend one for another school; it's not like they usually
    check ID!

    Good luck!

    IvyS


    "Mike" <webworks@engineer.com> wrote:
    >
    >Elena,
    >
    >You mentioned that I could look for nonprofits or other organizations that
    >can't afford to pay for consulting services and see if you can do some work
    >for them. I would love to do some of these projects. Do you have any advice
    >on where to find them. I'm not worried about losing some school time. I

    currently
    >have a 4.0 gpa. Working with computers isn't really about money for me.

    If
    >it wasn't for my family I wouldn't care about my salary. Thanks for your
    >advice!
    >
    >Mike



  5. #5
    Matthew Cromer Guest

    Re: looking for entry level job or advice


    Mike,

    You have two problems to deal with. The first problem is making yourself
    attractive as a programming candidate. The second problem is developing
    the skills you need to do the job well once you get hired.

    The first problem is relatively easy to solve. It would be a good idea for
    you to finish the academic program if that's not too difficult. However,
    the most important thing is to get paid professional experience in relevant
    technologies.

    I'd strongly recommend you avoid focusing on VB of any sort. First off,
    Microsoft has basically taken "classic" VB out behind the barn and put a
    bullet in its brain. The new VB is really just Java with a different syntax
    (along with its big brother, C#, which is even more like Java).

    Secondly VB has always been the Rodney Dangerfield of computer languages
    and VB experience is often a disqualifier for serious programming positions,
    because of the bad reputation many self-taught VB hacks have brought to the
    language. This is of course totally unfair, there are tons of brilliant
    programmers out there who have worked in VB, but it is a real phenomenon
    nonetheless and I'd recommend you avoid it as someone trying to break into
    the field. I'd recommend strongly that you get experience in Java or C++
    or (optionally) C# if you really want to stay in the Microsoft toolset.
    Your problem here is C# isn't even out yet, so Java or C++ may be a better
    match.

    After you have some paid experience, you need to market yourself appropriately.
    You are not a newbie--you need to make sure you market yourself as a skilled
    professional. Fluff up the resume, not by lying or exaggerating, but simply
    stating the facts in the most attractive light possible. Remember the resume
    is a marketing document and the most important tool you have for finding
    the next opportunity. Notice I said marketing--this does not mean deception
    but it does mean presenting the best spin possible. If you wrote a tool
    to store some data in a file, rewrite it in XML format, and read it back
    in with SAX or DOM. It doesn't matter if the file is five lines long, that's
    not the point. Then you can say, truthfully:

    "Wrote a dynamic structural analysis simulation using XML and the DOM (or
    SAX) parser as a persistent data store."

    The alternative that I've seen on many resumes is something like this:

    "Wrote a small program to figure out stresses on an iron bar. Program reads
    from/to a text file."

    Believe me, you don't want the second piece on a resume. Kiss of death or
    else the bottom of the barrel as far as salary goes.


    At the point where you have some relevant paid experience and have dressed
    it up to the best possible effect, you have a good shot at landing some kind
    of mid-level programming role. Before you go out and try to land it, you
    need to make sure you are capable of delivering satisfaction to your employer.
    I'd recommend you learn some basic skills and write code that uses these
    skills.

    Database: either SQL server or Oracle. Create some tables, query them, figure
    out how to do joins and even write a small stored procedure or two. Oracle
    is free for developers from the web site and is much more widely used in
    the industry, but it is a definite challenge.

    XML: This is the up and coming standard, and it's hot, and useful to boot.
    All configuration files should now be written in XML, IMO, as well as things
    like data migration files, etc.

    Source code control: Know how this works and be able to drive at least one
    of the top names such as Rational Clearcase or Microsoft VSS.

    Read Steve McConnell's book "Code Complete". You need to know and understand
    this book, especially the points on naming conventions, choosing good names,
    etc. These are key to effective programming in a team environment.

    Magazines: You should subscribe to a programming journal or three, just
    to keep up on professional trends, programming techniques, technologies,
    etc.

    Familiarity: Make sure you are reasonably familiar with your chosen tool,
    compiler, and IDE if any. Be able to use it efficiently and effectively.

    OOP: This is a key concept to modern software projects. Design some real
    classes for actual programming tasks. Make sure you can write custom container
    classes for your business objects. Know how to write an iterator method
    or expose an iteration interface.

    Anyway, those are my thoughts. Hope that helps.

    Matthew Cromer
    President, SDA Consulting, Inc.






  6. #6
    simon Guest

    Re: looking for entry level job or advice

    Also, some schools solicit local businesses for projects so that the
    students can get real-life experience. In my last semester, the graduating
    class was divided into teams and we got a project to redesign and re-program
    the computer system of a local company. They got free labor and we got
    experience..... excellent deal.

    You can look into something like that, or make suggestion to your professor.
    Hope this helps.

    simon.



    "IvyS" <eightivy@hotmail.com> wrote in message
    news:3a92bf61$1@news.devx.com...
    >
    > Finding a nonprofit organization that could use your help should be pretty
    > easy, Mike. I'm a member of a couple (unfortunately, I'm in Canada, or I
    > would pass on your name) that would love to have someone who was willing
    > to help them out with computer programming. Take a look in your local

    phone
    > book or drop by a community center and start calling people; non-profit

    organizations
    > usually try to make themselves visible because they know it's the best way
    > to get more volunteers. It's great if you can go to them with specific

    ideas,
    > too, like offering to build them a web site or improve an existing system.
    >
    > Another suggestion for while you're still in school might be to try and

    get
    > into a coop program. My sister and I are both enrolled in coop programs
    > at our schools, and we've both gotten programming jobs through the coop

    system.
    > A lot of universities also sponsor career fairs or have job centers where
    > students can browse through employer's job postings. If your school

    doesn't
    > have one, you can attend one for another school; it's not like they

    usually
    > check ID!
    >
    > Good luck!
    >
    > IvyS
    >
    >
    > "Mike" <webworks@engineer.com> wrote:
    > >
    > >Elena,
    > >
    > >You mentioned that I could look for nonprofits or other organizations

    that
    > >can't afford to pay for consulting services and see if you can do some

    work
    > >for them. I would love to do some of these projects. Do you have any

    advice
    > >on where to find them. I'm not worried about losing some school time. I

    > currently
    > >have a 4.0 gpa. Working with computers isn't really about money for me.

    > If
    > >it wasn't for my family I wouldn't care about my salary. Thanks for your
    > >advice!
    > >
    > >Mike

    >



  7. #7
    David K. Guest

    Re: looking for entry level job or advice


    Mike:

    You may want to check out the placement office at U. of M. to see if they
    can give you any leads. There are a lot of companies who have special recruiting
    programs targetted to college students. With Maryland's reputation in Computer
    Science, I'm sure there must be companies doing on-campus recruiting there.
    I worked in the Baltimore area for 3 years, and I know that their grads
    were very well respected.

    In the meantime, definitely keep trying to add any computer-related work
    to your resume. Also, you may want to try to find a I.T. position where
    you can leverage your civil engineering skills (ex: programming on a civil
    engineering-related application). In that type of position, you can leverage
    your "old" skills while getting experience in new ones. You will have a
    distinct advantage over the average programmer who doesn't know anything
    about the application. (Too bad your current employer isn't smart enough
    to realize that).

    It sounds like you have a lot of enthusiasm about computers, so that in itself
    will help you land a job!

    "Mike" <webworks@engineer.com> wrote:
    >
    >I'm in a tough situation, my current position is in the civil engineering
    >field. I make decent money and have a wife and two kids. I'm a undergrad
    >computer science major with 3 semesters left at the University of Maryland.
    >The problem is I started with my company as a civil draftsman 3 years ago
    >and have expressed that I am not interested in the civil engineering aspect
    >of the company, but the IT division. I have only been given extremely small
    >pieces of programming and network projects. My company is holding me in

    my
    >drafting position although they know how unhappy I am. I have been looking
    >for a career change opportunity, but unfortunately, because of my family
    >I can't take a low paying internship without benefits.
    >
    >I spend just about all of my free time with computers. I have school experience
    >and a small amount of work experience with VB, C++ and networks. I would
    >love to be able to work in programming or networking, but don't have the
    >hands-on experience that most companies want. If anyone can give me some
    >advice on how to change careers without going bankrupt, I would appreciate
    >it.
    >



  8. #8
    Elena Guest

    Re: looking for entry level job or advice


    Looks like several other people have already given some excellent suggestions
    for finding volunteer work. I'll just throw in a few more:

    There are numerous websites that offer "virtual volunteering" opportunities.
    Here are two:

    www.guidestar.org/classifieds/ms_sbn.adp
    www.volunteermatch.org

    Also, if you start at www.redcross.org, you can find a local chapter near
    your home - - they also know of volunteer opportunities for tech people.


    Elena


  9. #9
    john Guest

    Re: looking for entry level job or advice


    "Mike" <webworks@engineer.com> wrote:
    >
    >Elena,
    >
    >You mentioned that I could look for nonprofits or other organizations that
    >can't afford to pay for consulting services and see if you can do some work
    >for them. I would love to do some of these projects. Do you have any advice
    >on where to find them. I'm not worried about losing some school time. I

    currently
    >have a 4.0 gpa. Working with computers isn't really about money for me.

    If
    >it wasn't for my family I wouldn't care about my salary. Thanks for your
    >advice!
    >
    >Mike


    Try http://www.iitri.org They are a non profit and they are always looking
    for programmers. Pay is not so good, but they have interesting work.


  10. #10
    Pierre G. Boutquin Guest

    Re: looking for entry level job or advice

    "Matthew Cromer" <matthew@sdaconsulting.com> wrote in message
    news:3a92eb49$1@news.devx.com...

    <Excellent advice snipped/>

    > OOP: This is a key concept to modern software projects.


    In this area, you need to learn about UML and design patterns.

    I'd also make sure you know about the programming fundamentals (data
    structures) and perhaps also database design.

    Furthermore, I'd like to emphasise honesty in your resume. After
    interviewing a large number of candidates, I am amazed of how much
    exageration seems to be going on. (I let candidates program during an
    interview, so I have no trouble diagnosing exageration!)

    <Pierre/>




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