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The first job is always the hardest to get and I'm no exception. I'm 23 years old and I have no college degree but planned on going to college this year if all goes well (CS of course). I'm self-studying java right now. I know most of the topics related to the language besides the more advanced topics and I'm beginning to look at open source projects. I would like to find a job (at least a part time job) after a year or two when I'll gain more experience and learn more about java technologies and other technologies that interest me.

Finding a job will be a bit difficult because most of the people (or a lot of them at least) at my current age already have 2 years or more of experience, so I will be somewhat disadvantaged. Should I start building connections and joining websites such as linkedin ? I never bothered to look into it because I'm not much of a social network person.

If I start contributing to open source projects and create personal projects for 2 years could I apply for jobs that require 1-2 years of experience? Does this experience count ?

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closed as off topic by Walter, maple_shaft Mar 7 '12 at 13:36

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8 Answers 8

You should start making connections/friends as soon as you can. Preferably face-to-face connections, but getting your name known in the mailing lists that interest you certainly won't hurt.

Your social network is a powerful tool for finding employment, both in the form of jobs and in the form of contracts.

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+1 I underestimated the power of networking for too many years. It is highly recommended to start ASAP. –  user2567 Jan 13 '11 at 16:18
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Absolutely start making connections as soon as possible. Attend local user group meetings for technologies you're interested in. That would be my priority over LinkedIn right now. You'll meet a lot of people already working in the field you want to get into. Your LinkedIn profile would be sparse right now, and face-to-face networking is a lot more effective, in my experience.

I can't answer the OSS question -- haven't had much experience with that.

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+1 concerning LinkedIn. I've never met anyone who has gotten any traction from LinkedIn, CEOs and otherwise. –  Philip Regan Jan 13 '11 at 17:59
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So, I am in a great position to weigh in on this in that I just got hired into a Jr. Developer position after self-teaching myself for a little over a year.

My advice, start making connections as soon as you can. Go to User Group meetings, even if you don't understand any of what is being presented. You may not understand it now, and you may walk away totally confused, but a year down the road you my learn something that will make that presentation you watched make complete sense.

Meet lots of people. If there is one locally, go to a code-camp. They are free most of the time, and I have had many times where code-camp was the place where the puzzle pieces came together.

Get on Twitter, even if you don't tweet. There are lots of really smart people who do. If you need suggestions on who to follow, comment, and I will give you a few to start of with. Follow a couple smart people, see who they follow and interact with, and then follow them. Rinse and repeat.

Get on Linked-in. Don't make it a social network, make it a professional one. Don't add everyone you meet, just the people that you have had some professional type interaction with.

Last, never stop learning, and be persistent. My only experience before this job is doing tech support for almost 2 years. Perhaps you should start there. Find a small shop that will lead you down the software path. Perhaps help fix bugs, or write a small utility application that they want but don't want to spare the resource to build. Then, when you get a project, do it, get feedback, make it better. If you repeat that process, you will be successful in most projects that you take on.

Good luck!!

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good advice all around –  qes Jan 13 '11 at 19:40
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I'm in a pretty similar boat as the OP. I just finally made a twitter account, and I'm pretty lost as to who to follow, or really even how to use it, haha. I'd like to hear your suggestions :) –  Zack Mar 31 '11 at 21:52
    
@zdkroot - here are a few that I recommend starting with. I am mainly a .NET developer, so the ones I recommend will probably be heavier to that side of things. @robconery @shanselman @scottgu @johnsheehan @kevindente @sarajchipps @shawnwildermuth –  Jesse McCulloch Apr 1 '11 at 4:15
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Will every employer consider 2 years of working on open-source and personal projects the equivalent of 1-2 years' work experience? Oh, almost certainly not. But can you apply anyway? Definitely. Because some of them will be willing to consider you based on that, and you won't know which is which until you try. Just be honest and up-front about the non-professional nature of your experience to date, and let the individual employers decide for themselves about whether or not you're qualified for the position at hand.

And I wouldn't worry about networking just for the sake of networking; I've never gotten much value out of LinkedIn, personally. (Though that's most definitely a YMMV thing.) If you follow through on your plans to get involved with one or more open source projects, the connections you build there will be a perfectly good starting point.

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You should always be making connections throughout your career.

It is not a very good idea to wait until you need a favor from someone to make a connection or touch base with your existing connections. It becomes very transparent that you are just using that person for your own ends, and I'd think they'd be much less enthusiastic about helping you.

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It counts if 2 years experience is the only difference between you and other candidates applying for the job. By that I mean, if you want to stand on even ground, or better still, you want to win out over other candidates, you need to be able to show that you created something useful/interesting. My advice is to join a project on sourceforge.net and work with other programmers to produce something that you could show off. It would also demonstrate that you're a team player and can work well with others.

Do that, and that alone will add the equivalent of 8 years experience, putting you 6 ahead of your colleagues. :) Good luck!

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By the time you're looking for a job, it's too late to start making connections. Make them now!

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All the advice about making connections and getting out to groups that interest you are very good. My last three jobs have all come through professional connections, and I've gotten several interviews and two job offers through LinkedIn. It's a professional network, not really social so much. But you have to use it to have it work for you.

Some of the people who may feel they have not been successful with LinkedIn may not have optimized their profiles. They may have little to no experience listed in their profiles, no recommendations, and only have 5 or 6 connections. (I looked at a few like this.) You get out of it what you put in, just like anything else.

There is a Job Seekers group on LinkedIn where they help you figure out how to make your profile as attractive to recruiters and hiring managers as possible. LinkedIn also has a job board. If you are open to looking outside of your local area too, getting to know people all around the globe may just help you get that great position you have been looking for.

And no, I don't work for them, but LinkedIn has been an asset to my career.

Good luck!

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