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Some Career Advice for an older college student please

Tim Lin
Greenhorn

Joined: Mar 16, 2013
Posts: 3
Hello,

I'm an older college student, 34, who's getting ready to finish my AS in Information Technology specializing in programming and analysis from a 2 year college that's in the middle of trying to transition to a 4 year college. I mention the last part only because I'm worried neither Java class I either took last semester nor the class this semester never even mentioned the possibility of certification and I only found out about it by landing here while researching ways to try to break into the programming industry.

I'm a Phi Theta Kappa member and to this point have earned an A in ALL of my computer related classes, (in Java I 100% A, and expect the same this semester in Java II which is another part of why I'm starting to worry about their quality.)

With all that said, I'm looking for any advice as to how I could start breaking into the development field before attaining a Bachelors in which I could still work to attain my Bachelors part time.

Aside from Java between attending this school and previous hobby experience I'm also capable of:

  • C++ (Visual Studio - console apps)
    VB (haven't played much with ASP or any of the other Visual Studio extras that I wasn't taught yet.)
    Python (IDLE)


  • Plus the following web languages:

  • HTML 5
    CSS 3
    JS
    JQuery (limited experience)
    PHP
    Perl script (limited experience to figuring out a mail script in order to modify)


  • Upon entering this program I learned with VB that I actually loved programming and have since always went above and beyond in my assignments to push to figure out more, to the point that I like it even more than the web languages. It might be weird, but I find it stimulating and relaxing at the same time (I don't expect anyone who doesn't feel the same way about it to understand that.) However, I would like most to work on platform-independent projects as I am of the mind that the programs I create should fit 1 of 2 categories:

  • Client Specific - for a certain company/client - to exclude anyone else besides that particular entity.
    Open - Available to anyone to legally obtain/use through proper channels without exclusion to their system choices.

  • I hope that isn't sounding to pretentious, I just believe that that should be best policy.

    I would really like to know the quickest way to go about entering the industry as I recently found out I'm going to have a family to start seriously worrying about.

    I'm residing in Bradenton, FL currently but after I get either my AS or AA if it's suggested here that I would be better off finding a better program to get my Bachelors of Science from if that helps.

    Thanks for taking the time to read all this and for any and all helpful advice.



    Deepak Bala
    Bartender

    Joined: Feb 24, 2006
    Posts: 6662
        
        5

    If you've not worked in programming positions before, getting yourself hired into one would be a tad difficult. You can try to freelance and build a portfolio of projects / work for yourself and then try to sell yourself from there. You can also try to acquire certifications and convince an employer that you would be a good hire. I am not from the USA so I dont know what the prospects are for an older student in your position. There are many ranchers from the US though and I'm sure they can add their thoughts to the discussion.


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    Jeanne Boyarsky
    author & internet detective
    Marshal

    Joined: May 26, 2003
    Posts: 30764
        
    156

    Tim,
    Welcome to CodeRanch!

    The general problem with hiring someone with no experience is that they are an unknown quantity. I imagine at 34 you have job experience in something. What was it? It is something that could be used to jump into a job? For example maybe it gives you better knowledge of some business. Or even can show stability?


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    Tim Lin
    Greenhorn

    Joined: Mar 16, 2013
    Posts: 3
    Deepak,

    I have started looking at the freelance boards but I'm unsure how to gauge the integrity any of them as I've seen mixed reviews on all of the ones I have checked so far. If you have experience with any of them, are there any you might recommend above the others?

    The certifications I already planned on acquiring as I can afford them which is where I am trying to figure out how to get around the catch-22 of needing to make money to take the tests to get the certifications to make money. I am currently a financial aid student and what doesn't get spent on books and supplies to ensure I excel in my studies tends to go to necessities. Is there a route around this I haven't noticed?

    Jeanne,

    Thanks for the engaging response

    To be completely honest, stability is the issue that sent me back to school. Because working right out of high school, I didn't have the correct attitude about it all. It wasn't until jobs stopped being a dime a dozen, that prodded me to grow up, go back to school and figure out what it was I actually WANTED to do. Any individual project I set my mind to I've never failed at. My failures stemmed from my attitude at the time and working in fields I didn't really enjoy and were fed up with. I think everyone knows how failures due to that combination tend to play out. Now that my attitude has been forced to change and I've actually figured out what I find challenging and stimulating I just need to figure out how to get there.

    That being said, previously I was a jack of all trades, I haven't found anything I couldn't do if I was motivated enough. I really can't think of any non-technical field I haven't worked in at some point. However, I found those jobs to be mind-numbing and when I didn't want to be there anymore it led to problems with either attentiveness or attitude. I'm here now because I've been applying myself to correct both; attentiveness by finding something I find truly engaging and attitude through a lot of soul searching and growing up. Now that I have made great strides in those two issues, I find myself in unfamiliar territory as to how to proceed in this new direction.

    The previous experience I do have I am not sure how I could use it to jump into the jobs with besides mentioning them on my cover letter to a specific employer. Most of the previous jobs I would have put on a resume no longer exist as they were small businesses that don't seem to have survived the recession and I imagine that would look bad to put them on a resume when I wouldn't be able to provide someone they could actually contact about it. Am I wrong in thinking this?

    Thank you for the responses so far I'm grateful for any and all advice I can use to move forward.
    Jeanne Boyarsky
    author & internet detective
    Marshal

    Joined: May 26, 2003
    Posts: 30764
        
    156

    Tim Lin wrote:The previous experience I do have I am not sure how I could use it to jump into the jobs with besides mentioning them on my cover letter to a specific employer. Most of the previous jobs I would have put on a resume no longer exist as they were small businesses that don't seem to have survived the recession and I imagine that would look bad to put them on a resume when I wouldn't be able to provide someone they could actually contact about it. Am I wrong in thinking this?

    It doesn't matter if the business exist anymore. You still worked there. You can still talk about your time there. It is better to put some job history than none at all. Even for traditional aged college students looking for an internship, the advice is to put some job even if it was camp counselor/McDonalds. Since you will be competing with such students, employers won't be surprised to see "unrelated" jobs on a resume. And omitting them entirely falsely implies you've never held a job.

    One that note, you'll want to have some sort of reference you can provide upon request from a previous job. Do you know anyone you worked with/for that you can ask. Just someone to say "yeah, Tim showed up and did his job."

    You'll need to use your judgement how far back to go. I certainly don't recommend including 10 years of "irrelevant" jobs. But do include something.
    Tim Lin
    Greenhorn

    Joined: Mar 16, 2013
    Posts: 3
    I have been including relevant jobs, such as the fact that I do take money for fixing people's PCs when I can find people who need the help, I've built a couple simple websites and those types of things I include even though the were odd jobs. I Just wasn't sure it would be wise to add something like 6 mos with a small construction contractor that went under, that kind of thing.
     
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