How to find opportunities when you graduate from college.

If you are just coming out of college and looking for a position, here are a couple of tips I would recommend for getting the most from your degree.

November 28th, 2014 • Develop •
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Recently, I received an email from someone who graduated a year ago from college. This person is looking to start a career as a junior .NET developer in Sydney.

The email was broken into 3 parts and discusses this person's goals on what they want to achieve.

The first part addresses their experience as they only have a few months of it, but for the last year, they have been looking for a position and haven't been able to find a job yet.

The second part is that they created a sample web site to start building their portfolio to showcase their skills.

The final part was the possibility of creating a project that would enhance their portfolio to get recognized for a possible opportunity.

I thought this post would be a great opportunity to address how some of the students who graduate may be able to MAKE opportunities happen for themselves.

Learning your experience

When someone graduates from college, you are handed that piece of paper saying you passed all of your courses and are ready to head out into the world.

While I do agree that the courses you take in college expand your knowledge of the world, I also believe that it's evidence that you follow through in teaching yourself. It's your passport to continue learning in life.

I graduated (umm...a long time ago) and received my degree as well... and you know what? To this day, I am still learning, teaching myself, and trying to be better at programming/designing/architecting web sites.

The learning never stops...even when you don't have a job. It doesn't stop!

In my mind, experience is delivered to you on AND OFF the job. If you've been off for a year trying to find a job, part of that year should include "training" and learning to better yourself for anything that comes your way.

To answer the first part, while I don't know the economic situation in Sydney, I would imagine it's pretty tough there as well as in the U.S. I would "keep the faith," continue to press on, and continue building your coding skills. Keep your ears and eyes open. If you let the right people know you are looking, they will contact you (but don't forget to contact them once in a while to remind them). ;-)

I have had my share of looking for work as well. I wrote a couple of posts that address some of the topics I explained:

Find Yourself: Create Your Homebase

One thing I never did was create a homebase for myself on the web until recently. I was building web sites for everyone else...everyone but me. When I say "homebase," I'm talking about a single URL on the web where people can absolutely find you. It's considered my hub that branches out to other corners of the web.

Once you have a homebase, you can develop it out to whatever you feel like.

Hey, it's your site.

Here are my thoughts regarding the second topic:

  • If you've been on the web for a while, you probably know the components that make up a particular site, what makes it stand out, and what makes it look good. I would recommend reading The Design of Sites from my Top 10 Books Every .NET Developer Should Own. It's a good reference book for knowing the components of what makes a particular website look the way it does.
  • Find a blog platform that you like (or build your own...I built mine from scratch) and start writing your own personal experiences. Three things can happen from this:
    1. You will be writing a journal about your journey as a developer which other junior developers can read about (and find fascinating as well).
    2. You can create a portfolio section on your site of current and past projects.
    3. Creating a blog platform IS a project unto itself. THAT could be a project that you can add to your portfolio.

Get Creative

This final question carries over from the second part.

As I mentioned above about creating a blog, there are other opportunities in the field to grow your portfolio:

  • Since you don't have a LOT of experience, non-profit organizations may have a need for a brand new website or maintenance to their existing site. Find these opportunities and don't expect to be paid. Your learning is payment enough.
  • Join some open-source projects. You will learn:
    • How GitHub/Subversion/TFS works
    • How a team works on fixing bugs
    • How a community codes and learn from it.
  • Make sure your LinkedIn.com account is up-to-date. A couple things can happen with your LinkedIn.com account:
    • Make your connections. As the old saying goes, "it's not what you know, but who you know." Recruiters are always looking around on LinkedIn. Those connections can pay off when they see a complete profile of your skills.
    • When you get your profile updated, head over to the Resume Builder at LinkedIn Labs. This will simplify the creation of your resume. Just update your LinkedIn profile and BAM, your resume is already built for you.
    • Join some groups that match your programming interests. For example, if you are into ASP.NET MVC, there are a couple of ASP.NET MVC Groups that you can join. Those groups also post jobs that may interest you.
  • Ask around and see if any family members are interested in a website.

Conclusion

In this post, I tried to cover as much detail as possible and provide a number of resources to help this person out.

I also mentioned a number of ways to find opportunities to push yourself further and make yourself stand out. As you progress through your career and gain more experience, you will have prospects/customers taking notice and coming to you for work.

NOTE: I forgot to mention another post that touches on 5 Steps To Starting Your Programming Career (and three ways to become the best).

Do you think this was good advice? Was there another way of finding other opportunities? Post your comment below.

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Picture of Jonathan Danylko

Jonathan Danylko is a freelance web architect and avid programmer who has been programming for over 20 years. He has developed various systems in numerous industries including e-commerce, biotechnology, real estate, health, insurance, and utility companies.

When asked what he likes to do in his spare time, he replies, "Programming."

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