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I'm a high school student, currently finishing my grade 12 year of high school. I have already been admitted into a software engineering program at at least one university, and I have decided on this as a career choice. I have taught myself almost everything I know about programming, and have worked on numerous open source projects. This past year, I wrote a website for my school, working with a team of ~3 people to do so, learning many things about git source control, and other skills related to working with a team on projects like this.

In order to finance my education, I will need to get a summer job of one sort or another. Although I have no objection to working at the local grocery or tech store, I would prefer a job related to the career I will be pursuing long-term, as I believe it will

  1. Be more interesting
  2. Look better on a resume
  3. Teach me more
  4. Possibly be better payed (not a primary motivation, just a thought)

My issue is, I have no idea where to start, or what companies, if any, will hire me. I have looked into GSOC, but I do not turn 18 until the fall, and as such am ineligible. I have considered going around to various local companies and asking if they want their website done/redone, but even then i'm not sure of the best way to go about it. Going the way of the entrepreneur is also a possibility, but could be risky as a summer job that my education depends on, especially considering I have very little experience deploying things in the real world. Furthermore, coming up with a product that would generate me enough profit over the course of a summer seems extremely unlikely, given that wild successes like Youtube and Facebook were not profitable for several years after they started.

So, ultimately, my question is:

  • Is it worth the effort to look for a programming-related job, since I am under 18 and don't have a degree? Do I have a decent chance of getting one?
  • If it is worth the effort, where should I start my search, and what advice do you have regarding this search? Are there specific companies or websites you would recommend for my case?

Not sure if this question is off-topic for this site, but I have seen several others asking for career advice, and this seems to fall under that same category. Let me know if there is anything I should do to make it clearer.

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closed as off-topic by MichaelT, Robert Harvey, gnat, Kilian Foth, Dan Pichelman Sep 2 '13 at 13:27

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4 Answers 4

I'll say that it is definately worthwhile to try to get a summer internship in your soon-to-be field, for the reasons you outline, but also to help you figure out if computer science is your life long dream or not.

At this stage of the game, companies are more interested in your ability/willingness to learn and solve problems more so than the amount of knowledge you have already if that makes sense.

But it will definately be difficult to find an internship. I personally didn't manage to get an internship until after my sophomore year of college as companies tended to only want people they know are committed to the field if that makes sense. But it is completely worth the effort.

I'll agree with P. Brian Mackey's comments, of posting resumes out, and that the technology sector does increase your chances. Possibly look at local companies as they might have relationships with your high school and could help you get your foot in the door. I'll also give a shameless plug. Cerner, has an excellent internship program (I did several internships with them while finishing my degrees), and does consider people still in high school all the way through college for the opportunity.

Best of luck!

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Thanks for your answer as well, i don't have enough rep to up-vote either of you :( –  crazy2be Apr 7 '11 at 4:03

I'm speaking from personal experience as a high school intern and now employee at a local web design company. You should definitely look for a job as a programmer this summer. I interned one summer for a company (the summer after my sophomore year), and it went so well that I've been a part-time employee of that company ever since. If it goes well, you'll likely make some great friends who can help you out in the future. Personally, I prefer working at small businesses as opposed to large companies, just because I like the more family-like environment.

As far as job seeking, I'd advise to look for small businesses. It can be difficult to get the foot in the door at big companies unless you have connections, especially as an unproven high school student. However, small businesses (like a small up-and-coming web design firm, ad agency, etc.) tend to be much more receptive and interested in programmers (a good programmer is a precious commodity for them). You seem to know your stuff and can write clearly, so a strong cover letter and a nice-looking resume (clean and simple) should be able to get you at least an interview, where it's totally up to you to make a good impression. I hope I'm not being to presumptuous about your economic situation, but I would advise not to obsess about the money too much. They'll be taking a gamble with you, so don't be pushy about it. If you can prove that you're worth it, they should be willing to pay you appropriately. In the ideal situation, it will be a mutually beneficial relationship, you get some cash and a lot of experience, and they get cheap programming labor. Ultimately, in my opinion, small businesses are the place to look.


Sidenote: If you don't mind me asking, what university do you think you'll be attending?

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Thanks for the long and detailed answer. How would you do a search for these kind of small business jobs? I'm not really sure where to find the local small programming shop :). Would you advise posting online (monster.com, etc) as a way to find these small businesses, or is there some other technique you have used (and would advise)? And i will (hopefully) be attending the University of Waterloo, bearing acceptance. –  crazy2be Apr 12 '11 at 3:31
    
Good luck on the acceptance! As far as hunting these small businesses, my best luck was with networking. Fortunately for me I had a friend and classmate who was good friends with the co-founder of the firm I now work at. But through the local Ruby User Group I have found lots of other neat little companies (and, surprisingly, actually gotten job offers) that were looking for talent. So get out there are start interacting in User Groups and the like; a smiling face and firm handshake can do far more than any painstakingly-crafted email. –  dirk Apr 12 '11 at 10:54

Government offices often offer students internships. Call up your city officials and find out where to send your resume. You will likely need proof that you are a college student. Large corporations do it too. Post your resume on monster.com.

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I'm not a collage student yet, but I will be going to university in the fall- does that count? –  crazy2be Apr 6 '11 at 23:33
    
Depends on the company, but in my expereince it usually does not count until you are actually a student. If u are still in high school that may do it, but a college tech major gets more chances for sure. If u got the skills somebody can use them. Be sure to make a portfolio. –  P.Brian.Mackey Apr 7 '11 at 1:13

There are sites like elance and vworker (formerly rentacoder.com) where would-be programmers can bid on project proposals from would-be employers. Be forewarned that doing this as a way to break into the field may be less than advisable, as it will be even more difficult to sift through projects of varying degrees of dubiousness for the ones that can be completed at a useful rate of pay. It may nevertheless be worth mining the chaff for something you have some experience with; if nothing else, completing a quick project will boost your reputation and provide you with some palpable experience.

A 2008 Coding Horror post talks about some of the issues associated with these sorts of websites.

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Thanks for the fallback suggestion, i wasn't aware that these sites existed! –  crazy2be Apr 12 '11 at 3:29
    
Sure! Be careful though.. you can definitely get screwed over that way. –  intuited Apr 12 '11 at 4:08

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