Advice For Inexperienced Programmers and Computer Scientists

There are so many companies out there looking for computer scientists. Over the last three months, I’ve spoken with a lot of recruiters and other companies for Software Engineering positions, Full Stack Web Developer positions, and the like. But, I haven’t accepted a job yet. However, the job opportunities have been right there in front of me; and because of that, I think I am a credible source for advice in this field. I’ve learned a lot since I began hunting for jobs, and my advice will come from experience, online research, career counseling, professors and professional connections.

Here’s where reality sets in: if you’re an inexperienced programmer and you don’t have any professional connections, it’ll be tough to find a job. Some quick advice for inexperienced programmers:

  1. Look for internships/opportunities at start-up companies (for experience).
  2. Use your available resources (books, internet, etc) to learn some new programming languages on your own.
  3. Think of fun side projects (maybe a personal website?), work on them, and finish them.
  4. Network. Network. Network!
  5. Get a LinkedIn and GitHub account, and use them.

I know you’ve probably heard much of this same advice before, but it’s true. I cannot stress how important these points are.

#1. Start-ups, in my opinion, are one of the best ways to get experience. This is because you typically work with a smaller team, and you are typically assigned a variable amount of tasks (as opposed to working on one specific task at a large company) throughout your tenure. Also, many start-ups are willing to take in all levels of programmers as interns, and they could potentially offer you a full-time job if they like you and your hard work. There are many resources out there for finding opportunities at start-ups. These include AngelList (www.angel.co), WhiteTruffle (www.whitetruffle.com), your school’s career services department, and other sources. My favorite in particular is AngelList. On AngelList, you’ll find information on a lot of start-ups such as their size, their mission, how much funding they have, and what job opportunities (and range of salary) they currently have (Note: this could be different from what job openings are on their website). There have been a few start-ups who reached out to me through AngelList, so not only would you be looking for start-ups, start-ups would be looking for you, too. If you’re currently hunting for job opportunities, I highly suggest that you check out AngelList now and create an account.

#2. This is very important (and also fun!) because many jobs out there require candidates to have a wide range of knowledge in programming languages. For example, when you apply for a full stack web developer position, you’ll probably need to know something along the lines of HTML5/CSS3, JavaScript, jQuery, AJAX, PHP, and MySQL. Or, maybe there’s another full stack web developer job that requires HTML5/CSS3, Python/Django, and PostgreSQL. If you want to market yourself to a lot of employers, I highly suggest picking up new languages. Not only will you be able to put these skills on your resume, but you’ll also show employers that you are capable and motivated to learn. For resources on learning new languages, Codecademy (www.codecademy.com) is a good resource for learning web technologies like HTML5/CSS3, JavaScript, jQuery, PHP, Ruby/Ruby on Rails, and Python. Also, Lynda (lynda.com) is a fantastic resource (assuming you have an account) which contains video courses on countless subjects. I taught myself PHP, JavaScript, jQuery and AJAX through lynda.com.

#3. Honestly, this is really fun if you love computer science. If there are any program ideas that you have right now, then write them down right now (or in Notepad), and get to work. Not only will you be practicing, you’ll also have programs to show to employers (that you can post on GitHub or on your own website!). Remember the cliche: “show, don’t tell”. Showing your work to employers will give you a leg up over someone who “tells” employers about their work. Be sure to write your code as professionally as possible. Some jobs out there will pass on you if they skim through code that isn’t up-to-par with their expectations, even if you wrote your code a few years ago. This has already happened to me. So: write your code professionally, and if necessary, refactor old code that you wrote.

#4. You’ve heard this a million times before, but it’s one of the best pieces of advice that any fellow computer scientist can give, and it’s one that can’t be emphasized enough. Networking is important because it connects you with other job opportunities that you otherwise might not have found on your own. Not only that, but your network can vouch for you and give you recommendations. One of your professional connections could potentially help you land your first (or next) job. Also, your connections will be able to pass on a whole lot of knowledge to you if you ask.

#5. As a computer scientist, having a LinkedIn and GitHub account is absolutely crucial. Not only will you be able to keep in touch with your professional connections on LinkedIn, but you’ll also be able to find job postings and get in touch with other people in your field. Showcase your professional portfolio on LinkedIn, and showcase your projects (professionally written!) on GitHub. I can’t count how many job inquiries I’ve received through LinkedIn. I just know that LinkedIn is the reason for much of my success in finding job opportunities so far.

 

Any questions? Inquiries? Comments? I’ll be happy to get in touch with you!

3 thoughts on “Advice For Inexperienced Programmers and Computer Scientists

  1. It’s perfect time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy.

    I’ve read this post and if I could I want to suggest
    you few interesting things or suggestions. Perhaps you can write next articles referring to this article.
    I wish to read more things about it!

    • airjourdan21 May 22, 2014 / 7:07 pm

      Thanks! Feel free to share it anywhere else you feel like, I’ll be happy to possibly hear other recommendations/advice/etc from other people!

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