Finding A Job In Chicago Without A Clue
April 23, 2012 3:49 PM   Subscribe

I would like to get a new job in Chicago. What are some things I can do over the summer to maximize my odds at finding employment in the windy city? My field is software engineering.

A summary of my situation: I currently live in Rockford, IL. I've lived here for most of the last 3 years. I am 28 years old and graduated with a degree in Computer Engineering in 2007.

I work in avionics where I mostly perform verification and validation of aircraft software although I did some development in the past. Right now I work on the 787. From what I gather my part of the project will be done around July. I think Chicago is the best place for me to go when that happens, because I like the city and it will bring me closer to where I grew up in Michigan. I'm willing to move back to Michigan I would just rather move to Chicago if I can find a job.

The problem is, I've only ever had this one job! I'm not sure how prepared my job has made me for other jobs. I decided that I should spend the next several months working on skills to make me more attractive to the kind of development work that exists in Chicago. I don't know what I should prioritize to help me out.

I consider myself pretty good with C, C++, and C#. I know a little bit of Perl and currently do a lot of my work in the scripting language Tcl. I don't really know any SQL except what I picked up after following some tutorials for a few hours. I have no experience with web programming. I don't have a portfolio. Most people I work with seem to think I'm very good at my job. I was tasked with helping two people new to the project get up to speed and dolling out work for several months which is the closest to managing I've ever done.

So: what are some things I can in the next few months do to make myself look better? Sorry if my question is all over the place!
posted by Green With You to Work & Money (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Consider working for Northrup-Grumman. They have electronic warfare guys working in aviation just outside Chicago (Rolling Meadows, specifically). Therefore, anything related to RF signals would be useful.

Note: they're Defense Contractors. That implies a lot of things which, I expect, you're already familiar with if you work in aviation.
posted by aramaic at 4:05 PM on April 23, 2012

Are you on Dice? Linkedin? You will get a job without even TRYING.
posted by sandmanwv at 5:34 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm in the Chicago area on dice and monster, and I get recruiter calls due to having C++ keywords on my resume (even though I'm a hardware engineer interested in chip design). There are plenty of companies in the area that do embedded software that you'd probably be well qualified for already. So clean up your resume and start putting it out there.
posted by garlic at 7:05 PM on April 23, 2012

Response by poster: I'm on Dice, but I haven't gotten any contacts from it. Not that I can remember anyway. I should update my resume though, it's about a year out of date from when I briefly lived in Davenport, IA.
posted by Green With You at 7:09 PM on April 23, 2012

Response by poster: I haven't done any work with wireless technologies (assuming RF means radio frequency).

I guess if there are a lot of companies that do embedded sw in the Chicago area then my summer project can be to get a dev board and build something in my free time. My senior design project was never completed, I'm thinking I can probably do a much better job of it this time. Maybe even incorporate some wireless tech!
posted by Green With You at 7:57 PM on April 23, 2012

Boeing has a location in Chicago. Do they hire software engineers? It's worth checking out. You'd be amazed how much stock people put in industry domain knowledge. You might think that writing software is the same no matter what it's built to do, but having a background in the aeronautics industry might give you a leg up in interviews.
posted by deathpanels at 9:23 PM on April 23, 2012

A lot of algorithmic/quantitative trading firms and hedge funds are looking for C++ and C# programmers in Chicago. They seem to be recruiting very actively.
posted by deanc at 7:50 AM on April 24, 2012

Boeing's engineering isn't really in Chicago, it's out in Seattle. The Chicago HQ is just business.

The trading/quant firms love C++ programmers, but they're odd birds to interview with. I tried interviewing with one, and before I could even speak to someone in person they wanted me to take an online C++ test which amounted to an hour of obscure language corner cases and trivia. I guess the money is awesome, but I'm sure the pressure is immense as well.

If you can do avionics, try RightHand Technologies. I think they're looking for someone in that area. Second on Northrup Grumman as well, they seem to treat their people well.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:50 AM on April 24, 2012

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