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How to get "work experience" :)

Vanitha Sugumaran
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 11, 2001
Posts: 356
Hi all,
I am studying towards MS in computer science. (part time student). I would like to get some experience before I start looking for jobs. I am open for volunteer opportunities. Where should I search? What are open source projects? How can I participate in those projects? any suggestions are welcome.
Thanks,
Vanitha.
Matthew Phillips
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 09, 2001
Posts: 2676
There are a lot of open source projects you could get involved with at Sourceforge. Check out the Project help wanted section to find a project to get involved with.


Matthew Phillips
John Coxey
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 24, 2000
Posts: 503
Vanitha Sugumaran:
Talk with your professors.
I would certainly think someone has a project or two laying around that caould be worked on. Granted, you might not get paid. However, most of these projects are academic in nature - meaning they are both a learning adventure for both you ad your professor.
Heck, you may even get lucky and get a professor to score an internship for you with a real-world company (hint!!! A chance to get real-world experience as well as make a little $$).
I would also talk to the career-services folks at the college. Again, never know what they may have.
Another thought. Talk to the professors in the other departments (outside of computer science dept). Again, they may have a project or know of someone who does.
-------
It's utterly amzing the contacts (both academically and in the business world) that university professors have. My advice, utilize their talents. After all, you are their customer.
Look at what Mark posted about how MIT gets projects for their computer science students. Hopefully your school can do the same for you.
-------
If worse comes to worse, talk to a local chuch, the YMCA, or some one.
Also, see if their is a Boy Scout Explorer Post in your area that specializes in Computer Science. Now you have an opportunity to "teach" a group of "students".
Also, the advisors for said Explorer Post may have business contacts (or be one's themselves) in the comp sci industry.
--------
I used all of the above techniques while pursuing my MS-Comp Sci degree. This is how I managed to make the transition from COBOL (procedure oriented languages) to Java/C++ (Object Oriented programming languages).
I used my teaching experiences at college to score the Hewlett-Packard gig and then built ontop of that experience to now teach at a local technical college at night.
I used my Java project experience for a professor to score an internship with Osh-Kosh Children's Cloting (managed to get them to pay me $20K + tuition, and the $$ was free from Pennsylvania state income taxes because it was written up as an internship)
Then I used those experiences to score the Java job with Qwest, then HP, and now American General Finance.
----------
This is why I used to laugh 3 yrs ago (when the market was still hot), at the folks who wanted to jump into the $100K Java jobs with only 6 months of IT training.
Remember the heated discussions we used to have about certifications versus college?
----------
It's Friday. I am taking a "mental health" day off from work.
Gotta run,
John Coxey
(jpcoxey@aol.com)


John Coxey
Evansville, Indiana, USA
Vanitha Sugumaran
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 11, 2001
Posts: 356
Thanks for your wonderful suggestions Matthew Phillips and John Coxey. I have looked at sourceforge.net some of the projects are interesting. I will join in any of them.
John, I tried with the professors, they don't have projects at hand. I am helping as a volunteer teaching assistant.
Thank you very much again,
Vanitha.
John Coxey
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 24, 2000
Posts: 503
Vanitha Sugumaran :
You say that your professors don't have any projects at hand.
Is this an USA 4 yr college that you are attending? If so, then you need to take your case to the department chair.
You are not looking to get paid. You need experience.
What are you going to talk about at your interview? Flipping Burgers at McDonalds? Oh, that'll get you a programming job.
-----
See my point!!! You need to relay this info to your professors. If they won't work with you - then get your education at another university. I would go to the university president. I don't care if you are going to MIT, or Penn State, or a more moderate size college like Lehigh.
You MUST -- ABSOLUTELY MUST!!! -- get aggressive. How else are you going to get your foot in the door. This is what these colleges are supposed to provide.
I know damned well that someone needs a database with a front-end gui done. It does not matter whether they use the program or not. You just need to get a project going. The trade-off is, the prof gets a working program, you get experience and a letter of recommendation from the prof. That's how the game is played.
You are spending $$ (probably big $$) to attend this university - if in USA. So DEMAND to get your $$ worth.
Find someone who is doing a project. See if they need help. Weasel your way onto the project. Play the game.
-----
In the meantime, work on your certifications.
You always want to stay busy in this game.
-----
Yeah, it's tough. That's why I laugh at these US$50K salaries currently being offered.
Johnny
Matt Cao
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 03, 2003
Posts: 715
Hi John,
Not all professor are nice like you. Some universities are sucked in PR. That is one of the main reason why the brand name university always get money from Alumni comparing to the others keep nagging states about funding. I also believe that Vani has been played into the minority game. He need to figure the way to control it of get out.
Regards,
MCao
John Coxey
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 24, 2000
Posts: 503
Matt:
- Getting a project from a professor (at this stage of the game) is not about money. It's about getting experience.
- If you are going to a university with any amount of credibility (in the USA) - most of the professors will be doing research.
- Your goal is to talk to the professors - discuss their research - see if your skills in computer science (needed or posessed) can be used to further this research. It doesn't matter if your end result is used or not.
- The professor will have no economic investment in you. So $$ cannot be used as an excuse. If the prof is worried about your skill-set, he/she can assign the same project to two different students. Now the prof can do a compare and contrast of the end-result and choose the one that best fulfills his/her needs.
-------
- I hope you guys are taking notes.
- What I have discussed above - is directly applicable to an interview. When the interviewer asks for you to demonstrate leadership skills, you can show how you were aggressive and talked with several professors, how you looked for advice on Java Ranch, how you went to the dept chair. How you eventually managed to get a professor to openly discuss their research.
You hopefully talked to a few professors about their research.
You discovered a problem that could be solved with your current or needed skill-sets. You then proposed a solution. You then got approval on the solution (called negotiating the solution). You then implemented the solution. You made changes to the solution. You made enhancements to the solution (maintenance).
(NOW YOU HAVE DEMONSTRATED THE SOFTWARE LIFE-CYCLE)
===========
STILL PAYING ATTENTION!!!
- The above (what I just said above), can be applied to a whole bunch of interview questions. Such as:
- Tell me what you liked about your college experience.
- Tell me about a project you worked on.
- Tell me about the software life-cycle.
- Tell me about about yourself
- Tell me about how you get along with people.
- When asked one of the above questions (there are others), you can pull out the above story about how you identified a problem (you needed to enhance your skill set with practicle knowledge - meaning apply theory taught at college to actual praticle experience).
---------------
- NOW STOP!!!
- What you have just done - is separate yourself from the 90% of other candidates at the interview.
- Welcome to the winners cicle.
John Coxey
(jpcoxey@aol.com)
mark mathis
Greenhorn

Joined: Mar 14, 2002
Posts: 13
I would like to give a success story about how volunteering works for getting your foot in the door of this cut-throat java market
I graduated with an electrical engineering degree and worked at IBM as such for several years until the bottom dropped out of the market.
There were absolutely no jobs for EE in my location, so I went on monster and looked for the jobs that were there. JAVA,JAVA,JAVA,etc...
Needless to say, I started studing JAVA and got my SCJP certification. I then volunteered for a nonprofit working with ORACLE and JAVA. From there I fanagled my way into a paid position and have doubled what I was making at IBM and have a better skillset.
Point being - don't allow yourself to be paralyzed by the lack of experience. Do what you can and put your best foot forward in your interviews.
God bless,
mark
John Coxey
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 24, 2000
Posts: 503
Mark:
This is exactly what I am saying.
You need to have a story that demonstrates how YOU took control of your career and succeeded in learning Java, and completing a Java project.
For that first-job interview. It would be nice to have an internship or two under your belt. But in lieu of that, experience writing programs for professor or two is the next best thing.
In addition to prepping for interviews, you are now making contacts (whether you know it or not). Your professor(s) now know you - you have demonstrated your ability to get things done.
Now guess who their next T/A is going to be? Yes, YOU!!! Perhaps you can get bigger projects in the university. Your professor has the contacts - but you need to prove your ability to your professor(s) before you get recommended for anything.
How do you prove your ability? By doing a project or two. This leads to bigger and better opportunities.
The overall point is that YOU have to take the initiative.
-----
You look at the biographies of leaders (corporate or government). Most all started out at the bottom rung -- and worked their way up. They were extremely competitive and aggressive (much more than myself).
I like Colin Powell's examples of how he took the initiative to recognize a problem (before his superiors did), propose a solution, and then follow through to get the job done.
This is how (in my opinion) you get ahead of the pack.
This is why a college telling you that they have no projects is totally unacceptable. I would DEMAND!!! my money back. I would have a major CRAP FIT if I were ever told this.
I would stand up in class and ask the professor why I should spend $$ in his class if he doesn't have any projects.
Ask professor to validate why I should take his class. Why does taking his class prepare me better than the other 1000+ professors teaching the same class elsewhere in the USA.?
I would be in their face day in and day out until I got a project.
If the class was paid for by MC or VISA, then I would REFUSE to pay the credit card bill. The hell with them!!!
------
This getting a project or two under your belt while in college is utterly fundamentally necessary to your success in this field.
I had to learn the hard way when doing my undergrad work. I made damned sure I did not make the same mistake when getting the MS-Comp Sci degree.
John Coxey
(jpcoxey@aol.com)
==============
P.S. You know, I could stand on my head and talk abou this all day. But in reality, only about 10% (if that many) of your fellow classmates will take the initiative to be aggressive and go find projects or internships.
Most wait for things to be handed to them.
I see this time and time again. Even in the nursing school program I am attending.
uma sakthi
Greenhorn

Joined: Feb 11, 2001
Posts: 10
Hi guys,
I am highly impressed by this thread. I am going to apply the techniques which you guys have suggested.

regards
Uma Sakthi
Sam Tilley
Ranch Hand

Joined: Dec 05, 2001
Posts: 160
Same here, John you should think about writing a motivational book for Java developers or something. I am going to print this thread up and act on some of your notes, they all make sense, and is some of the best advice i have come across.
Where there's a will there's a way..
Cheers


Sam Tilley SCJP, SCWCD
Sri Addanki
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 27, 2001
Posts: 195
Thanks a lot John,
Your article is inspiring!
Any more suggestions for non-school going, unemployed grads?
thanks,
sri
John Coxey
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 24, 2000
Posts: 503
Sri Addanki:
- If you are in USA, I would try the following.
- If you graduated from USA college, then talk to employment services of that college. The three colleges that I attended (Univ of Pgh, Penn State Univ, and Lehigh Univ) all offer career service help to their alumni.
- Lehigh Univ actually has an alumni network to help out of work graduates find employment.
- Only bad part about the above - is that you have to be an alumni of the respective college to use their career services.
--------
- So let's say you can't go that route.
1. Talk to the local community college in your area. See if they have a career services center. You should be able to use their career services center (at least to look at their listings) - even if not a student there. For some reason, the community colleges I visited let me look at their job listings with no problems.
When I say job listings above - I mean employers that have contacted the university looking for students to employ.
2. Look in the paper for "pink slip" parties. I know that www.jobcircle.com used to have these in the Philadelphia area. You will have to look around for ones in your own locale.
3. Again, do cold calling. Go to bookstore and research companies in your area and send them a cold-call cover letter and resume.
4. Keep sending resume's to folks on the job boards.
5. www.ora.com -- This is O'Reilly Book web-site. They have a job listing section. Tough to find on their site - but totally dedicated to J2EE jobs.
6. Study - Study - Study.
---------------
I've said this before on this board.
When I was laid off (been through this 4 times in past 3 yrs). I decided whether I wanted to play or work.
When I played - I played hard. Went fly-fishing until I literally dropped from exhaustion.
When I wanted to find work. I turned my job search into a 60+ hour/week affair. It starts out slow - but the momentum builds.
--------
Getting a job is like fishing - only easier. You need to dangle your "worm" in front of the "fishies". But unlike fishing, you only need to land one "fish". In fishing, you gotta stay all day.

--------
If (after 3 months) you are not finding work, then you need to do a re-assessment.
- Is it something I am doing (resume, interview).
- Am I lacking certain skills.
- Do I need to expand job search geographically.
- Do I need to think about grad school?
- Do I need to switch fields?
-------
Right now, of course, it's a bear out there. So you have to work harder, possibly consider career change if you are new to the field. Possibly consider grad school if you want to stay in this field.
My own personal advice is to maintain a positive attitude and keep learning. I have too much investment tied up in this industry to walk completely away from it. Fortunately, am employed, but that can change at any moment.
Hope this helps.
John Coxey
(jpcoxey@aol.com)
Vanitha Sugumaran
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 11, 2001
Posts: 356
John John John..
Thanks a lot for your advice. When I spoke to my professor today I told her about our discussion here. I will get some projects to work on next semester but right now I found a volunteer job with information sys people.
Thank you very much for your encouraging and valuable advice.
Vanitha.
Sri Addanki
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 27, 2001
Posts: 195
Thanks John,
I live in GreatValley Suburb, PA.
Though i'm not a graduate from any of these schools in USA, i went for a couple of courses in PennState. Still,i think i should be able to talk to these career services people.
But i don't find any jobs here, despite having greencard. Its been quite sometime and i have a family too. Just wondering how should i get a job.
thanks for your valuable suggestions,
i'll look into all the possibilities.
sri
John Coxey
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 24, 2000
Posts: 503
Sri Addanki:
You mentioned that you live near Great Valley, PA.
You should be pretty close to Philadelphia then.
----
A couple of recommendations (specific to your situation):
1. Penn State - Great Valley Campus, offers a ton of real-world programming classes (J2EE, EJB, etc). If you took a few classes there, you should be able to contact their career service folks.
I would definitely take a class (just one at a time), to both increase your knowledge base, but also to expose yourself to other folks in the industry. Meaning, staying in front of these folks (professors, etc) letting them know that you are looking for employment.
Also, great place for networking.
I mention this Penn State - Great Valley campus, because their IT dept is super aggressive in both getting students and teaching current subjects.
----
Second piece of advice. On www.jobcircle.com (this is a job board specific to the PA/NJ/DE areas), you will find a link (it's there somewhere) to a magazine.
This magazine is FREE to folks living in PA/NJ/DE. Since I live in Indiana, I would have to pay $$ for it.
The magazine (monthly) provides job-leads, job-hunting info, and recruiting event info for the local IT community in those states.
PennState Great Valley advertises a lot in this magazine. You can't get it at news stand - you have to subscribe to it (again free if you live in PA).
------------
If you are in Philly, you have access to tremendous educational facilities. I would talk to folks at UPenn or Drexel. Lehigh (where I went) is about 50 miles up the road (north) from you in Bethlehem, PA.
I am not saying to take a full-blown course load. Just take a class that interests you. You can audit course (as opposed to taking for a grade), for a lot less than taking for credit.
One of the guys at Hewlett-Packard (Philly office) taught EJB course at Drexel. So some of the local colleges there are teaching some advanced J2EE stuff.
-------
Again, I would look at the college experience as both a chance to network as well as to expand your education knowledge.
-------
I push the college thing right now, as the worse thing you can be doing is laying around the house doing nothing. You want to be prepared when this market turns around.
If you can get into defense contractors (they won't hire H1B - it's a govt. security issue), then talk to Lockheed-Martin over in King of Prussia.
Also, Raytheon and Honeywell (both defense contractors) have a major presense in Philly. I interviewed with all three of the above companies, and all three do Java work. Unfortunately, I took the job with Lucent back in May 1999.
----------
Gotta run.
John Coxey
(jpcoxey@aol.com)
Sri Addanki
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 27, 2001
Posts: 195
Hey John,
Thanks a ton for your invaluable help and timely advice!!!
I'll follow each word of yours.
thanks again,
sri
 
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