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Getting Hired As an Entry-Level Programmer?

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the foot-in-door dept.

Programming 540

An anonymous reader writes "I received a state university degree in Computer Science. After graduation, I immediately took jobs in QA to pay the bills while waiting for other opportunities, which of course turned out to be as naive as it sounds. I've been working QA for several years now and my resume does not show the right kind of work experience for programming. On the whole I'm probably no better as a a candidate than a CS graduate fresh out of college. But all of the job postings out in the real world are looking for people with 2-5 years of programming work experience. How do you build up those first 2 years of experience? What kinds of companies hire programmers with no prior experience?"

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540 comments

You should have asked this a year before. (5, Informative)

Lord Kano (13027) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364841)

Internships are the way to go. A nice internship will give you some job experience. If you've been thinking about going back for your Master's degree, do that. And get an internship.

LK

Re:You should have asked this a year before. (5, Informative)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364847)

First, try to move up in your current job while your foot's in the door. Make your ambition known to your co-workers and elbow into other aspects of the job with the blessing of the other departments - this could be something simple like reviewing code on your own time and then offering friendly suggestions at work - but don't step on others' toes and don't come off as a prima donna unless you're VERY good at what you want to do.

Do not ask your boss up front because s/he may be naive and order you not to try anything else(in which case you look for another job). After you schmooze around a bit while keeping your standard affairs in order, approach your supervisor(preferably with "attaboys" and testimonials from other department heads) and tell him/her you want to move up, then you provide evidence of your qualification. They LOVE to see how much money you can save them. If they're skeptical then offer to negotiate(i.e. work half of your day in QA, half in development or alternately ask for a 1-month "contract" to work for another department for the chance to prove your mettle). If the PHB says no and dosent offer you a raise to stay(heh, you may be so valuable in QA that they wouldnt move you no matter what your skills are) then look for another job.

If you interview for another job then emphasize the reason why you're leaving - you're capable of more, tell 'em why, and you want to move up. Stress that you have the skillsets to be capable of learning what you do not know. Ambition looks good and even though QA isnt the greatest job, it shows that you're stable and humble enough to stick to a shit job as long as it pays the bills.

Best of luck.

Re:You should have asked this a year before. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25364913)

First, try to move up in your current job while your foot's in the door. Make your ambition known to your co-workers and elbow into other aspects of the job with the blessing of the other departments - this could be something simple like reviewing code on your own time and then offering friendly suggestions at work - but don't step on others' toes and don't come off as a prima donna unless you're VERY good at what you want to do.

Do not ask your boss up front because s/he may be naive and order you not to try anything else(in which case you look for another job). After you schmooze around a bit while keeping your standard affairs in order, approach your supervisor(preferably with "attaboys" and testimonials from other department heads) and tell him/her you want to move up, then you provide evidence of your qualification. They LOVE to see how much money you can save them. If they're skeptical then offer to negotiate(i.e. work half of your day in QA, half in development or alternately ask for a 1-month "contract" to work for another department for the chance to prove your mettle). If the PHB says no and dosent offer you a raise to stay(heh, you may be so valuable in QA that they wouldnt move you no matter what your skills are) then look for another job.

If you interview for another job then emphasize the reason why you're leaving - you're capable of more, tell 'em why, and you want to move up. Stress that you have the skillsets to be capable of learning what you do not know. Ambition looks good and even though QA isnt the greatest job, it shows that you're stable and humble enough to stick to a shit job as long as it pays the bills.

Best of luck.

I am not sure why you feel QA is a shit job. Try working as an SDET (QA) in comps like Microsoft or Amazon, it is way more difficult than an SDE.

Re:You should have asked this a year before. (4, Insightful)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364999)

I personally don't feel QA is a shit job, I was just using strong words to improve contrast.

There's nothing wrong with having a stable job which has something to do with your degree.

I blame our parents :) for telling us that a college degree will land us a badass job and a big-ass house right out of college when the unfortunate reality is that the fresh mechanical engineering graduate will take their first job as a hinge or pipe designer or that a CS grad will have to code lazy kids' homework assignments for hire!

Re:You should have asked this a year before. (4, Insightful)

bishiraver (707931) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365017)

A good QA developer is just as necessary as a good developer. We all like writing original code, and it takes a special kind of person to write smoke tests, et al, for someone else's code. At my previous job, our product's QA department was just as important as our development department to get the monthly releases out on time.

Re:You should have asked this a year before. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25365071)

A good QA developer is just as necessary as a good developer. We all like writing original code, and it takes a special kind of person to write smoke tests, et al, for someone else's code. At my previous job, our product's QA department was just as important as our development department to get the monthly releases out on time.

Top flight developers producing quality code don't need large QA departments. They've already written well-designed, bug-resistent code, unit tests, integration tests, and performance tests, all in the course of producing something that works (the first time).

If you have to pay a phalanx of QA engineers to find bugs post-facto ("just as important as our development department"), you're doing it wrong. The bugs shouldn't have been there to begin with.

Re:You should have asked this a year before. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25365093)

Top flight developers producing quality code don't need large QA departments. They've already written well-designed, bug-resistent code, unit tests, integration tests, and performance tests, all in the course of producing something that works (the first time).

This is one of the funniest things I have ever read. You're not being serious, right?

Re:You should have asked this a year before. (5, Interesting)

wild_fire1979 (1384927) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365181)

Top flight developers producing quality code don't need large QA departments. They've already written well-designed, bug-resistent code, unit tests, integration tests, and performance tests, all in the course of producing something that works (the first time).

If you have to pay a phalanx of QA engineers to find bugs post-facto ("just as important as our development department"), you're doing it wrong. The bugs shouldn't have been there to begin with.

I assure you that I work with some of the best devs that are in the market right now. They are really good, but when you have to deal with millions of lines of code across a extremely complex system, bugs happen!!! :) Unit testing, code coverage tools, continuous build systems can just mitigate the effect not eliminate bugs. Even QAs just make sure that the quality is within acceptable parameters they can't eliminate them completely.

Re:You should have asked this a year before. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25365261)

Top flight developers producing quality code don't need large QA departments. They've already written well-designed, bug-resistent code, unit tests, integration tests, and performance tests, all in the course of producing something that works (the first time).

If you have to pay a phalanx of QA engineers to find bugs post-facto ("just as important as our development department"), you're doing it wrong. The bugs shouldn't have been there to begin with.

Anyone that would honestly think that, is functioning with reduced mental capacity. If a developer thinks like that, doubly so.

Re:You should have asked this a year before. (5, Interesting)

Cynonamous Anoward (994767) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365329)

Are you a professor? or do you work in theoretical software practices? Have you EVER worked on commercial software? I work for a certain media co., on a certain well known video player. There are so many things that simply cannot be tested except by a human. Management is always begging QA and engineering to try and come up with ways to automate testing of these things, but no one ever gets anywhere.

How can code analysis ever verify:

* YUV->RGB color conversion (there isn't even a single right answer to this, it's subjective)

* A/V Sync

* Audio language selection (how do you write code to tell if the guy is speaking in french as opposed to spanish?)

* GUI Widget alignment

* Subtitle Placement

The list goes on and on. Some of these things do have unit tests, but bugs pop up anyway, bugs which never could have been caught by any unit test. Some parts of our code lend themselves to unit tests (file parsers) and those sections are heavily tested. Other sections simply don't offer the opportunity for analyzing the results via code. All-in-all, a major update to the player can require over two months of QA by a team of 8 testers. This is in addition to the thorough unit tests you claim _should_ take care of all that.

Re:You should have asked this a year before. (1)

wild_fire1979 (1384927) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365129)

I blame our parents :) for telling us that a college degree will land us a badass job and a big-ass house right out of college when the unfortunate reality is that the fresh mechanical engineering graduate will take their first job as a hinge or pipe designer or that a CS grad will have to code lazy kids' homework assignments for hire!

I agree that finding a good programmer job right outta college is tough. But you can always consider working as a contractor to gain experience and then once the skill set is complete, try in comps like MS and all. But I must say the hiring bar is quite high in comps like Amazon and all :( I speak from experience as someone who take interviews people applying as SDETS :)

Re:You should have asked this a year before. (5, Insightful)

weicco (645927) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365231)

First, try to move up in your current job while your foot's in the door.

Three years is the limit. If after three years you haven't managed to get raise or promotion apply for another job. Especially if your professional expertise is falling behind or soon you won't be able to get a job at all...

Now if you manage to get a better job with better salary ... well, that's great for you! But remember that expectations rise and you need to show that you are worth it. It can be stressful compared to your old job.

But if you can't get another job then there's some serious consideration to do. Maybe you are not that great worker after all?

Re:You should have asked this a year before. (1)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365239)

Stress that you have the skillsets to be capable of learning what you do not know.

IMHO, letting an interviewer think that you have to learn anything in order to do the job is the kiss of death for any interview.

Re:You should have asked this a year before. (4, Insightful)

plover (150551) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364995)

A master's degree will certainly help, as will an internship, but those will take time and money to complete.

Is it possible the development team you're working QA for is hiring? Do you have contact with the developers? Have you built a reputation as someone who catches the hard-to-find bugs and documents them well? I know I value a competent tester, and if one of the good ones came to me looking for a way up, I'd be putting in a good word for him with management. Social networking is a good place to find hidden opportunities, and if it's people you've impressed with your skills at work, so much the better.

Re:You should have asked this a year before. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25365167)

A Master's in computer science to jump in as an entry level programmer? By god you are right! Throw another $20,000 at the problem! That will do it!

Seriously, talk to some smaller programming companies around and look for something that you can squeeze into. See if you can participate on some joint pro bono work and add it to your resume. All potential employers want to see is some actual skill and not a useless piece of paper that you acquired during four years of partying.

Re:You should have asked this a year before. (4, Insightful)

Mad Merlin (837387) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365171)

Interships are probably a good option. I did a CS degree with Co-op (four 4 month work terms integrated with regular classes, but the degree only takes 1 extra semester, as you don't get summers off), and I had no trouble at all finding a job after graduating (above entry level even, or at least well above entry level pay scale). For me, the already existing relevant job experience was pretty valuable.

Though, job experience isn't the end of the story, if you don't have job experience, you can still work on related stuff in your spare time. When I was applying for my one of my Co-op positions, I was able to show off Game! [wittyrpg.com] as something substantial that'd I'd already done, and that pretty much clinched the job offer. Game! wasn't something I created with the intention of putting on my resume, I just wanted to make a game, but it certainly turned out pretty well.

So, code something you like in your spare time. If there's nothing that interests you that you want to develop, perhaps a programming job isn't actually what you want to be doing.

Re:You should have asked this a year before. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25365333)

Internships are great for students and every student in every field should do one.

However if you have several years of work experience in QA, you can't just drop out and do an internship. (Assuming you could even find one.) 99% of people reading resumes will translate that as "unemployed".

Build something (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25364861)

Pick a technology you find interesting and build an application in it.

I got my first programming job by showing off a simple web based contact manager I built for myself.

-Jim Bastard

Contact your Universities Placement office (5, Informative)

dubious_1 (170533) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364863)

Even though you have graduated, most Universities will help you find a job if you graduated from there. The jobs for entry level ( new graduate ) positions are not typically going to be posted on Monster, Hot Jobs, etc. since we look for those people at University Job fairs.
I have been to many of these as a prospective employer, and there are always several Alumni who are there looking.

College Recruiting (2, Informative)

Mongoose Disciple (722373) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364865)

Research which companies are recruiting at your and other area colleges. Not that you necessarily have to go to a college career fair (although it's not a terrible idea), but it's a good way to get a feel for which companies will hire with no experience.

A couple companies in my area are very much of the "hire people straight out of college and try to keep them forever" mindset; it's no coincidence that these companies also do a ton of college recruiting. A company like this may not be where you want to spend your entire career, depending on your aspirations, but it's not a bad way to get started.

More than you think... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25364883)

You would be surprised. Microsoft loves to hire fresh programmers, that way they can be indoctrinated into the MS way of doing things. Many small companies will hire entry level because they can't afford $100K experienced people. They will look for entry level, lost cost people who have the basic skill set and are motivated to learn and grow. It may cost some time when training you up to speed, but many companies are willing to make that sacrifice, esp on non-critical path projects.

Good luck.

Simple (4, Funny)

FooGoo (98336) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364887)

Lie on your resume...but you better be able to keep the job once you have it.

Re:Simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25364899)

Lie on your resume...but you better be able to keep the job once you have it.

Hmm. If I were your boss, reading this... well, come into my office tommorrow morning and we'll continue this.

Re:Simple (2, Funny)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365303)

You do know that asking a subordinate for oral sex is against company policy, right?!

Re:Simple (4, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365185)

At one time I would have been against that, but then I realized that most job postings are primarily a bunch of random bullet points HR tossed in that have little or nothing to do with the actual opening. That is, when they're not just wasting your time to inflate their folder of resumes 'just in case'. Then, of course, there's the postings demanding 5 years of experience in a 3 year old technology...

When it comes down to it, if you can't quite do the job, it's not like they'll say anything if your next potential employer calls them. They'll verify your employment without further comment as a matter of policy, no matter how good or bad you were.

Re:Simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25365305)

Then, of course, there's the postings demanding 5 years of experience in a 3 year old technology...

I once saw a job req that had something along the lines of "Security clearance or equivalent work experience required." I never did find out what that meant.

Re:Simple (1)

piojo (995934) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365351)

At one time I would have been against that, but then I realized that most job postings are primarily a bunch of random bullet points HR tossed in that have little or nothing to do with the actual opening. That is, when they're not just wasting your time to inflate their folder of resumes 'just in case'. Then, of course, there's the postings demanding 5 years of experience in a 3 year old technology...

I'm not qualified to give much advice, besides that that's a dangerous game. Especially if an engineer asks you about something that you put on your resume and you start to flounder. The goal is just to get past HR to people who know what they are talking about. In some companies, you don't even need to have all the qualifications they are demanding--sometimes they know their demands are absurd, and the person going through resumes is not the same person that wrote the job requirements.

Re:Simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25365269)

How about going back for a masters, but this time, get a co-op position as well.

Re:Simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25365317)

This has been marked as a funny comment, but actually it's very true.

You simply got to have guts and convince the company that you know what you are doing. Even though they ask for 2-5 years of experience, this is negotiable - so to speak. If you have done a lot of cool projects, they might take that into account.

I recommend spending a lot of your time doing hobby programming (which you may actually have done). I don't think you need to directly lie on your resume, but make it look good. Make it look like you did some freelance work for a company, even though you may have done the project as a hobby.

Re:Simple (1)

mcmonkey (96054) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365367)

Lie on your resume...because it's the only way you'll ever get another technical job.

If you've been doing QA for several years but are still looking at entry level programming work, either your skills aren't growing or your evaluation of your skills isn't growing.

Either way, what's next? "I've been programming C++ for several years, how do I get an entry level job programming Java?"

Entry level is just that. Unless you completely jump fields, you should never have another entry level job again in your life. "I've been in IT, now I'm looking to be a lion tamer." Ok, entry level. But anything related to work you've already done, you should be past entry level.

Try Harder (2, Interesting)

RecursiveLoop (1264802) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364889)

I did the same, only caught in QA for 6 months though.... I can tell u this, some companies(mine) hire Jr. programmers when they cant get anyone else, for one reason or another. I found out the reason for my company soon, startup short on funding regularly misses payroll. Currently Im 3 paychecks behind...ughh But at least Im not "Unemployed" during this messy market, and Im getting bonfide Programmer experience on my resume for when I chose to bolt!

Re:Try Harder (3, Insightful)

Cynonamous Anoward (994767) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365361)

This is actually the hard truth. If you want to get a good job, you need experience. The only way to get experience is to work for someone who is desperate. That's what I did. Look for small startups. You might not get paid well. You might not get a project you like. Best case, you work on some new idea and help bring a cool new start up off the ground. Worst case, you eke by for a year and presto! have a year of experience as a commercial software developer!

Get involved in an Open Source project (4, Insightful)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364893)

Get stuck into an Open Source project, find out how it works, dive deep. If it turns out you can make a contribution that has even reasonably broad acceptance, that will add to your credibility as a programmer. At worst, you'll be keeping up your currency in at least one field.

Re:Get involved in an Open Source project (2, Interesting)

darnok (650458) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365157)

Agree completely. Find a FOSS project that uses the same technologies as you'd like to use in your 9-5 job, and get stuck in. It (generally) costs nothing more than your own time.

Given a choice between 2 programmers with similar skillsets and experience, I'd be inclined to go with the guy who's got FOSS coding experience in his background. The implication is that you're prepared to put your code out there for peer review (which takes some guts), and you're prepared to write code to scratch your own personal itches. Both of those demonstrate qualities in the people I'd want to work for me.

Re:Get involved in an Open Source project (3, Informative)

jamesh (87723) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365337)

I've been involved in two open source projects over the last 12 months and have received (tentative) employment offers as a result of both of them. A decent contribution to a large project shows that you can do the job, can work well with others, and can be motivated to do things, so even if people don't come looking for you, it still helps a lot, and keeps your experience current.

If you do participate in OSS projects via public mailing lists, remember that most of the related mailing lists are publicly archived and your name will show up in a google search as a result of this, particularly if you state "I have been heavily involved in project xyz" on your resume and they go and google using your name and that project as keywords. So be nice to others online :)

Start coding (5, Insightful)

robogymnast (755411) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364903)

Build up a small portfolio by contributing to an open-source project, or start your own, or code that cool project that you have been thinking about in your head from time to time. Do whatever you have to do to start writing some actual working code.

Don't undervalue your QA experience either. QA experience means that you know how to test and debug, which is a rather large percentage of development. If you don't meet the requirements exactly, apply anyway, or look for jobs that mix QA and development, but make it clear that you want to move into a development role as soon as you are ready. Good luck!

good luck - many programmers outsourced (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25364919)

Programming is an easily-outsourced IT job. Perhaps you should find a way to specialize, so that you can combine programming skills with other necessary skills such as DBA work or IT administration. Programming alone is a great gig, but not so easy to come by. If you had programming and graphic design skills, you could go into game development.

Another way might be to develop apps for the iPhone. You can make a lot of money over time if Apple picks your app; if they don't, you may be able to port it to Android or Blackberry.

Re:good luck - many programmers outsourced (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364973)

Programming is an easily-outsourced IT job.

Bullshit.

Perhaps we could say it's the easiest kind of IT job to outsource, but none are easy. It's hard enough to communicate your needs to contractors who at least have English as a first language -- and I speak from experience.

All of this means that it would be very difficult to outsource a job or two. If they're going to outsource, it'll be the whole department.

If you had programming and graphic design skills, you could go into game development.

I don't personally know any game developers, but do they really not split that up? My understanding is, the programmers program, and the designers design.

Re:good luck - many programmers outsourced (1)

telbij (465356) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365287)

GP sounds like he's 16 with no real world experience.

Programming jobs are not hard to come by at all. Yes you should be able to pick up some administrator or other tangential skills along the way but it's rarely a core requirement to getting hired.

Game development has nothing to do with graphic design. Illustrators, animators, modelers, yes, but not graphic designers. Also, it's a pretty niche type of programming. You need to know more about physics and other common game algorithms. Pretty hard to get into without specific training.

Demonstrate competence (5, Insightful)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364921)

Unless you had a very good program in school, odds are you haven't actually written many real world programs. The stuff in school usually isn't finished programs, just enough to demonstrate the concepts being discussed.

So join an open source project and do some real world programming. Learn how to finish the job, catch those return codes, use a version control system, track down bugs in non-trivial programs, work on getting the documentation to actually match the program, etc. Learn how to work in a real team. Be a big enough contributer that you can rightfully claim to be a major contributer so when a prospective employer follows up by looking at the credits, commit logs and mailing list traffic you aren't seen as inflating the record.

Get OpenSource on your resume (3, Insightful)

BountyX (1227176) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364941)

If you cant find decent internships or jobs, become a key player in some well-known open source projects so you can throw them on your resume. I've been pretty impressed with some entry level guys who played key roles in open source jobs it shows intiative and and passion.

Three ways (5, Informative)

jwhitener (198343) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364945)

There are 3 ways to get that first job:

1. Know someone in the company
2. Gain experience through personal projects and showcase it.
3. Be extremely charismatic and up to date on the job's focus areas and especially the companies specific mission.

Right out of college, with a degree in Anthropology, my first job was as a system analyst for a health care corporation.

For years I had tinkered with computers, and kept somewhat up to date on modern programming techniques, enterprise systems, and had created several little programs that resided on public servers that I could show off.

The interview was successful because I:
A) Knew exactly what they wanted for that position.
B) Researched the relevant "buzzwords" and lingo beforehand.
C) Was generally easy going and relaxed.

Despite having no formal education in computer science or programming, my obvious research into their business and corporate culture (thank you anthropology!) really showed well during the first encounter.

People with technical skills are a dime a dozen (unless you are striving to get into some very abstract programming job), and usually, a hardworking, motivated person should be able to convince a interviewer that they are up for the challenge.

Basically, apply for the job in front of you, do not apply for "a programming job". If you treat the job as something unique, do a little research on the company and their culture, and can "seem to be one of them", you are in.

Re:Three ways (1)

tuzo (928271) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365251)

People with technical skills are a dime a dozen (unless you are striving to get into some very abstract programming job)

In my experience this isn't true. I guess it depends how you define technical skills, though. But in so many IT shops you see the same problems from the same sorts of programmers (who, I assume have technical skills?): Why wouldn't you check for null? If you caught the exception, why wouldn't you log an error? Why would you catch an exception and then ignore it? Why would you use a cookie to determine if a user was admin? Why didn't you use a transaction for those two database operations? etc. I'm not making this stuff up. I guess it's Sturgeon's Law for programming.

How many times... (1)

banffbug (1323109) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364959)

does an article like this come up? once every 2 months?

Write test code (4, Insightful)

Smallpond (221300) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364961)

The natural step from doing QA is writing the tests for QA: specs, scripting, network, database, there can be a lot involved.

Volunteer Work (1)

tsalmark (1265778) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364977)

The answer, regardless of career path is always volunteer work, in the case of programming that may be an Open source project. There are also non-profits looking for help, simple scripts and small programs to automate their work flow count as experience. You may get culled by a mindless sorter/agency for not having two years programming, but to most managers hiring juniors any related experience is good, if it shows your work ethic and general abilities.

Move to New Zealand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25364983)

We have a shortage of IT graduates here. :)

Re:Move to New Zealand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25365273)

Ummm...sorry to say this...you Kiwis are good people...but you have a shortage of almost everything there.

Start your own company (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25364985)

This might seem a little out of the ordinary, but you might consider starting your own business and write your own applications for a couple of years. Not really to make any money per-se, but just to gain work experience in your off-hours. After a couple years, Not only will you have the experience required, but you should also have a nice portfolio of applications to show off and a CEO title to add to your resume;) Who knows, maybe after a couple of years, you'd have enough of a revenue stream established in your own business that there would be no need to find a job.

Internships (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25364989)

Have to agree. Though I had grad school "experience", getting an internship was the real way in! I did a 6 month internship with IBM and as they say showed my worth. Not only did the internship itself pay well, I am quite happy with the FT job. Once I was here though I made it clear that I did not want to do testing, that developing was my thing. Lucky there were options for me but sometimes you are stuck doing whatever it is they need. "Needs of the Business".

Years ago I had taken an "junior programmer" job. Came with a "junior salary" too. I was better off quitting and going to grad school (which I promptly did) making similar money as a grad assistant.

Is programming really for you? (4, Insightful)

xquark (649804) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364991)

Ask yourself this, do you really want to be a programmer?

Many people think its the "it thing" in IT, and that being a programmer and eventually an architect is the pinnacle of their career.

The truth is most people will not make good programmers, they wont end-up enjoying what they do, and something as mentally straining and intensive as programming requires you to continually have a good/positive mindset to be productive and to churn out top notch solutions.

I suppose this is the same for all types of careers - is it really for you?

That said most people will undoubtedly tell you to do some open source, start some of your own projects.
I have another suggestion, take your QA role, and ask yourself this: what tasks that you're doing now can be further automated, is there an area where something can be solved with a program?

If you can find that area(s), and build the program(s) to solve those problem(s), then you're probably a good fit for programming, if you're the kind of person that needs someone to tell them any one of those things, then perhaps its not for you...

Re:Is programming really for you? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25365053)

>>Ask yourself this, do you really want to be a programmer?

>>start some of your own projects

Agreed. If you really want to be a programmer, you'll find yourself doing it. You'll make opportunities wherever you're at to program. Websites for family, for small businesses, etc. Or small applications that are generally useful. These small things can lead to bigger things.

Re:Is programming really for you? (2, Insightful)

Revvy (617529) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365221)

There are ample opportunities within QA to do programming. I have yet to meet a developer who says, "No, don't write my unit tests for me."

Have you heard of Selenium? How about Groovy, FIT, JUnit, JMeter, or ant? How's your svn-fu and when was the last time you mucked around in an apache.conf file? Know some SQL that you've used for verification? Got any handy shell scripts? Had to mess around with Prototype, JSON, JavaScript, Perl, PHP, Python, or Ruby?

C'mon, be honest with yourself. What's really holding you up?

Start somewhere else... (1)

bugg_tb (581786) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365001)

I started as a chief photocopier, then moved on to find a niche in Java based BI which was fun for a while, then made the natural progression into Java based programming. The firm I worked for wasn't a tech firm which may have worked in my favour, but they were sure happy with the work I did as my reference said, and helped my progress onto somewhere else more up my street. In the mean time as I'm sure is mentioned above the BI package is open source, so I spend plenty of time honing my skills giving time back to the project.

Apply anyway and make some friends (1)

cybereal (621599) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365003)

So the answer is pretty simple. Apply for the jobs that match your skillset even if you lack the experience. What you will see, if you're lucky, is a company looking to hire someone they can offer a relatively low payrate compared to what they posted but will do nearly as good of a job minus the expected failings of a newbie.

Essentially they get a good deal and you get some experience.

Secondly, make friends who have jobs at programming companies, and make those friends impressed with your skills. Networking is the #1 best way to get a good long lasting job.

I'm speaking from my own experience here. To top it all off, I have no schooling at all. I taught myself. I proved myself to future employers by proving myself to my friends who had friends, etc. I'm promoted every year due to my merits now and couldn't be happier with the way this all worked out.

Good luck to you.

Work hard at a small company (1)

icepick72 (834363) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365009)

Small companies pay programmers with no experience, likely substantially less; however it gives you the opportunity to get your foot in the door. Additionally small companies often develop a breadth of experience because you are required to take on many roles. For a developer this might mean developing across multiple software layers and getting involved in many aspects instead of being slotted into one focused area. Small companies don't have the stability. Be ready to give a lot. Years later you can take a lot back after experience is built up. This is only one option but is viable.

Open Source (1)

cirrustelecom (1353617) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365025)

Start writing for an Open Source project in your off time and get some credit. As an employer, it would show that you can work well with others and that you are self-sufficient and have initiative. I would then show the code that I have worked on in the project as well as any feedback from the other contributors or users.

How I did it (MFA to Tech Support to Programming) (5, Informative)

h4ter (717700) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365027)

I got a non-technical post-graduate degree and now I'm a programmer. Only took a couple of years to get my first programming job. Here's how I did it.

First of all, I did as much programming as I could at my tech support jobs. Not all of it was company sponsored, but if I figured out something I could write that would help *me* do my job I would write it. I wrote all kinds of little things, and then I was able to truthfully add to my resume that I developed software.

I was also going to user group meetings for the language I was using most and meeting people there. I ended up getting my first job (and all subsequent jobs, actually) through people I met at those meetings. At least for the language, city, and time I happened to be in, the meetings were filled with people who knew about more work than they could take. And the recommendations you can get there are worth "2-5 years of experience" on a resume.

I'm currently helping my company's QA guy get some programming tasks so he can make the switch and give his job to some other poor CS grad. Is there anyone on the development team where you are that might help you out?

There's one more option: recruiters. I know they're not great, and the jobs you get through them aren't all perfect, but there are some recruiters who can help you market yourself without the exact "2-5 years of experience" someone's looking for.

One last thing: If you're any good at all you'll be way ahead of most people in this field. If you can get an interview, showing your abilities and desire to learn can be enough.

Good luck.

Build your resume with non-full time jobs (1)

OctavianMH (61823) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365035)

Search places like craigslist "gigs" for short term projects!

People post "simple" short-term projects all the time, where as an entry level candidate, you can stand out by offering a competitive rate (think 40$ / hourish...rate too low = people won't take you seriously). Be a good communicator on how you'd solve their problem, and you'll likely land a few of those gigs.

Remember to search in big markets like NYC or the Bay Area, and tailor your resume to highlight the skills you have that apply to the job!

After three or four projects like this, you'll have company names you've "consulted" for on the resume, and bigger outfits will start taking you more seriously.

I truly believe that companies like self-starters on the whole, Showing "deliverables" and industry knowledge for ANY client is far more important that an uninterrupted full time job crawl.

the employment game (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365039)

your summary speaks of an expectation that the rules of employment are hard set in terms years of that, experience with this, etc. not that a lot if not most employment opportunities do work in the way you understand. however, you'll find that there is a lot of wiggle room out there. some relaxation of requirements comes from a wildly unprepared employer, belying an unpleasant work experience. other times requirements are relaxed and gambles are made simply because you are in boom times, or its really hard for some reason to find prospective candidates, due to all sorts of factors

its not formulaic. you can spend 10 years ratcheting up the job ladder to get to a pay scale and job experience that you could have gotten if you had just gone to a few more interviews 10 years earlier. nothing is guaranteed, everything is chaotic. you'll find (and probably have already found) that your coworkers differ dramatically in skillset and effectiveness. its always like this, and there is a certain level of salesmanship and misrepresentation and misperception going on in every job interview

you'll also find some people will join a company, then leave after a week, if things are not to their liking. so don't feel skittish about taking a risk on a promising job, and then leaving if its not what you though it would be. and go to a lot of interviews, simply to see what is out there, and to build your interview skills, and don't be afraid to fall in love with something and put a lot of effort into it to see your chances uptliamtely dashed. the reward for your short term pain is long term gain
 

Career Path? (1)

Korbeau (913903) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365043)

QA ... QA-Lead -> Team-Lead -> Manager -> ???

Most programming jobs tend to go to management jobs anyway. Well, not entirely, if you're a "real programmer" in a niche they might pay you very very well and keep you doing "real programming" - if that's what you seek I suggest you to definitely quit your current job and look somewhere else, even if it means starting at a bitter salary.

But your experience should matter anyway, if you have your degree plus 2+ years of QA I'd say go for those job offers that require some years of programming experience ... if you're confident in the skills you've earned so far don't mind bidding higher, and if you've done some programming tasks don't hesitate to put them on your CV as well!

At my job I know that a lot of QA guys in some teams have created amazing tools and scripts that help the whole department. If you can express that in your CV or in an interview you're as good as any new programmer that has done data entry for two years.

You're only as stuck as you think you are (1)

CresmondRoo (1331317) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365047)

Most workers rarely get credit for doing what they're really good at. Most developers hardly ever get a chance to show what they're _really_ good at. But it's really a matter of working with people who will give you a chance sometimes. For every pointy-haired boss who is afraid you might be smarter than s/he is, somewhere else in your company or one down the street you will find somebody who has a problem that needs to be solved. And when managers have a real problem that needs to be solved, and they can't dig a hole and hide from it, they can be amazingly open-minded.

It's called an internship (0, Redundant)

grilled-cheese (889107) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365049)

The easiest way to break into the software development industry is to simply be an intern for a small to medium sized company and do a good job while getting along with people. If you make yourself an integral part of their development team, they would be foolish to let you go.

Re:It's called an internship (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365299)

do a good job while getting along with people

But this is slashdot

     

Look for a job of an SDET (3, Informative)

wild_fire1979 (1384927) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365057)

You could use the QA experience to your advantage. Since you have a QA mindset you will make a great SDET (Software Dev Engineer in Test). An SDET writes code to test the code written by Devs. This involves writing service level automation frameworks. Test tools to make automation tasks easier and also UI level automation. Such a job allows you to keep your QA skills and at the same time showcase your coding talent. If you show enough panache for being a coder, you can make a move as an SDE which is a much easier transition than going from QA to SDE. Plus SDETs are paid nearly at par with SDEs. Companies that you should be looking at: Amazon Microsoft Research in Motion Real Networks Google. Another way is to join consulting firms like Volt which allows you to work as a contractor in Microsoft. If you do well and get recognized, you can apply in MS and get selected. Hope this helps :)

Re:Look for a job of an SDET (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25365161)

Real Networks? Are you serious?

Re:Look for a job of an SDET (1)

wild_fire1979 (1384927) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365229)

They do have some decent QA contrary to what other ppl think :)

Sounds eerily familiar (2, Informative)

uberjack (1311219) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365065)

Because I was in the exact same situation, when I received my BS in 2001. In fact, I even ended up getting a Master's Degree, while I continued working in tech support to make some cash. In a lot of ways, I enjoyed my older job a lot more. As someone who wanted to be a professional programmer (and was a hobbyist programmer for years), I was severely disappointed in my job. When you do something you don't enjoy, programming can be the dullest career possible. As someone who enjoys coding for the PSP in my spare time, I find my job (writing ASP.net apps) mind-numbing and just plain obnoxious at times (hell, I don't even run Windows at home). I urge anyone who has similar issues to think carefully about their career choice. Unless you land a job that you know for fact you will enjoy, consider existing opportunities. As a tech support person, I usually had time to do hobby development. These days I'll be lucky to check my RSS feeds in the morning.

Re:Sounds eerily familiar (2, Interesting)

Trevin (570491) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365271)

I was in the same situation when I graduated in 1991. In hindsight, I probably would have been better off if I had decreased my academic workload and gotten a part-time coding job like a lot of my classmates did. Instead, I took all the classes I could to finish college in 3 years (with AP credits + a summer term), and ended up with a degree but no work experience. It took me years to find each of my programming jobs, due to both my lack of experience and also market trends.

Two of the jobs I did eventually get were because I had relatively rare niche skills that the companies were looking for (MC680x0 assembly language programming). I developed that on my own for personal projects, and was able to demonstrate the programs I wrote to the employers, which in that case counted as experience even though it wasn't "paid" experience.

The last job I got, I started out doing system administration and later moved into a programming position when an opening came up. In this case I already had several years of paid tech support experience plus Red Hat administration both on the job and at home, so that got my foot in the door.

So my advice is to focus on the type of programming you want to do in your spare time, whether it's for your own projects or a community open-source project, to keep your skills up to date. Then keep an eye on job openings, and when an opportunity arises in the direction you want your career to go, grab it.

The right attitude. (5, Insightful)

Lafe (595258) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365067)

I hire programmers.

I hire entry-level programmers. For what it's worth, the last couple I've hired have been from India.

I look for a couple of things when I'm hiring entry-level. The first is experience. I'm not talking about professional experience, you won't have any of that yet. But what have you done? Have you done an internship? What have you done in your spare time? What have you done on your own? Can you demonstrate useful skills? Can you debug a program?

The first thing I'm going to throw you into if I do hire you is maintenance. Find a bug, fix a bug.

It's about attitude. Technical competency will be low at your level... but do you know how to find out what you don't know? Do you know how to research a problem? Do you know how to find an answer off the internet? Do you know how long to work on a problem on your own, and when to ask for help? When I show you how a certain thing is done, can you watch me once, and then pick it up?

Most programmers are bad at interviews. Most stink at writing resumes. So it's mostly going to be about other things. If you can make friends in the right circles. If you can get a recommendation from someone I've heard of. If you can show me that you have hunger and drive to get ahead... then I'll hire you in a heartbeat.

I'll keep you on if you don't mess around, but dig deep into the problems you're given. I'll be delighted if you bug me for answers when you need them. I will gladly explain concepts if you'll gladly listen and run with what you've been taught.

I only get so many openings per year. I've turned down folks for the wrong attitude most of all. I've turned down folks with professional experience if they kept a narrow focus and never ventured out of their comfort zones. I've passed on people who believe that programming is something like FrontPage, and that they shouldn't have to work hard, or understand much, to make a cool application.

I guess, mostly, I look for people who would be programming something even if they weren't getting paid.

Is that you?

Yes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25365077)

Yes, I was seeing a lot of the combination of companies not wanting to hire unless someone already had several years experience, and those same companies then wondering why they couldn't find someone with a few years experience (when no one were hiring with no experience.) Some seemed to use this as an excuse for H1B hiring. It's looking like H1B abuse is being reigned in though, both by simple economics and by people w/in the gov't finally realized the large amounts of H1B fraud going on.

          So, I expect the local markets to pick up.

traditionally (2, Informative)

discogravy (455376) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365079)

a) work cheap
b) work someplace crappy that doesn't care
c) build some exp with self-made projects (OSS, make your own game, etc)
d) expand the duties of your current position (depends on how viable this is in a particular job, of course, and how receptive they are to it.)

alternately, you could make your skills attractive by hitting up the keywords they want to hear (php, perl, scripting, java, c, whatever)

Start talking and programming (2, Informative)

lowvato (68700) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365089)

If you like the company that you are in start programming your own tools and solutions, let other people use them. There are tons of things you can do in QA along those lines. Also, it is important to start talking to the software engineers. Most companies like to hire internally if you can exhibit some capability.

two words (1)

thockin (514323) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365099)

OPEN SOURCE

Get online. Find a project that is vaguely interesting to you. Hack on it. Subscribe to mailing lists. Post on forums. File bugs. Read books. Write cool programs. Get some experience.

Never give up! Never surrender! (3, Insightful)

fluffynuts (1004256) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365105)

I know *exactly* where you are coming from, having finished a programming course about 8 years ago, and having to deliver pizza (hey, a job is a job!) whilst waiting on the people who ran my course to find me a job (as they had promised). Of course, they started demanding the money for their course (which they were supposed to extract from the people they got me a job with... catch-22 deluxe).

Long story short: you should first see if there is some way you can relocate within your current company -- if they are forward-thinking, they will try to help you "be all you can be"; if they aren't, you're better off somewhere else anyway. Which brings me to the other point: you will have to accept the first programming job that you can find, irrespective of pay, or even environment. If you can prove flexibility, it doesn't matter where your programming roots are: a good company will realise programming talent irrespective of development environment. Take this from someone who initially had a side-course of C on a Chemical Engineering degree, which lead to taking a focussed programming course in COBOL (yes, I know, horrid stuff!), which landed my first job doing VB, which got me my second job doing ASP (and then PHP), which prepared me to work for myself for a while in TCL/TK, PHP, ASP; on to a job in primarily Delphi, and then on to a C++ position, now a C++ / "whatever I want to use" position. Of course, there were helpings of SQL, shell scripts, Python (yum!) and Perl (scary!) along the way. I'm quite sure I've forgotten at least one...

I know there will be people who object to such diversity. But hey, it's worked well for me. I have a good idea of programming principles and which tools will deliver what benefits to my current project.

College isn't just for studying. (2, Insightful)

jrhawk42 (1028964) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365107)

Social connections are vital for getting a job unless you have some other remarkable skill that's going to land you a job, or you happen to stumble upon a company during a hiring phase. Most of these connections should of been made in college, or in QA over the past couple years. Since you haven't made any of these connections I'm guessing you're an introverted type that tends to go unnoticed. I would suggest doing more to be sociable, and make a likable impression on people. Don't be clingy, and don't be judgmental these two things ruin social interactions. Eventually you'll find yourself moving in the right circles if you have the ability to actually become a good programmer.

Networking, BS, and Talent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25365115)

Knowing people who know people is tremendously helpful (especially if you're like me and you'd like to skip that whole 'entry-level' thing entirely). I'm 2 months away from my BS in Computer Science and I'm 6 months into a senior programming/management position at a startup. I got the interview by knowing a guy who knows a guy. I got the job by knowing enough technical gobbledygook to wow the bigwigs. I kept the job by being good enough to back up my interview bs.

Welcome to my world (1)

Prikolist (1260608) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365123)

Yea it's retarded. Have the same situation, I'm an engineer though. And to those of you speaking of internships, I did apply to a bunch but got no answers, same as with my job application. The only interview I ever got was for a marginally related position (like QA in your case), but I didn't even get that. Find a better major, sadly, that's what I'm doing, four years wasted and $10k in loans with no job to pay them off.

Re:Welcome to my world (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365279)

sadly, that's what I'm doing, four years wasted and $10k in loans with no job to pay them off.

Whats worse is that business lobbyists are spending millions to convince Congress that there is a "shortage" of programmers so that they can bring over more slave-like visa workers. Chaps my hide to think about it.
       

Lie (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365125)

Hide the QA experience by telling them that you really worked as a developer in a finance house for the last few years, but you're too ashamed to give details. They'll understand ;-)

spin (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365127)

Spin your resume to emphasize coding skills. Did you write scripts in your QA job? Even if it was a 3 line batch file, put it in. If you coordinated with programmers in your job, put that. Did you do any debugging at all?

If you can come up with a halfway decent program on your own time, try to do it. Throw it in your cover letter, and offer them the program and the code. Don't worry about open sourcing anything, this should be your own code, and it should be clean.

ways to gain experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25365137)

msg suitable to freshers.
http://lunchgossips.blogspot.com/2006/11/getting-experience-before-getting-job.html

move to India (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25365139)

lots of jobs there.

Don't ask me,my career never started because of it (2, Interesting)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365145)

If you can't get hired in the first year of looking, it makes it even harder to find a job because employers assume there is something wrong with you. I've only worked in a programming position for six months in the past six years I've been out of school. And nooooooo one wants to hire me because of it. I'm not crying myself to sleep though. My family is happy to support me, so I don't need money. I just keep working on my personal projects. Right now I'm wrote a 3d fighter that can have over 1000 people in the same room. I'm considering making it into a 100 level deep dungeon crawl like Angband crossed with a 3d Zelda. Its not easy, but eh, some people aren't lucky enough to get a job in programming.

Write Code. (3, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365151)

Write code that interests you, sell it or give it away, and build up a body of work that you can point to.

-jcr

Re:Write Code. (2, Insightful)

pifmag (633623) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365235)

JCR gets it right. And to the question the original post posed: "What kinds of companies hire programmers with no prior experience?" The answer: All kinds of companies - provided you show a passion for what you do, have some interesting pet projects you can point to, and think critically about problem-solving. When reviewing candidates for our openings, I rarely look at the education section of a resume. I instead focus on, in this order, (1) the pet projects a candidate can point to that they feel strongly about (and if they're not work related, that's better), and (2) how long (or short) of time they've spent with previous employers. To me, if you love doing what you're doing, you'll do it for free. And if you're willing to do it for free, you'll find a company (like ours) willing to pay you to do it eventually. Just stick with what you love.

QA? I was worse... (1)

Comatose51 (687974) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365173)

I ended up doing IT out of college (between the first Internet bubble and the Web 2.0 one). I did manage to convince the IT department that a few custom scripts/programs here and there would be helpful to their operations. Still, 75% of my time was spent moving computers around, helping people with issues, and graduated to managing servers. That, however, made me really hunger for programming so I ended up thinking up projects on my own and coding them. I learned web related programming and AJAX when it was relatively new. I would create games for fun, etc. Finally I got a call from a recruiter at a company that I admired and applied for the job. I told them what my situation was. I told them a good part of what I know I learned on my own and that I was looking for the chance to really learn to do software engineering, not necessarily better compensation. That attitude probably impressed them quite a bit. Obviously I had to pass all the technical questions and coding tests. At the end, I got hired and that's where I've been for the lats 1.5 years.

Long story short, you can learn quite a bit on your own, enough so that you can get an entry level job in programming. The right attitude helps.

Open Source (2, Insightful)

nEoN nOoDlE (27594) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365189)

How can you read slashdot and not know about this little movement called "Open Source?" There are tons of projects out there that require programming help, and it's the best way to build your resume up. I'm a 3D Animator and it's somewhat the same hiring circumstance as programming. Nobody will hire you unless you've done something, and the only way to do something is to do it yourself. As a lead, I would never hire an animator who has nothing on their demo reel. All of the demo reel material that people come up with out of school is from projects they've worked on in their spare time. Why would it be different for programming jobs?

I found a start-up company (1)

shawnmchorse (442605) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365203)

I didn't even finish my CS degree, and now have a decade of work experience programming. My first company was a small start-up that couldn't afford to pay much and was willing to accept my insistence that I could do the job they needed. Yes, my salary started at $30k. Two years later at the same company, it was $45k. And with that two years of work experience I found a job at a new company... for $75k. It worked for me, at least!

from a manager (4, Informative)

jaydonnell (648194) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365245)

I've been hiring programmers for a few years now and here is what I can tell you. 1. don't be afraid to send your resume to a job asking for 2 years of experience. Most applicants are absolutely terrible! I've often waited 6 months just to get one good resume from a programmer that wasn't asking for a ton of money. 2. Build something. Build something in your free time and put that on your resume. There are many times I would have hired someone in a heartbeat if they had simply done this and could talk intelligently about their project (for an entry level position). 3. aim for smaller companies if you are having a hard time getting hired. They don't use HR departments that filter resumes based on buzzwords and x years of experience.

Apply Anyway and have a portfolio (4, Informative)

Eskarel (565631) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365247)

Employers in general, and in the US in particular, are, for the most part, totally crap at writing job adverts.

They write up things they'd like as opposed to what they actually need, and guess what, they don't get them.

When I first graduated, I saw a job looking for someone with 5 years experience with .NET. At the time, even the educational version of .NET had only been out for about a year and the commercial version had been out for about 3 months.

Since this company was not paying well enough to steal developers away from Microsoft, and wasn't anywhere near Redmond, one must presume that their eventual candidate did not actually have these skills.

Most employers ask for way more than what they're going to get, and in most cases more than they actually need.

This is particularly the case for people in entry level jobs, they want a guru for intern pay, and it's not going to happen.

Try for everything position you think you can do, be willing to take a pay cut if you have to in order to get your foot in the door, and have some good clean code samples to provide if you're asked.

When I was fresh out of Uni I did the same things you did, but I've since learned, that if you don't try you'll never get anywhere, and, especially when you've still got a pay check coming in, the cost of throwing out resumes is pretty much nil, and the rejection isn't so bad.

You should of course, as others have said, also make sure that folks in your own company know you want to move up in the world, and take whatever opportunities you can get your hands on internally. Even if the job isn't exactly where you want to go, moving up will make you look a lot better on a resume than sitting on the bottom for years.

Work for free (2, Interesting)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365257)

You need to get some real experience that you can use as a reference. Put an ad on Craigslist or the like to program for free in exchange for a reference. You'll have skip the $ for a while, but it takes money to make money. You still have your QA job, right?

I've had to low-ball when changing languages in the past in order to get that experience for reference. It goes with the profession (unless you are a good liar with a lots of liar friends).
   

Here's what I did. (2, Informative)

mabersold (1171751) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365263)

I got my degree in computer science and began grad school, but dropped out after one quarter. Not having had any real world experience, I felt like I was up a certain creek without a certain instrument. I began to use a local placement agency (one that specialized in tech jobs) to find a job in the Seattle area, and after a few searches I found one that looked interesting. No, it was not a full-time job, it was an internship, but it was a development position with an up-and-coming company that would, at the very least, get me some real programming experience. They offered me the job and while I got very few benefits and a fairly low wage, I took it anyway. I worked in my internship for an entire year without being offered a job. However, I made a very good impression with the company (this is important). After my internship ended, I accepted a QA job contracting at a different company. I did not enjoy this job at all, but stuck with it and kept in touch with my former employers from time to time. Finally, an ideal full-time programming position opened up at the first company, I interviewed, got offered the job, and happily accepted. It's been over a year since then and while I still have a lot to learn, I have a full-time development job and I love it. At first I did not like the idea of accepting an internship because I already had a bachelor's degree, but in retrospect, it was the best decision I could have possibly made.

Apply where I work.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25365281)

The last 5 hires my boss has made are all worthless. I'm sure with a CS degree, 2.5 GPA, and lies about your vast Java (and J2EE) skills on your resume, you'd be hired on the spot. Last posting on the bulletin board for the H-1B types with J2EE was 87.5K.

Reply here and I'll find you and send you an email.

I dont understand (2, Informative)

JimboFBX (1097277) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365283)

I work in QA and I do plenty of programming of multiple varieties. I'm A CS graduate 1 1/2 years out of college. I can see where your coming from, in that QA work isn't exactly solving mathematical problems, and often involves "plagiarizing" someone else's code (i.e. from another department who had to work with the product before you did). However, it can also be a lot of black box debugging, and forces you to look over your code and check that it works before you call it "released". Its not exactly the skill-set I prefer, but the fact I consider myself better than some of the people who've been here for 6 years already show I possess the skills to get good at another type of job, even if the skills for my current job are, IMO, stuff I learned in AP CS in high school.

Another question is- what kind of QA? Does your job title contain the words "engineer"? Are you writing programs for hardware that tests an object or code for test programs? You shouldn't have to worry about much if it does, QA is a very common entry level position and getting out of it is usually a matter of simply other positions opening up and less to do with your own skills.

And this isn't a dupe, QA is NOT the same as tech support.

tech support... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25365301)

when I got out of college with my CS degree I couldn't find an entry level programming job at all. I had plenty of interviews, a few site visits event, but never any offers, and it was always because I did not have any out of school experience.

I ended up getting offered an assistant manager position at the bagel shop where I worked, I was happy because I made my age and then some, (salary = my_age * $1000) but I soon found that I was not getting as many interviews as I once did.

I ended up quitting my job to go work at an inbound technical support call center for residential dsl... my take home pay was cut by 33%, and life pretty much sucked, but I got the experiece to get me noticed.

After less than 3 months at the god forsaken job I got hired by a local startup to do their technical support. Every now and then they let me do some programming, and after a year I was a full fledged Software Engineer.

So basically what I am saying is in my experience you need to go to as many interviews as you can, even if you don't think you have a shot at the job, and take a crappy job in tech support if needed, it sucks big time, but sometimes that will be the only way to get your foot in the door

Resume spam (2, Insightful)

PathologicalLurker (732399) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365321)

People in this business move around so much there's always a ridiculous amount of recruiting and interviewing. Until you have a real resume with real experience, just play the numbers. Send out 6-10 resumes a week. You'll find someone desperate enough to give you a chance.

These days I'll let my network know, cherry pick a couple of openings to apply to and if I get desperate, put my resume on Monster. I got my first programming job by working for free and only stayed in the game by resume spamming when times were bad.

Try recruiters. I get contacted by recruiters every few months asking if I know any junior candidates. It's always a possibility.

How I got into the game industry (4, Interesting)

VirexEye (572399) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365371)

Right after graduating I managed to get into the game industry as a programmer. The trick?

Internships!

If you look on craigslist (I'm in the SF bay area so your mileage my vary) there are tons and tons of postings looking for cheap/free programmers in the form of internships. You gota put in your time there instead of putting in your time in QA.

Since you have been in QA a few years, you should talk to your manager about moving on to a jr level programmer position in your company. If they are willing to work with ya, problem solved. If not, time to move on ASAP.

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