There are probably some great books out there to help guide a job search but they’re written to appeal to a large audience. Rather than take time to find the right book, I decided to use my experience as a manager and business owner to help guide you in your search. This search is rather amazing as it’s taking me down memory lane as it’s been a long time since I too was looking for a programming job, even before you were born.
Jason, I think I’m uniquely qualified to help you in your job search. I’m your mother and I’m a programmer by training although you now see me as a business person. We have enough techies in our family that I don’t need to fill that role which suits me just fine, but one of the unique skills I have is intuitively integrating and making trade-offs between what the technical possibilities are versus the business requirements.
Jason, You Are a Programmer!
You probably don’t realize what this means or why it’s important that you understand how valuable this insight is to your job search. It’s been many years since we last discussed what it means to be a programmer. Programmers are programmers because it’s in their blood, their DNA and they think logically although sometimes we’d rather not. It’s the only way we look at and solve problems and your brother will never think this way, nor could he do what you do … even if he got a degree in computer engineering (I hope you laughed).
How do I know this? While still an undergraduate, I remember waking up in the middle of the night with the answer to a programming problem I was having. I quietly grabbed some paper and a pen, and out to the lounge to work while my roommate slept. When you are programming in your sleep because that’s what’s important to you, then you’re a programmer.
As a child you talked about being a programmer as both your parents are programmers. I listened and tried to explain that it had to be something inside you, something so compelling you could do nothing else. We talked, and talked, and talked … and I watched until the day I found you sprawled on the family room floor with lots of paper and books everywhere as you were driving to solve a programming problem. That day I knew you truly were a programmer and I told you too!
Over the years I’ve reviewed 100s of applications, interviewed a few hundred college students for IBM and hired maybe 40 to 60 programmers as this task was quickly delegated to my management team. Even outside work, it was easy to find myself talking to people about technology and job opportunities, especially leading up to the tech bubble. I was always amazed at the young people who got technical degrees as that’s where the money was. I would probe to see how many of them were truly programmers and this was seldom the case, i.e. they looked at programming as an entry level job to get started with a company. They didn’t really care about programming, about the challenge of make the computer do what they wanted. Unfortunately you’ll still find that most programmers are there for the paycheck, the nice working environment and the opportunities ahead.
You are a programmer! I would venture to guess that out of 100 people classified as programmers, only a handful (5 or less) are truly programmers the way you are a programmer (and I too don’t fall into that group any more either). Now we need to look at what this means in the type of job you look for and how you go about your search. My gut feeling says it would make more sense to research the top 10 programming companies in the NH seacoast area, and possibly Manchester too. You’re looking for companies who’s value proposition is based on programming skills, i.e. the companies who understand and value their programmers. Find those companies, research them and then get very creative about connecting with them to get an interview, i.e. create a web page on why you want to work for them!