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I've been a Classic ASP web developer for the last 10 years and for the second time in two years I'm facing the possibility of being laid off. The biggest difference now is that the job market for someone with my limited skill set is actually worse than it was in 2008-2009. Years ago I took a diploma course in ASP.NET web development but was unable to translate that into a job; since then, I've kept up my .NET skills on my own but have never been able to break through the 'no work experience' barrier, and I haven't been given the opportunity to work with .NET at any of the jobs I've held (including my current position, where they broke the promise they made at my hiring to send me out for training).

So, I'm wondering if it's even possible to self-teach and turn that knowledge into a paying position? Is the 'no work experience' catch-22 worse with Microsoft technologies than it is for others, or is it basically the same for all programming languages? I had considered joining open-source projects or doing volunteer work as a way to bootstrap myself in a new language, but the project listings I read all wanted experience with references. Is there any way to reboot my career at this point?

Edit: I'm curious about the job market for open-source languages vs. MS languages. Is it easier to get a job as, say, a self-taught Ruby programmer than a self-taught C# programmer? The last time I scanned through Craigslist it seemed like all of the grassroots/startup opportunities were all PHP, Ruby, etc.

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If you've kept up your ASP.NET skills on your own, but not had the opportunity to use them at work, there is always potential to, shall we say, "exaggerate". I would never recommend lying to get a job that you can't handle, but if you feel that employers are only looking at your commercial experience and that your personal knowledge and skills exceed that, don't feel bad about claiming more commercial experience than you really have. –  Carson63000 Oct 25 '10 at 22:32
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Everyone had 0 experience at some point. You have to start somewhere. –  Chris Oct 26 '10 at 12:48

8 Answers 8

up vote 10 down vote accepted

I too was in your position about three years ago but slightly worse I would say. No degree, no experience, but I wanted to learn. I posted my resume on a couple sites and after a few weeks I got an interview. They were only hiring for someone to do some easy web development work, not really my cup of tea but I took the job and while I was there I was continuously looking for new things to learn. I am 100% self taught if you get the hang of programming theory you can teach yourself any language or any technology. The best way to learn is to take a junior position somewhere and work under an experienced programmer. They will teach you so much if you're willing to listen to their advice. Getting a job with ASP will be a lot easier if you have some other skill sets that include XML, JavaScript (JQuery or Prototype), SQL. There are plenty of companies (mine included) that would hire someone without much experience if they seemed to have a good head on their shoulders in the interview and seemed willing to learn.

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Accepting a junior position is great to learn a new field or technology. Think of it as your transitional job to something bigger in the future. –  Thierry Lam Oct 26 '10 at 12:50
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When I was out of work last year I looked at junior level positions, but they all demanded 1-2 years of experience. Seemed like a contradiction to me, but not surprising given the job market at the time. –  Raven13 Oct 26 '10 at 14:14
    
Yeah most places are like that, but I also think there are plenty of small companies who just want to hire someone to get the work done. They're not necessarily easy to find. But if you land an interview with one of them and are able to convince them you know what you're talking about getting the job should be easy. Getting the interview is the hard part. –  Brian Oct 26 '10 at 16:02
    
I wouldn't have recommended prototype in 2010. –  Erik Reppen Aug 29 '13 at 5:07

Are you able and willing to learn? Let those interviewing you see that passion.

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I've seen evidence to the contrary. I've had a number of recruiters call me looking for someone with classic ASP skills and having trouble locating people because no one wants to work with such an old technology.

My advice would be to look for a job that still uses the old technology, but is considering an upgrade to ASP.NET and learn on that job. That might be a good bridge to keep your career going.

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I absolutely used freelance, personal, and consulting references on my resumé and they made a big difference in getting my current job. Code samples and working websites are useful, no matter who paid you, or if you got paid, for the work. I switched from Java/C to .NET. I still do some Java, php, classic ASP, and more. The more you know, the easier it is to pick up different languages and frameworks.

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Who do you know?

I'm a bit of a newbie in the industry, and have been in it for ~2.5 years. I don't have any formal training in form of a college degree.

I landed my first job because I knew somebody who has seen some of my personal projects. So he knew that I was good at picking up on new stuff. I had only been working with C and Python, and it was an ASP.NET shop. Granted, ASP.NET is easy stuff, I was working efficiently in it after the first few days.

Really, if you know somebody who can vouch for you, and you are confident that you can actually do the work, then you should be able to find a job.

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If you can present yourself in a manner that shows that despite your lack of official work experience, you are in fact truly apt for any related position.

I think that you have already what it takes to be in the industry, interviewers won't overlook that. So you should not hesitate to apply for jobs and attend interviews because unless you try, you won't know.

To address some of your maybe you can establish a company (with a friend, or otherwise) and make it seem like the projects you have worked on were for this company. It might seem like lying but I like to think that it's part of the game we have to play.

As for references, you might want to look into contracting/volunteering for small/medium companies, they won't turn down free help from someone as experienced as you are, and after a while I am sure they'd be glad to provide with references.

Good luck! Happy hunting.

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This should be no problem if you are willing to work in Java, Java and C# are basically "siblings" of one another. From there, I think learning scripting languages could come naturally, on an "as-needed" basis, where I work Java is the core code base and Ruby, for example, is used to write small scripts to do various tasks, etc but its not the main focus. It depends on what kind of company you want to work for but I would think a large codebase in a scripting language, like Ruby, would be a bit harder to maintain than in C# or Java.

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I would have trouble taking your resume seriously unless it was clear to me you wanted out and you have other obvious tech interests that you were doing work on in your own time. You have to be interested to compete. Classic Asp for ten years would make me wonder if maybe you don't know why you're here in this career path exactly or that it had more to do with school dollars to salary ratio than interest. Try being interested. Learn any other approach you can that wildly differs form MS-style so you have some contrast to give you some ideas/conflicts to consider. Learn how to do the web in a fairly primitive fashion. It may surprise you.

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