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Career advice | Reply
I'm graduating with a Bachelor degree in Computer Science and Applied Mathematics very soon and am looking for a full time job to start my career. So far I have applied for probably 25 positions and only had 2 interviews. While I understand that rejection is part of the process, it gets very disheartening after a while.

Since I'm still in school and work part time, my free time to spend on looking for a job is very limited. In fact, I need to get back to finishing my term paper that is due tomorrow. After graduation, time won't be as much of an issue, so I plan on hitting the job search hard. Still, I'm not entirely sure where to start. I already have some ideas of how to change my resume, but I don't want to spend all my time rewriting it. Resume writing in itself seems like a never-ending process.

I guess one reason for this post is to get some advice about how to look for job openings. I use Monster on a regular basis. Many of the jobs I find there are targeted towards "senior developers" and people with at least a few years of experience in the work place. I've participated in summer internships during my college career, but I don't think that's enough for these types of positions. I've also talked to professors. They are willing to talk but have been unable to provide any leads.

Another major road block is that my relocation options are limited due to circumstance beyond my control. From the posts I've read here, this is an issue for many TopCoder members that are looking for employment. Because of this limitation, I'd really like to find a job where I can work from home, either telecomuting or contracting. The problem is that I don't know how to find these types of positions.

Does anyone have any advice on how to proceed with my job search? I'd appreciate any input.

Thanks,

Code-Guru
Re: Career advice (response to post by Code-Guru) | Reply
Code-Guru,
I think you're doing many of the right things. Your geographic constraints and being right out of school are going to make things tough. Don't forget to post your resume not just on Monster, but also on hotjobs.com, careerbuilder.com and dice.com. Each one of these companies charges from $6,000 to $10,000 a year for a company to search their database, so many companies will only have one, and they'll miss you if you aren't in their database.

Telecommuting is a tough sell also, especially when you're just out of school. In my experience very few companies will allow it, and even the ones that will want you to work "on-site" for a good long while to make sure you'd work as hard unsupervised from home.

Is it possible for you to travel every week but not relocate? It can be a stressful life, but there are quite a few consulting companies that would consider hiring someone if they would agree to travel %100 of the time, only returning home on weekends etc.

I hope this helps,
Brian (harvey6ft)
TopCoder Placement Agent
Re: Career advice (response to post by Code-Guru) | Reply
Not to sound glib about it, but if you need to work from home, there are lots of TopCoder Software components to work on each week. I know this probably doesn't pay like a full-time job but it's a way to rub a few nickels together until you find something.
Re: Career advice (response to post by Code-Guru) | Reply
Here is what I would do: (take the TC stuff for what it is worth; you know my biases - I do not believe this lessens the validity of my opinions though.)

A) Get very familiar with placement folks, particularly TC's. Many placement people are sharks - and have that reputation. We are trying to change that as far as our own placement folks go. Nevertheless, in this job environment, some of these people are going to become your best friends. If they can truly get an understanding of you as an indivdual - both from a skills and personality perspective, they will be able to match you when the right opportunity comes along. If they feel they know you, you will come to mind much more often, and, they will do a better job promoting you as opportunities arise. Don't be afraid to pick up the phone and talk to a recruiter/placement professional. They love to talk to recruits - even if its just about the weather/sports or your dreams and desires.

As a side note - get away from the Monsters, etc. Sure you should post your resume - but then forget about it. People don't hire resumes or a list of skills (or, even, for that matter, a set of stats), they hire people. Get your face and voice in front of them - again, get on the phone.

B) Do everything you can to differentiate yourself from the pack. Find an area that you are interested in/can excel in and try to make a name - even if small - for yourself. Work on TC components/open source projects in those areas and try to get the attention of companies participating in them. A lot of companies are using TC/open source as a development model and look for people that they have come across working on particular projects. I would *not* look for projects that are simply community driven or benefit some company that has no interest in hiring - linux and most of the opensource product companies come to mind. These companies tend to be cheap minded and would rather get your code for free than put you on the payroll.

C) Know what you want. Do you want to work for a big company or small? Are you more interested in money, the type of work you will be doing or the environment you'll be working in? Do you like to work on teams or alone? You should have solid answers to these questions and should not expect a 'perfect' environment that meets all of your needs, but should be able to get across to a recruiter or placement agent what gets you excited and the type of environment you think you would do well in.

D) Be ready for the whole "you lack experience, so you should be willing to take what you can get" attitude. Personally, I think the whole experience thing is a canard . I'll take a bunch of smart, excited people any day over experience. Experience can (and will) be gained; attitude cannot. Companies that I have seen do the best at recruiting are much more willing to take someone with raw talent and find a way to apply it than the ones who aren't.

E) Don't give up. This isn't the 1990's, so finding a job isn't as easy as it used to be. The process is much more tedious than even a few years ago. But, the environment isn't awful either. More and more companies *are* hiring, even if they're being a little more selective. Make sure you follow-up with any contacts you have on a regular basis and be prepared to have to be a little patient.
Re: Career advice (response to post by Code-Guru) | Reply
I believe in the internet, but don't neglect the old fashioned approach. Speak to people and dig around to see what is available in your community.

You're graduating in CS. Your alma mater will have a computing center. Do they have openings? Even if not, they'll have employees who know people in other places. Where are your classmates working? Are there Unix/Windows/OS2/whatever user's groups in your area? Attend some meetings. Print calling cards and resumes and never be without them.

Perhaps you have other interests that dovetail with computing. Any small businesses that might need your services?

2 interviews from 25 applications isn't bad. Try 200 applications ...
Re: Career advice (response to post by dplass) | Reply
It's not that I *need* to work from home per se. It just seems difficult to find the kind of job I would like in my area. I'll definitely consider participating in more component competitions. I've done some development competitions before but have not yet won any. I think time has been the main limiting factor here. Once I've graduated, I'll have a lot more time to improve my submissions.
Re: Career advice (response to post by harvey6ft) | Reply
Thanks for the suggestions. I looked at dice.com briefly, but haven't taken the time to register and submit my resume because at the time it didn't give me many hits. I'll have to take a look at it again. I don't think I've looked at hotjobs.com yet.

CareerBuilder.com on the other hand has been a bit of a disappointment. Shortly after I signed up and submitted my resume, I recieved several emails from people saying how they liked my resume and wanted me to apply for a job. After a little bit of research, it seemed obvious that they didn't even look at my resume because the jobs were not even related to anything I have experience with. If I recall correctly, one was for insurance sales. Others were from recruiting agencies that I didn't think were worth my time dealing with.

Needless to say, it put a bad taste in my mouth, so to speak, for CareerBuilder.com. I apologize if this sounds a little negative. I don't mean it that way. I'll definitely look at HotJobs.com and Dice.com to see if anything comes up.
Re: Career advice (response to post by Code-Guru) | Reply
I've had good success with dice.com.
Re: Career advice (response to post by Code-Guru) | Reply
Code-Guru,

I would like to mention to you the essential need for you to demonstrate effective time management at this point in life. You are leaving school, basically you have completed the minimum at this point to graduate and you have to devote time to finding a paying position. No, arguements to say that your GPA is important is a losing position. Take the time now to find work and don't wait for school to finish to "hit it hard" it will hit back harder.

That is first, second get some interview experience, go to the career center and ask for practice interviews. Some companies will send reps to schools specifically to get people potentially interested in their companies. Many large corporations not in the IT industry still require a good deal of technical support. Talk to people, find out what these people feel are important to know about their company. Sometimes finding a job is not about what you know but what you can learn from the company you will work for.

Third get to know the difference between criticism and critique. Adjust to one and learn how to dig for the source of the other.

It is better to keep in motion then to fight inertia get proactive kid. and good luck. Seems too late for you to have set up an option to go to grad school. (This is a criticism)
Re: Career advice (response to post by PuffRing) | Reply
"get to know the difference between criticism and critique."

I'll bite. What's the difference?

critique (krI'ti:k). [A gradual alteration of the 17-18th c. critick, CRITIC
sb.[2], after French.

1 An essay or article in criticism of a literary (or more rarely, an
artistic) work; a review.

2 The action or art of criticizing; criticism.

Re: Career advice (response to post by Hurd) | Reply
One is based upon things that you still have to opportunity to improve upon the other is a stated opinion on matters that you cannot influence.

Re: Career advice (response to post by Hurd) | Reply
btw: facetious or is there any substance to your bite?
Re: Career advice (response to post by PuffRing) | Reply
Since no dictionary I've searched mentions such a difference I'll conclude that what you said is not a difference in the meaning of the two words but a difference of how YOU use those two words.

The meaning of a word is what MOST people understand by that word. This is captured in dictionaries.
Re: Career advice (response to post by rgrig) | Reply
Sorry about that.

A bit more searching revealed that "criticism" is indeed used in a more negative sense than "critique".
Re: Career advice (response to post by Code-Guru) | Reply
It's very hard for an entry-level developer to get any attention right now. The market has come down significantly and there are plenty of experienced developers available for a song and a dance (IMHO).

That, combined with geography, makes it extremely hard for you. You need to get to where the work is. I can think of no companies who would be willing to let an untested dev telecommute. Even if you had decades of experience, development is a collaborative process; it works best face-to-face.

Given those constraints, get in touch with a good recruiter and get to know him/her very well. TC is a good place to start. jhughes is absolutely right. Managers don't hire resumes; they hire people. The purpose of the resume is to get you an interview. A recruiter can help you with both.

Remember that companies are flooded with candidates right now. You need something that separates you from the pack. Statistics and lists of skills don't do it. Get on the phone and let them hear your voice. You aren't a real person until you have some personal contact. Recruiters are invaluable for getting your foot in the door.
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