I have a bit of a unique story. I have some work experience in IT, which I've come to generally loathe, and about a year left on finishing my physics degree. I would like to pursue physics further but the career path is pretty grueling and I've decided against it.
I know (or knew) the fundamentals of a good handful of languages: Java, C, C++, PHP, and am familiar with SQL. In my physics degree I've done some research that required a good deal of C++ programming, albeit in a format that is more procedural than OOP, as is common when scientists try to program.
I'd like to convert my experiences to a career in some sort of lower level programming, embedded devices, drivers or scientific/mathematical programming and the like, as I don't particularly enjoy the idea of writing websites or other manner of CRUD applications for 50 hours a week. I've done enough LAMP stuff to know it doesn't really interest me. That said, I am flexible and have only a nebulous idea of what I want to do.
So the question I pose is how to position myself well to start up such a career as a new grad in about a year or so? I certainly need to shore up some fundamentals as it has been a long while since I learned and am pretty rusty. Secondly, I don't have any sort of show-able portfolio as my physics research doesn't really lend itself to that, although perhaps there is an opportunity to parlay some of the stuff I've been doing into a more discreet project.
Lastly, I am worried that my IT background on my resume will typecast me as a sysadmin type and not allow me to break into the more enjoyable, for me at least, world of programming.
TL;DR: Physics degree and IT work wants to convert to a career doing lower-level programming.