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Resume & jobs
Aaron Bolyard
Member #7,537
July 2006
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Hi, it's me again. I guess this is an extension of this thread. Since then it's been pretty depressing at times (long story short, I have a mental illness [I don't like that term, and it's not 'clinical depression'] and began relapsing back in October/November, but have been [seemingly?] better in the past couple weeks... or so).

I'm going to be attending a job fair soon and wanted some advice (about the job fair and in general).

First of all, I have no idea what to expect. I've never been to a job fair; the one I'm attending is just a general sort of thing for the community. I doubt there's going to be much if any jobs that would require my explicit set of skills (or if an employer would consider my skills, well, skills), but I guess it doesn't hurt to try in the mean time. Has anyone been to a job fair? How does it go? What should I expect?

Next, I have a draft of a resume I've developed. I try and focus on what I've done primarily, rather than what I haven't done (i.e., pursued a higher education). I have three of my bigger projects in the past few years on there (which honestly I think are pretty impressive, all things considered). Currently working on migrating the one (Algae.Canvas) to Github with a demo that spits out a bunch of relevant numbers. That will be done soon.

So I have a few questions about the resume. Where can I improve on it? Am I saying too much, or not enough? Does it even matter what I have on there (because it's not a group project or work experience)?

Personally, I think the projects section is too big, but I'm not sure how much more brief it can be without 'underselling' myself. I mean, a vector graphics library of equal (and sometimes superior) quality and performance to standard implementations in i.e. Webkit is a complex project and I simplify it in three brief sentences... Eight Seasons took me a long time to finish and is a full blown game, albeit short. And Hologine so far has some pretty neat features as well (and I've been working on various pieces of it for a few months now).

Is there any hope of me getting a job in software development? Or do I just not have enough to show? I mean, I can't explain (on a resume or otherwise) that I had to take care of my mom (and my family as a result) increasingly since I graduated high school...

I may have more questions soon, but I want to get general opinions as soon as possible. Please advise! Thank you.

StevenVI
Member #562
July 2000
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First, as a suggestion on your resume, put your skills first and your projects second. Also list your actual high school, and your GPA if it's 3.0 or higher, put that on as well.

Since your last post, were you able to find any form of work at all? Having absolutely no employment experience whatsoever is not going to work in your favor. If you have that experience -- any at all, even if it's unrelated, put that on the resume, too.

Entry level jobs are hard to get. It took me 6 months to get my foot in the door, and I had a master's degree and some software development experience on an internship. I imagine that your luck will be far worse with your current credentials. Going to college might be a worthwhile endeavor in your case. Make sure to take advantage of networking with others, and get yourself an internship.

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Aaron Bolyard
Member #7,537
July 2006
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StevenVI said:

First, as a suggestion on your resume, put your skills first and your projects second.

Can you explain your reasoning for this? Anyone can say they can program in C++ (I'm sure a lot of people who say they program in C++ may know the syntax but not how to properly exploit the strengths of the language; at least in regards to open source code, it's dreadful how often C++ is used as C-with-objects, or misuse the standard library, and so on and so on), and I would prefer to show what I've done with C++ first and foremost. Is this reasoning wrong?

Quote:

Also list your actual high school, and your GPA if it's 3.0 or higher, put that on as well.

See, the problem with that is my last years of high school were me being home schooled (largely because of 'mental illness', secondarily because of how bad the local high school was). It's not that I don't feel proud of what I did (in home school vs public), but I don't see it being beneficial if I point blank say I was homeschooled. Does this actually matter?

Quote:

Since your last post, were you able to find any form of work at all? Having absolutely no employment experience whatsoever is not going to work in your favor. If you have that experience -- any at all, even if it's unrelated, put that on the resume, too.

No. I relapsed extremely hard starting back in mid-November--even if I had gotten a job I would have been unable to hold it. I'm trying to force myself to be better but that only goes so far, even if it's working for now.

Quote:

Entry level jobs are hard to get. It took me 6 months to get my foot in the door, and I had a master's degree and some software development experience on an internship. I imagine that your luck will be far worse with your current credentials. Going to college might be a worthwhile endeavor in your case. Make sure to take advantage of networking with others, and get yourself an internship.

Are you sure you weren't just overqualified for an entry level position? I don't doubt entry level positions are hard, but having a master's degree and prior experience seems... a bit much. Or I'm just naive.

Anyway, I'll try to outline my position. The only school around here that offers any programming-related degree is in Electronics Engineering, and it only goes up to Associate's. Anything higher, I'm out of luck unless I'm willing to relocate--that's not happening in my current financial situation. The school isn't even that good. Getting financial aid would be mighty difficult considering I'm still 'a dependent' as per FAFSA--my mom is dead and my deadbeat father has been MIA for just nigh of 23 years. Furthermore, I would be unable to have my transcripts notarized again because the school administrator (i.e., my mom) would be unable to be present. It's fucked up.

As far as my credentials, is my experience really just not valuable? I really want the truth here. I've always thought (the three projects outlined primarily) are impressive, but as the days go on I'm thinking it's just Dunning-Kruger effect or cognitive dissonance or something. I've been working on more to show off in my portfolio (from older projects, etc), but again, I guess it's just not worth it.

StevenVI
Member #562
July 2000
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Edit: sorry for writing a book, now I feel like Bambam. ;) :P

StevenVI said:

First, as a suggestion on your resume, put your skills first and your projects second.

Can you explain your reasoning for this?

Sure thing. Suppose I have an opening which has requirements X, Y, and Z. I have N applicants. The very first thing I'm going to be checking on their resume is if they have X, Y, and Z. If not, I toss their resume. If I can't find it immediately, I have N - 1 others that are probably easier to read.

To expand on that with yours in particular, this is an approximation of what went through my head as I was reading your resume:

  • "He didn't put his real address on there, wise move for posting publicly"

  • "He's a programmer"

  • "Projects..." (my eyes started to glaze over) "why am I reading this?"

  • Then I skimmed down. "Ah, skills, okay, so this is what he can do."

  • Then I looked back up at the projects section and skimmed it.

Quote:

Are you sure you weren't just overqualified for an entry level position?

I probably thought I was overqualified for entry-level work, but in reality that's where I was at. The economy was crap when I graduated, which certainly did play a part in my experience.

Quote:

I don't see it being beneficial if I point blank say I was homeschooled. Does this actually matter?

I'm not sure -- perhaps someone who was homeschooled can offer better advice on this one. Do you have a diploma at all? GED? Just saying "graduated from high school" sounds fishy to me when on a resume. Like, "what are you hiding?"

Quote:

Getting financial aid would be mighty difficult considering I'm still 'a dependent' as per FAFSA

Is that correct? I would expect it to be the other way around, and you're in the best position to get the most financial aid possible. It's been over a decade since I've looked at the FAFSA, but you might want to re-check that one. There are plenty of good colleges in NC that aren't too far from you, so while relocating would still likely be necessary, it wouldn't have to be too far.

Also, if you need documentation of your high school education for college applications, it might not hurt to take the GED test. I think it only takes two days to take it, and if you're as smart as you think you are, you should be fine. I never picked up a review book or anything for it and I still scored in like the 95th percentile or something. (And only had 2 years of high school that I barely attended. :-X) But now I'm getting off-topic.

Quote:

As far as my credentials, is my experience really just not valuable? I really want the truth here. I've always thought (the three projects outlined primarily) are impressive

I don't think it's worth much. You'll likely always lose out to someone with work experience, even if they have no projects to list. Your projects might be awesome and mind-blowingly amazing. But your supporting credentials are so weak that they're unlikely to ever be looked at.

So with all this in mind, where can you go? Unskilled labor is a start, but might not be the right direction. I'm of the opinion that, with your situation, college is your best bet for long-term success. But if you're gung-ho on finding a development job, look for very small dev shops -- like with only 10 employees or so, maybe even less. They're much more likely to have more time to train someone without experience than money to afford someone with gobs of it. Don't be afraid to look outside of your immediate area, either. The Triangle is supposed to have a plethora of tech jobs, so if the area you're in is completely dry, try looking a little bit to the north.

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Aaron Bolyard
Member #7,537
July 2006
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StevenVI said:

Is that correct? I would expect it to be the other way around, and you're in the best position to get the most financial aid possible. It's been over a decade since I've looked at the FAFSA, but you might want to re-check that one. There are plenty of good colleges in NC that aren't too far from you, so while relocating would still likely be necessary, it wouldn't have to be too far.

I am under 24. There's a few ways to weasel out of the dependent clause, but I do not qualify for any of them (military service, pursuing master's up, etc). And since my father is still alive, I would have to use his information--and, of course, I cannot provide that because he has never been a part of my life.

Quote:

I don't think it's worth much.

This is what gets me hung up on. Is it because I don't have professional or academic experience that they're not worth much? Or is it because they are just "who cares?"

jmasterx
Member #11,410
October 2009

I have not read all the replies, but here is my 2 cents.

In my experience, projects will not get you a job. They will only add bonus points. But even there... A lot of HR department will just look for an Undergraduate degree and if not found, they will not look any further. I think it is basically:
1) They can ask for that kind of education because there is a bigger supply of programmers than demand.
2) Politically correctness; eg: It is not 'fair' to hire you, even if you are more qualified than someone with a bachelor's in CS who can't explain pointers to you.

IMHO, for IT related fields I feel a Bsc is becoming the new high school diploma. It is a must.

Another thing I want to note is, sure, your projects actually are impressive, but I know that because I've seen them evolve over the years; The other issue is, you're honest, but a lot of people are not. Many people think they are amazing. They'll make a call to OpenCV and claim they can do computer vision; they'll make a sphere in Unity and claim they have worked and developed a full-fledged 3D hardware rendering engine.

At least with a Bsc, they know you have the self discipline to have completed the degree; so you must know SOMETHING.

It is sad that projects cannot get people jobs. I would at least interview you based on what I have seen from your work, which has impressed me a lot. Your SVG rasterizer using shaders is one of the coolest things I have ever seen.

For me, the best thing I have gotten out of University is connections. I have made a lot of good contacts and landed my first good paying job out of Uni working for one of my professors' company as the lead software engineer.

Over the last few years I have been working on a card game from scratch that: Is database driven, made my own gui api for it, is dynamically resizable, is HD, works on iPad, Windows, OSX, etc, features lobbies, multiplayer capabilities, game restorations, in-app purchases using PayPal and ios IAP API, the list goes on and on, the project is over 70K lines + 22K for my GUI API.

But I'm sure that would still not be enough to land me even an entry level position without the academic credentials. It sucks, but it really is who you know; what you know is a bonus. At least in my experience. I am 23.

StevenVI
Member #562
July 2000
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There's a few ways to weasel out of the dependent clause, but I do not qualify for any of them

I couldn't believe that this would be true, so I started looking through the FAFSA form for the 2015-2016 school year. On page 9:
{"name":"609278","src":"\/\/djungxnpq2nug.cloudfront.net\/image\/cache\/f\/e\/fe736ff3183d0a23902d4d0209dc5f00.png","w":817,"h":351,"tn":"\/\/djungxnpq2nug.cloudfront.net\/image\/cache\/f\/e\/fe736ff3183d0a23902d4d0209dc5f00"}609278

Sounds like a pain, but they do have an avenue for getting financial aid. :)

StevenVI said:

I don't think it's worth much.

This is what gets me hung up on. Is it because I don't have professional or academic experience that they're not worth much? Or is it because they are just "who cares?"

It's really just that jobs are competitive. Real experience and references speak more than something you did for fun.

jmasterx said:

there is a bigger supply of programmers than demand.

In my experience, this is very true, despite what the large corporations say to congress.

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Aaron Bolyard
Member #7,537
July 2006
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StevenVI said:

Sounds like a pain, but they do have an avenue for getting financial aid. :)

Sounds like a pain is an understatement. My sister tried talking to them (i.e., the local community college) for her and they are as thick as bricks about the entire process. See here for a general idea of the process (it's the same here as far as I can tell). How am I supposed to prove I can't contact my father? Seriously?

Anyway, thanks so far for the advice jmasterx and StevenVI.

pkrcel
Member #14,001
February 2012

Hey Aaron, I'd like to chime in basically to support Steven and Master's point of views about the genearl topic.

you're still quite young and i'd like to recommend to try your best effort to get the deserved financial aid and try go further up in the school experience.

the resume tips you've been given are generally okay for your profile I'd say.

now my opinions:

I think you're definitely beyond average skill as a programmer, but this opinion of mine is based on a bit of speculation on my side....thou I am confident I'm not off-target, not TOO far at least.

What I've seen from what I followed sparsely throught your posts right here (many of which were bookmarked by me at times) in allegro.cc and commaexcess (no further) is that:

  • you can manage the complexity of programming duties and you show a great deal of "natural" skill at problem solving. I base this on the


  • You are able to generate models and adapt them to a given problem to follow though and tailor (one of the possible) solutions.


  • You are able to handle a sift through complex documentation of complex tools (like MSDN) and synthetize the infos you need with accuracy.

This is by no means something I would expect from an uneducated guy, so your education matters as Steven says.
You should definitely try hard to "network" with other significant people you might know. You're in a quirky condition since you were in dire times and definitely THIS kind of experience is not "resume-friendly" but CAN be interview stuff if you face a COMPETENT HR. They picture a strong profile, but I can't speak for your illness since I can't know the details and dunno how they woudl be handled in northern americas.

Just thank god you're not in Italy, FWIW.

It is unlikely that Google shares your distaste for capitalism. - Derezo
If one had the eternity of time, one would do things later. - Johan Halmén

Aaron Bolyard
Member #7,537
July 2006
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Thanks again, everyone. I'm currently looking into a local university (there is a computer science program available [though I think they should have a free course on navigating their website, eurgh]). Sadly I'll be almost 30 by the time I graduate if I were able to get enrolled this fall (which itself seems forever and a bit away).

In the mean time, I'll resume searching for an 'unskilled' job. Is the job fair a reasonable place to look, still? Or are they generally composed of more skilled trades?

On a side note, does anyone know how going to college with a job works? Does the employer work with you on your schedule...?

pkrcel said:

I can't speak for your illness since I can't know the details and dunno how they woudl be handled in northern americas.

I'll be brief, but I suffer from a psychotic disorder (completely irrational delusions that cause immense fear and anxiety). The mental health services here are horrible. I'm currently trying to find an organization that can help with costs and care (there's a few around here, but so far the ones I've contacted have been useless).

Thomas Fjellstrom
Member #476
June 2000
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I'll be brief, but I suffer from a psychotic disorder (completely irrational delusions that cause immense fear and anxiety).

:( I can empathise with that. I may not have a psychotic disorder but i do get fairly bad anxiety, and it is not a walk in the park thats for sure. Mine basically keeps me from working a regular job or school, so my options are pretty limited.

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Chris Katko
Member #1,881
January 2002
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I do not know your details, but I have lots of experience, and you just set off a red flag in my head. So forgive me if this is off-the-mark, as it is well-meaning:

Let me state very clearly: Everyone has mental issues, and experiencing something that upsets you does not make you in any way broken, or inferior. But one thing you must do is take it seriously. You're not forever damned by those mental issues. Your life doesn't have to take a backseat to your mental problems. So if you know what you have, at the very least start reading into possible solutions. (Subreddits, Google, Wikipedia, hotlines, whatever.) There is help out there if you're willing to seek it. Whether it's medicine, working on yourself, or working with a therapist or group. And as you've seen, you'll hit tons of roadblocks. But you just have to keep chugging along. You are too important to give up. If you have bad medical services, find better ones. Bigger cities have better quality doctors.

As for money: Apply for food stamps. They're there to help people. And no matter what the conservative pundits say, you are not a weak or bad person for getting them.

As for your schooling: Get a degree. Take student loans out if you have to. It will easily pay for itself, and even if you're out of work, student loans can easily be deferred for many years, and they cannot take more money than you can live on. And it's not like you can't work a job and get your degree at the same time (unless you have a disability that prevents that, in which case, get disability aid).

As for the distance, either tough it out and go to a proper college further away and schedule all your classes on a few days, or get an online degree from a reputable (not a for-profit!) college. I'm not implying it will be easy but the converse is much worse:

If you do not get a degree, you will be forever restrained by that decision. You'll always have to prove you know as much, and you'll always make less money. A degree is an automatic raise in the corporate world. My brother worked at the same large company, got his degree, and got a raise. He didn't even have to ask for it because it was written into their HR policy.

I don't even have a degree in IT/CS. I have a degree in Mechanical Engineering, but people have so much respect for engineers I can work practically anywhere. It's not that people without degrees are stupid, it's that there's nobody to vouch for them. A college degree guarantees a minimum level of intelligence and hard work that a business can rely on. That degree in engineering, as one of my professors says, "Congratulations. After all that hard work, you are now entry-level trainable. You still don't know anything, but people are willing to take the risk training you."

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"Political Correctness is fascism disguised as manners" --George Carlin

Thomas Fjellstrom
Member #476
June 2000
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A college degree guarantees a minimum level of intelligence and hard work that a business can rely on.

Sadly it does not. Many places have minimum quotas to fill and really don't give a shit about the actual quality of students coming out of the school.

Heck, the biggest tech college here will actually be denied funding the next semester if it doesn't meet its pass quota in the current semester. So they essentially HAVE to pass idiots.

--
Thomas Fjellstrom - [website] - [email] - [Allegro Wiki] - [Allegro TODO]
"If you can't think of a better solution, don't try to make a better solution." -- weapon_S
"The less evidence we have for what we believe is certain, the more violently we defend beliefs against those who don't agree" -- https://twitter.com/neiltyson/status/592870205409353730

bamccaig
Member #7,536
July 2006
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StevenVI said:

Edit: sorry for writing a book, now I feel like Bambam. ;) :P

You feel awesome? 8-)

StevenVI said:

First, as a suggestion on your resume, put your skills first and your projects second.

I disagree on this point. He doesn't have the usual employment and education histories to put at the top, and a list of "skills", let alone such a short and bland list, won't keep anyone's attention long enough to read the next thing unless they're very desperate.

StevenVI said:

Also list your actual high school, and your GPA if it's 3.0 or higher, put that on as well.

Agreed. This stands out. Normally standing out is great, but this stands out in a bad way.

See, the problem with that is my last years of high school were me being home schooled (largely because of 'mental illness', secondarily because of how bad the local high school was). It's not that I don't feel proud of what I did (in home school vs public), but I don't see it being beneficial if I point blank say I was homeschooled. Does this actually matter?

In your case, I think that you should list both. List your crap high school and list that you were home schooled somehow. I'm not sure how best to do that. Maybe by specifying the state you were in or something? Google for a better answer.

It may also be relevant to sneak the reason in somewhere. I don't know for sure. Political correctness laws may or may not make you more attractive for having a "mental illness", which might qualify as diversity in the workplace and get the political correctness hounds off of their ass, but it might also count against you and scare employers away (possibly for no good reason). I'm not sure.

Also expect to have to prove it. If you reach the interview and/or hiring stage you will likely need to prove that you have that high school diploma, and they might also ask for your high school transcript or equivalent. Just something to keep in mind.

Furthermore, I would be unable to have my transcripts notarized again because the school administrator (i.e., my mom) would be unable to be present.

OK, that sucks. That might change things though. You may have to explain this and that might suffice. Alternatively, wouldn't the state keep records of home schooled children? I mean, moms could easily lie about these things. Surely there is an official record kept.

As far as my credentials, is my experience really just not valuable? I really want the truth here. I've always thought (the three projects outlined primarily) are impressive, but as the days go on I'm thinking it's just Dunning-Kruger effect or cognitive dissonance or something. I've been working on more to show off in my portfolio (from older projects, etc), but again, I guess it's just not worth it.

Your experience is valuable. I honestly think that your projects section is very well written. It certainly implies that you have a good bit of programming experience and skill. It emphasizes being faced with problems and overcoming them. That's huge. That can be more important than education. That is something that can't always be taught. However, they are going to want proof of these things first. They're going to want to see these projects in action, and they're going to want to see the code. They're also probably going to question whether you actually wrote it or plagiarized it unless the source is unquestionable (e.g., a Git repository with full history). I think it's wise of you to put that one project on GitHub. Include the URL in your resume so that prospective employers can review your project and code before asking you in for an interview (unless you think that will hurt your chances).

Another thing about the projects is that you might want to put them into chronological order. You might have tried to put them into descending awesomeness order, but it might be better to put them chronologically. 2014, 2015, 2012 is weird and it might not be the kind of weird you're looking for.

On a side note, does anyone know how going to college with a job works? Does the employer work with you on your schedule...?

The employer isn't required to as far as I know and generally speaking my instructors said not to work while going to school if you can help it. Most people with jobs seem to end up dropping out of school according to him, but going to a post-secondary school is expensive and they usually don't give refunds! At the very least, it will likely hurt your academic performance. And yes, your employer might make you choose between a rock and a hard place. Of course, you may be super strong and might not have a problem working while going to school... My girlfriend is currently doing it, and she's doing a great job. I never could have done it.

A college degree guarantees a minimum level of intelligence and hard work that a business can rely on.

That's not true at all. :D And on that same note, having a degree is usually not required. Most job applications that I have seen advertise at least a bachelors degree or equivalent experience. A bachelors degree really isn't all that much. Based on what you describe of your projects you might well already be able to convince an employer of that. Of course, the hardest part about that is that you not only need to have the portfolio to show off, but you also need the people skills to get through the interview and communicate effectively.

Communication skills end up being way more important than you'd realize. I should know. I work with a bunch of people that cannot communicate and it's Hell. If you have good communication skills too then I'd say you're in good shape. If not then you should work on them.

On the topic of getting financial aid, I just cannot get behind this notion. The idea of borrowing money is absurd to me. That's a tall order to pay back. There's no guarantee you'll be able to pay it back or that you'll get a good job even if you have a degree... I'd rather be broke then to owe $100,000. That's just me. Obviously for some this wager works out and they can pay it back and make a good living afterward, but they never seem to tell you about the many people that end up buried by it trying to get it and have it on their backs their whole lives...

My girlfriend owes in the range of $30,000 and has yet to get a degree or diploma. Due to things that happened before I know her so I have to take her word on, she got jerked around by family and moved from school to school to school racking up debt along the way. Even if she does manage to finally get herself a diploma it will take years to pay off, and in the meantime I have to fear her debts becoming my debts which I can't afford to pay back either, and I already have a diploma! As it is the only way she could probably afford to pay her debts back in a reasonable time is being dependent on me to support her. Personally I think it's bullshit. A man isn't likely to ever find himself in that situation with a woman supporting him like that while he pays back his debts.

And there used to be a guy on the A.cc boards that claimed to have had gotten an online degree from a "university", and was unable to get a job at all. To be fair, he didn't come across as being very intelligent. Definitely don't spend good money to get an "online" degree though unless you're sure it's a well respected program.

You have a decent looking resume there. Try to make the best of our advice and see what you catch. As long as you aren't at risk of losing your shelter, food, clothes, and aren't racking up debt in the meantime, you have nothing to lose trying! That's the attitude that you need when searching for a job. You have nothing to lose. It's a tough thing to do, like asking a girl out, but it gets easier with practice and you might just score trying. :)

Append:

The specific fields your skills seem to lead you toward may not be a reasonable expectation for a first job, however. A few other reasonable skills that I think you should list, and acquire if you don't have yet, are database modeling, SQL, and Web presentation layer languages (XML, HTML, CSS). Your skills may point towards a dream job, but the dream employer may not be willing to hire a guy with no work experience and no post-secondary education. Work experience teaches or demonstrates certain necessary skills that have nothing to do with computers. Entry level positions will expect you to need work in these areas. The really cool jobs are typically not entry level and they'll have bigger expectations. However, a lot of crap jobs in the tech. world are Web related, and these typically depend on HTML, CSS, JavaScript, SQL, and some kind of server-side language, like PHP, Python, Ruby, Perl, Java, C#, etc. These kinds of skills may be key to you landing your first job. Your first soul sucking job, but a job nonetheless... :-/

StevenVI
Member #562
July 2000
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the biggest tech college here will actually be denied funding the next semester if it doesn't meet its pass quota

Lesson learned: don't go to school in Canada. ;)

bamccaig said:

I'd rather be broke then to owe $100,000.

Indeed, it's hard to know going in if you'll end out on top or not. I have a friend who had about $100k in school debt that he's probably going to be paying off his entire life -- and he's didn't even finish the program he was in. To pull a number out of the air, it's probably wise to make sure that your total debt doesn't exceed $5k/year.

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Thomas Fjellstrom
Member #476
June 2000
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StevenVI said:

Lesson learned: don't go to school in Canada. ;)

The universities are pretty good! Tech college is good if you aren't an idiot. ;D.

--
Thomas Fjellstrom - [website] - [email] - [Allegro Wiki] - [Allegro TODO]
"If you can't think of a better solution, don't try to make a better solution." -- weapon_S
"The less evidence we have for what we believe is certain, the more violently we defend beliefs against those who don't agree" -- https://twitter.com/neiltyson/status/592870205409353730

jmasterx
Member #11,410
October 2009

The universities are pretty good! Tech college is good if you aren't an idiot. ;D.

I did both :o

Thomas Fjellstrom
Member #476
June 2000
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Quote:

I did both :o

Haha, re-reading it and it sounds like I'm saying you're an idiot if you go to university. I did not mean that! hah.

--
Thomas Fjellstrom - [website] - [email] - [Allegro Wiki] - [Allegro TODO]
"If you can't think of a better solution, don't try to make a better solution." -- weapon_S
"The less evidence we have for what we believe is certain, the more violently we defend beliefs against those who don't agree" -- https://twitter.com/neiltyson/status/592870205409353730

james_lohr
Member #1,947
February 2002

I've been responsible for hiring Software Engineers (graduates through to seniors) for a few years now, and have probably seen around 1000 CVs and interviewed a few hundred candidates, so I can hopefully give some useful feedback. I'll be brutally honest, so please don't be offended:

Within the company I work for, your CV wouldn't have made it through our HR filtering process, primarily because you don't have a degree. They do very occasionally let people through without degrees, but they basically need to have made significant contributions to multiple mainstream open source projects.

If we ignore the fact that your CV wouldn't have got to me, and that even if it did I would stick it on the rejects pile (I'm a real snob when it comes to academic records), I actually really like it!

Positives:

  • You've got a github link

  • You've got a link to a personal website which looks okay

  • Your objective is good, even if this may be by accident; The challenges at the vast majority of software companies are much more focussed around engineering practices and teamwork than writing clever algorithms. Candidates who accept this are definitely more likely to succeed.

  • Format/layout is fine: (objective -> projects -> skills)

  • It fits on 1 page. I cannot express how much I hate having to sift through 10-page CVs first thing on a Monday morning! :-/ Candidates who get it down to 1-3 sites definitely earn bonus points! :)

Negatives:

  • No evidence of teamwork / group projects

  • No degree

  • Not enough evidence of the grit and conscientiousness required to perform well at work

I quite like to see a "Personal interests" section. I've definitely noticed a correlation between excellence (i.e. the ones we hire and turn out to be awesome) and people with kick-ass hobbies like hang-gliding, competitive sports etc. If you have any, put them down 8-)

[edit]

Oh, one other thing: if you did have good grades from a good university, you would actually leap atop the bulk of graduates. The majority tend not to have presentable personal projects on github.

Chris Katko
Member #1,881
January 2002
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StevenVI said:

Indeed, it's hard to know going in if you'll end out on top or not. I have a friend who had about $100k in school debt that he's probably going to be paying off his entire life -- and he's didn't even finish the program he was in. To pull a number out of the air, it's probably wise to make sure that your total debt doesn't exceed $5k/year.

It's a risk, but a calculated risk. Calculated risks are fine if they fulfill your cost/benefit ratio. I may have lots of debt, but I literally had to use it as a net to survive when by back went out. Most people will not suffer the way I did.

Even then, once I get a real paying job, that will easily disappear in a few years. (It's okay to take "credit" out on your future work if it's your only option and you do the cost/benefit analysis.) And, even while I'm essentially out-of-work, my student loans are on pause because I do not make the minimum amount to even begin charging me. If I remain disabled forever, they will eventually disappear. However, that also means my life is a pathetic empty shell of my dreams, so I am trying my damnedest to recover.

As long as you complete your degree, you win. The easiest way to get a job is social connections from fellow students. I get offers for stuff I'm not even qualified for because people knew me as "the guy that gets thing done." in college.

Moreover, you'll be around people who work hard, you'll learn to work hard and learn things you need but don't enjoy. You'll learn to train yourself to work in a world full of B.S. and hoops to jump through. One that matches any large corporation. You'll never be around so many people all trying to better themselves as you are in college (at least mine, a real, tech college). You'll better yourself in so many ways other than learning the curriculum. College is the biggest opportunity to learn. I'm not talking about the degree, but what you do with your time outside of getting the degree.

Basically, as long as you commit to doing whatever it takes to learn and finish your degree, there are no downsides. Most people will have negative traits they'll have to change so they can adapt to competing in college, and that will benefit them.

That's my spiel on college. I've rarely heard of anyone who was proud they didn't go to college. My 5-years in retail was full of bitter people who either put off or dropped out of college, or got a useless degree (e.g. philosophy) and never bothered to get a master/doctorate to make it useful.

-----sig:
“Programs should be written for people to read, and only incidentally for machines to execute.” - Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs
"Political Correctness is fascism disguised as manners" --George Carlin

Aaron Bolyard
Member #7,537
July 2006
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I want to say thank you for your advice, James Lohr! This is one of the posts I wanted.

In regards to open source projects, I'm planning on contributing to InkScape if I can extend my canvas library further (and finish porting it to C++). InkScape has a horrible renderer (takes multiple seconds to zoom in on slightly complex scenes without blurs and other fancy features; add them and watch your processor melt) though beyond that I'm not sure how I can contribute to other open source software.

I quite like to see a "Personal interests" section. I've definitely noticed a correlation between excellence (i.e. the ones we hire and turn out to be awesome) and people with kick-ass hobbies like hang-gliding, competitive sports etc.

I'd like to note that my largest hobby is reading classic literature (the 'boring' stuff taught throughout English literature degrees), and even then, I haven't done much of that lately because of more important things... I guess that's not relevant to this topic but I just wanted to note it :).

james_lohr
Member #1,947
February 2002

I'd like to note that my largest hobby is reading classic literature

Put it down! It would definitely score favourably in my books (though possibly because it is one of my personal hobbies too :P)

Quote:

In regards to open source projects, I'm planning on contributing to InkScape if I can extend my canvas library further (and finish porting it to C++). InkScape has a horrible renderer (takes multiple seconds to zoom in on slightly complex scenes without blurs and other fancy features; add them and watch your processor melt) though beyond that I'm not sure how I can contribute to other open source software.

Heh, if you had a degree and if you managed to improve the performance of Inkscape (I use it a lot personally, and am often frustrated by how horrendously slow it is), I would probably be head-hunting you ;D

Aaron Bolyard
Member #7,537
July 2006
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I have a few questions about this statement:

No evidence of teamwork / group projects

How do you actually work with a team as a hobbyist? How do you even form a team, in real life or online?

I mean, online teams are cool until the project dies because one or more people drop off the face of the planet (this happened while I contributed to a small game many years ago no one has probably heard of). I barely got started and received little to no help when I asked for clarification (the code honestly was a spaghetti of C written over random spans, some of it as old as 10 years at the time, and all I wanted to know was how normals were generated for the map format [comments? non-existent in this section]...), then poof, no responses, nothing. So I had no choice but to stop.

And as far as real-life teams are concerned, I can't travel*. It would have to be local (within <10, heck, even <20 miles). I've never come across anything like that in my area the many times I've looked.

Would teamwork include me coding, other people doing music/art? Does family count? I mean, I've worked with my brother, and he's worked with me, on various smaller projects, doing all kinds of things--designing, programming, (and he composes and sequences the music in anything I've developed)--but he's family, so I assume that is pretty irrelevant.

*: This is a point many people seem to miss. The bus system is about as slow as walking to most reasonable destinations because of the routes (and the nearest bus stops are over a mile away, and dare I say it, up hill). I can't afford a car (nor could I drive one safely or legally because of the medication I take). I can't depend on a neighbor or someone to take me places regularly. Could I attend a further college without relocation? Sure, if you could get my brother insurance and him a car! Blagh.

edit: I don't mean to sound defeatist or like I'm not listening to advice here (because I am trying to listen to advice [and not trying to sound defeatist]), the situation my brother and I am in is pretty dire. I would have to work and go to college (if I can even get into college depending on how well I present my dependence case) otherwise I'd probably end up homeless (the funds we had to support ourselves pretty much dried up this month, so heck, it may be sooner!). I am suffering from a severe relapse, even if it's been slightly better the past couple of weeks. Transportation is another major issue.

As far as the services for us, I applied for SSI back in November and won't see a decision for another month or two (and it will probably be declined, which means I'll have to appeal, which means year[s] before I the case moves forward--yay for bureaucracy and an overburdened system). Section 8 (welfare housing, whatever you want to call it) hasn't opened applications since I first checked back in September (they still say they have over 500 families in their waiting list, talk about efficiency). Our income is $700 a month because my brother receives benefits from my mom--but they run out in May, and this just covers rent + electricity or whatever odd bills are due around that time--because savings we had ran out in February. Payment for heating/electricity is AFAIK a month-by-month decision based on funds, and they are always out by the time they get to us.

The only service we receive is food stamps, and thankfully that does cover all the food for a month (but it'll drop as soon as I get a job, which means our income will increase... disproportionately and not in our favor**). **: By this I mean we'll have to end up paying more for food, on top of other bills.

I mean really, we need about $1400 a month including food to survive if nothing goes wrong. That may not seem like a lot, but that's 40 hours of above-minimum wage a week over four weeks, aka at least two part time jobs that give reasonable hours.

Bob
Free Market Evangelist
September 2000
avatar

bamccaig said:

I'd rather be broke then to owe $100,000.

You'd be surprised how quickly $100,000 can be paid back with an engineering / programming / medical / accounting job.

Next, I have a draft of a resume I've developed

First, the negatives: Everything James said. This resume is unlikely to get through HR.

Sort projects by date.

However, I actually like the overall structure: Projects first, and center.

When I go recruiting, that's pretty much all I look at. Objectives / Skills / Education / Hobbies / Awards go to /dev/null in my brain (except maybe for a spot check that you know some C++).

I don't want to go hunting for interview questions.

Your project descriptions are a little long. I understand that you don't want your resume to look too sparse. See if you shorten them by 30-50% without losing information. This is a good skill to have regardless.

Maybe pad out the resume by adding thumbnails / screenshots of your projects that look good in black and white.

I would like to see at least some contributions to existing (larger) projects. That will get you experience working with others, and the code reviews will force you to improve.

I don't know what kind of job fair you're going to. If it's staffed by HR, you're boned no matter what. If you find engineers / developers, make sure you talk to them.

Since you're lacking group experience and an advanced degree, aim for an internship. In most places, the pay is decent (but not great), and you get the experience. It's temp work, but if your employer is happy with you, this can turn into full-time work pretty easily.

Whatever you do, don't make it sound like you're needy. Don't talk to recruiters / HR about your financial situation, medical problems, or anything else that could put them in an awkward or compromising position.

Feel free to ask about pay scales, opportunity windows, if internships are convertible to full-time positions, etc.

I can't travel*

Do you know how to drive, and can you get yourself to an airport?

Some employers will want to fly you to their preferred city for interviews, (nearly) all expenses paid.

--
- Bob
[ -- All my signature links are 404 -- ]

SiegeLord
Member #7,827
October 2006
avatar

Bob said:

You'd be surprised how quickly $100,000 can be paid back with an engineering / programming / medical / accounting job.

Hah, that depends on how much you're paying for rent :-X. I recently relocated for a software engineering job, and a non-trivial amount of my pay-hike got sucked up by the rent prices (not in a small part driven up by software engineers working for the same company, hah!). The rent is too damn high.

"For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increases knowledge increases sorrow."-Ecclesiastes 1:18
[SiegeLord's Abode][Codes]:[DAllegro5]:[RustAllegro]

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