How do I find a job in IT/Web with lots of experience before I graduate in may?
July 17, 2012 10:01 PM   Subscribe

I am graduating next May (2013) with a Bachelors of Science in Applied Computing Technology from Colorado State University. I have 3 years IT & Network Support experience and just about 2.5 years web development experience through Student positions. I've done the whole freelance thing for the last 5 years as a Wordpress theme guy. How do I approach getting a full time job after college?

My main interests are:

1. Web Development (lots of jQuery, PHP & Coldfusion)
2. Mobile Development (No experience)
3. Security
4. Distributed software engineering (no experience)
5. Parellel Programming

Beyond course work my internships entirely consisted of web development, I've done lots with OOP and MVC (building a CMS for the USDA), YII, Coldfusion etc... but I am not sure how I can tailor that to applying for jobs.

My main questions are:

1. How do I find a job before I graduate that will start after I graduate?

2. I'm going on a fantastic honeymoon, and won't be able to start for 1 month after graduation. Will this be a problem? Graduation is around May 10, I won't be able to start until after June 10. Will most employer's care?

3. When do I start applying for jobs?

4. I have lots of experience, lots of people have told me to come talk to them at the career fair when I'm ready to graduate--How do I sell myself to them?

5. I'm looking at Continental United States, but will prioritize companies in Arizona (Phoenix area), Colorado (anywhere), Dallas or Austin or somewhere without beaches or snow. What's the job market like for Web Developers across the country?

6. How hard will it be for me to get a job given 6 years IT/Web experience + a 4 year degree @ 23?

Any tips or advice is greatly welcomed (other then, don't married so soon).
posted by snow_mac to Work & Money (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: BTW: I've got some experience with startups, I spent almost a full year in startup mode trying to start a social networking company with some friends & we even got some money. Before that tried to start two other companies and I have done a ton of freelancing.
posted by snow_mac at 10:05 PM on July 17, 2012

6. How hard will it be for me to get a job given 6 years IT/Web experience + a 4 year degree @ 23?

It's a tough market. But rich people will always send their kids to colleges and universities, so I'd consider looking at academia, if you want a web developer job and don't mind low pay. Also look into science research labs if you want to learn distributed and parallel computing. Again, don't expect a huge salary, but you're young and you could parlay job experience into a higher paying position in the private sector maybe 5-10 years down the line. You could take a look at the employment or HR sections of a school's web site to find open positions. Good luck!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:11 PM on July 17, 2012

Tech companies are used to new graduates not being able to start work until after graduation. People start looking for work many months before graduation with start dates in the summer. Plenty of people take some time off between finishing school and starting work, for various reasons, and again, it's routine, at least for larger companies.

From my point of view, "web development" is not the ideal path to go down unless you're truly a wizard at something like Javascript or MAYBE PHP. People who can do PHP, jQuery, etc. adequately are a dime a dozen, at least in the parts of the world I've lived in. If you're really a rockstar, far more than "adequate," you can do well, but it's a saturated space.

Your interests are diverse, which isn't a bad thing, but a lack of focus will make a job search much harder. I'm not clear on what "applied computing technology" is, though. Is this their name for CS, or is it something different?
posted by primethyme at 11:15 PM on July 17, 2012

3. When do I start applying for jobs?
4. I have lots of experience, lots of people have told me to come talk to them at the career fair when I'm ready to graduate--How do I sell myself to them?

You seem to be looking for _a_ job right now; given that you have roughly a year left, I'd say now is a great time to start thinking of _the_ job. Don't necessarily think in terms of technologies/ frameworks/ etc - these things will come and go - but think in terms of output in the greater scheme of things. For instance, lately, I find that I have greater motivation at work when I think "2 million different users will be hitting this jQuery hack that I'm about to code", rather than just"oooh, hard problems to solve", which had been one of my primary motivations in a job when I graduated from school. A Hacker Ethic with a desire for a global impact, basically. I've found that wanting this has vastly improved my job-satisfaction, and has fundamentally changed the kind of gigs I aim for.

With that in mind, my general advice is to start applying *when you feel ready*. You may or may not net an actual full-time offer immediately; some employers give you the flexibility of starting part-time, with the option of converting you to a full-time gig when you graduate. At the very least, you'll get used to attending interviews by the time you hit graduation; also, with a bit of an effort (and feedback etc), you'll be able to *evolve* your resume into something that's appealing to recruiters.

Also consider having a personal portfolio of sorts. If you have decent jQuery skills, see if you can quickly code through a few mobile apps using PhoneGap or something, and release them on an app-store of your choice. So when you attend interviews, you hand your interviewer your resume, and this showcase app running on your phone. Or if you don't have a handset to play with, or balk at registering yourself in any of the developer programs, spend a few weekends crafting some form of a web-based project using publicly available API/ data-sets, and put it up on a personal website. Basically, some way of getting the word across over and above a traditional resume; that will make you stand out from the crowd.

Finally, not from your part of the world, but I've been hearing about some interesting things they've been up to at University of Colorado in Boulder. Perhaps keep a lookout for dev opportunities at their labs? (Not that other universities wont be interesting places to go; just saying I've specifically heard about Boulder in particular)
posted by the cydonian at 11:31 PM on July 17, 2012

Response by poster: Applied Computing Technology is CS but lesser of the maths and course CS and more business classes. Designed to be a more "rounded" engineer, to understand all aspects of business.
posted by snow_mac at 11:52 PM on July 17, 2012

Also, know that you are severely limiting your career options in technology by not being willing to go to the major tech hub cities (though the options in Austin aren't awful from what I've heard, I've never lived there). This is a totally valid choice to make. I have done exactly the same thing, in fact. But go into it with your eyes open, knowing that there won't be as many jobs, they most likely won't be at "prestigious" big name tech companies, they won't pay as well as they would elsewhere*, and when you are ready to look for your next job, you'll have the same problem minus one option (the company you're leaving).

* The cost of living is lower, but in my experience, it's not nearly enough to offset the pay discrepancies. A Macbook Pro or Toyota costs roughly the same in Omaha as it does in SF.
posted by primethyme at 12:13 AM on July 18, 2012

Response by poster: @primethyme there is also health reasons why I can't live near the ocean. Quality of life is a huge factor for me. I've lived near the ocean and it was totally miserable for my health.
posted by snow_mac at 5:42 AM on July 18, 2012

If you go the web development route, get mobile experience immediately. Someone with literally no mobile experience at this point is someone that a lot of organizations are going to have a hard time finding a place for-everyone at least has a mobile website to maintain, even if they aren't doing apps.

The market for ColdFusion is slim and getting slimmer. PHP developers are a dime a dozen and often code that way. A resume that says jQuery and not Javascript is a red flag: it often means someone who can manipulate the DOM but barely knows what a variable is. I'll ask them what a javascript closure is and what it's good for and they won't have the first inkling of an answer, they'll struggle to do string manipulation, etc. jQuery's just a toolkit built on javascript, it might not be around in a few years but javascript isn't going anywhere. Javascript and mobile, that's what gets me excited about a web developer's resume
posted by Kwine at 12:03 PM on July 18, 2012

Response by poster: @Kwine, I've done a ton of both JS and jQuery, is it worth having jQuery on my resume?
posted by snow_mac at 6:22 PM on July 18, 2012

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