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I'm currently 16, and I consider myself a good developer. I've worked as a freelance and with an Israeli company (that serves other international companies) for the past year, and I've completely satisfied my clients with a consistent 10/10 rating to date.

However, I've recently been trying to find work experience in real life at an influential software firm, but with limited (and by limited I mean no) success (I've only applied at the smaller firms, all of which were advertising available job positions). It is a requirement to take a week's work experience in my state, but I've already done that at a hospital (to try out my parent's career choice for me 0 a doctor), and want to have a shot at a software development firm. I've sent about 4 emails to different companies about it, but haven't received any replies yet (its been weeks).

How do I go about finding work experience as a 16 year old?

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closed as off-topic by Ampt, MichaelT, GlenH7, Bart van Ingen Schenau, ratchet freak Oct 15 at 11:12

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

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If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

    
Hi freedomspace, we generally want questions to have applicability to programmers at large: the last section about your SO profile ran the risk of making the question too localized to your specific situation, so I removed it. Commenters: if you have an answer, leave it as an answer: do not leave it as a comment. –  user8 Aug 10 '11 at 5:15
    
Get education! This will benefit you in the long run. –  user1249 Aug 11 '11 at 9:29
    
@Thorbjørn: What do you consider an education? Is studying, programming and learning on your own considered education? If so, I already am (and I'm not one of those average script kiddies either)! –  freedompeace Aug 11 '11 at 9:35
    
@freedompeace, formal training. You have an age where beginning a higher education is relevant, in the same way that a good piano teacher is better than learning to play by yourself. A sound theoretical foundation may be of higher benefit in the long run than you expect now. Example: Parallel programming is hard but it will be essential in the future. It is of benefit to know how to do it right. –  user1249 Aug 11 '11 at 9:51
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@freedompeace, the devil is as always in the details. I wish you good luck in learning all you can. –  user1249 Aug 11 '11 at 10:36

5 Answers 5

up vote 5 down vote accepted

We have actually offered a job to one of our year 10 work experience kids.

He is about 16 I think and we offered him a job as a remote tester to start with at the a bit higher rate than McDonalds pays and then small job programmer with a view to expanding his skillset as he goes along.

To start with, unless you are REALLY good your code isn't going to be up to scratch especially for larger projects and your employer will be investing in you for the longer term ... or just giving you a break.

This is fine, take the oppurtunity to learn on their money, the learning will be FAR more valuable to you than the money you earn from it.

So to answer your question, go to a bunch of companies in your local area and offer your services at a casual rate based off what McDonalds or an employer like that pays in your area. Once you have established yourself you can start to increase the rate.

Make it easy for them to take you on:

  • Testing isn't for everyone but its one thing companies will let you do before coding.
  • Offer to take on some internal projects (that are safe if you don't get it right first time)
  • Offer to be able to work from home (keep out of the way) for a lot of it. You can use remote desktop or similar for the bulk of the work and come in once a week or when ever is appropriate.
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Thank you Rob. How would I go about offering my services to others? I'm quite young and I'm not sure if people will take me seriously. I've completed some medium-sized projects as a freelancer on oDesk and Elance, as well as extending existing functionality of current applications as well. –  freedompeace Aug 10 '11 at 7:17
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Good question, use these projects as examples, put a 1/2 to 1 page letter of introduction ... basically saying your key stregths, programming languages etc. Be honest about your age and that you are doing it to learn and not have to get a part time job doing something that doesn't interest you. Then say your ready to work hard, starting with testing or what ever is available ... –  Robin Vessey Aug 10 '11 at 7:31
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Then print out a bunch of these and where possible deliver them by hand. If they are small development shops like mine you are likely to get a key person when you walk in the door. For the rest look on Linked in to get their names so you know who to ask for when you call them. –  Robin Vessey Aug 10 '11 at 7:31
    
Thank you! I will try it! May I have a shot applying at your business? –  freedompeace Aug 10 '11 at 7:48
    
Do you live in Melbourne Australia? –  Robin Vessey Aug 10 '11 at 7:59

If you're looking for experience, at the age of 15, your best bet is most likely an open source project or an internship-type opportunity.

Most companies, at least here in the US, would be loathe to hire anybody under 18 for a professional position, even part time, for a few reasons.

  1. Labor Laws - Depending on the locale absolute brick wall.
  2. Age Bias - Hate to say it, but I would have serious doubts about hiring a 15 year old for such a position. Plain and simple, I don't know if I would seriously consider it even.
  3. Lack of education. This is actually a big one. Thing is companies hire developers on a basis of more than just ability to write code. You need to be able to think critically and communicate well. I know at 15 you may not believe it, I certainly didn't, but 6-7 more years of education makes a huge difference.

As I stated before, my take on it, look for an open source project or an internship-type opportunity and by all means continue to take free lance opportunities that arise. The benefit of the former however is you will be able to learn quite a few things while developing on a team that you may never learn developing by yourself.

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+1 for the open source project suggestion. It might not count as "work experience" in the narrow sense of the term, but a serious contribution could have a BIG impact on the perception of your resumé in a few years time! –  Joris Timmermans Aug 10 '11 at 7:05
    
+1 for open source suggestion, your post inspired mine. –  Dan Aug 10 '11 at 19:41

If you are 15 I assume you are in high school. One thing I can suggest is a summer internship that complies with your country's child labor laws. Also you may be able to work out an agreement with your school to spend some time during the school week at "your part time job" which would translate into HS credits.

Other things you would have to do on your own time, maybe get involved with some open source projects or start your own open source project.

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+1 A summer internship is the best way to get experience at his age. Otherwise he would be working through the school week, and your mother unpugging your computer because you didn't do your homework, is not a valid excuse for missing a deadline :-) –  Ramhound Aug 10 '11 at 11:19

Okay, I was in the same situation as you.

Having started programming when I was 11, I began to think I'm a rockstar developer by the age of 15 and was kind of frustrated by being unable to get employed. Now that I'm 19, I finally realize I have been somewhat swanky and not in fact that great, but that's another story.

Now, I didn't get the job until I turned 18 but I got something extremely more valuable instead.

In 2007, Google organized a programming competition for high school students centered around open source contributions. I just started playing with Mono back then and was extremely excited when I found I was eligible for participation.

See, there is always Google Summer of Code but you have to be a college student, and that kind of sucks.
I'm not even a college student by now.

However, GHOP was for high school guys and gals and offered a real prize: the student who sends the best patches goes to Googleplex, sees Guido van Rossum and of course the T-Rex.

Google T-Rex

So I went ahead and in the end I was chosen as the winner for Mono project so I was invited to the awards ceremony at Google and had great fun there. When I turned eighteen, I got an interview with a large Russian IT outsourcing company by just mailing them my CV that included:

  • Won Google competition in 2007 by contributing to Mono project

I got the job the next day.

Do you see the point now?
You can do better. You don't need to be as lazy as I am.

If you don't have to make money yet, invest in yourself.

You'll be fed up with real-world applications when you get the job but now you have an opportunity to plain have fun and get noticed. Build your reputation.

Look, in 2011 Google re-established this competition, now named Google Code-in:

Google Code-in, Google's contest to introduce pre-university students (age 13-18) to the many kinds of contributions that make open source software development possible, concluded on January 10, 2011. We had 361 students from 48 countries complete over 2,000 tasks during the 7 week contest.

Do you want this fancy line on your résumé?

  1. Contribute to the open source project you like and advance your skills
  2. Look out for high school open source competitions like Google Code-in
  3. Participate and try to win, although even participation is well-indicative for potential employers
  4. Get employers to want you to work for them*
  5. ???
  6. PROFIT!

* As a sidenote, you really don't want to work for a shop that doesn't care about your experience in open source and contests.

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Start small, start local.

Advertise around your town, and in any various communities you are in, your services. For example, start off making web pages for local small/home businesses and non-profits. Or maybe an iphone app. That sort of thing. That will build you a set of references. It doesnt matter that the pay was next to nothing - what matters is you now have a couple completed projects under your belt for customers local employers might know. That in turn will give you more 'cred' to potential employers, and also allow you to target bigger customers.

Another thing you can do is look for non-programming jobs that work along side programmers. Tech support or IT, for example. These jobs often require some light scripting/coding. If you are good at that, it'll show through, and it might be the foot in the door you need to actually start programming for a company. The son of a friend of mine did that, and when most kids his age were just starting college, he was already a highly paid developer (obligatory: but stay in school).

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I wish I could select multiple answers . –  freedompeace Aug 11 '11 at 10:49

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