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Job search woes

John Smiley provides insight on job searching.

Job search woes

I received my latest issue of Philly Tech magazine the other day ( Philly Tech magazine, as the name implies, is a Philadelphia area high tech magazine, and it's a good one. I always start with the letters to the editors section, and for the third consecutive issue, more than half of the letters dealt with graduates of computer schools complaining about their lack of success in finding their first job -- despite the promises of a hot job market by their respective computer school.

It's always difficult to determine if the letter writer is representative of the group as a whole, or just a single individual who for whatever reason can't find work.

I teach and mentor quite a few students who wish to break into the programming field -- I asked myself -- could I be wrong when I tell my students that it is possible for a beginner to obtain a programming position?

I maintain a large mailing list/group on, and last week I sent out a request to my members to take a survey I had put together. I asked that only members of my group who had recently obtained employment in the IT field complete the survey. I've posted the results of the survey at:

if you'd like to read them -- I think you'll find them interesting.

There are several themes conveyed in the survey results, but perhaps none is more important than the respondent's belief that enthusiasm for their work in many cases got them a job. I tend to agree. Right after experience, I think employers are looking for evidence of a real zeal for work.

I remember interviewing a potentially great programmer several years ago. She obviously knew her stuff. Then I asked her to copy her Visual Basic program to a PC in my office so that I could see it run. She told me her 'copy' skills weren't very good -- at the computer school she attended, one of the computer technicians did that for the students. That remark -- and what it spoke of in regards to her zeal -- cost her a job with me. In my small company, I expect programmers to be able to do a little bit of everything, and I don't think this attitude is found only in small companies. Personally, I wondered why someone who professed to desire a career in the IT world wouldn't bother to learn something about the computers for which they wanted to write programs.

As one hiring manager told me recently, she looks for candidates who eat, sleep, and dream IT. Make your prospective employer believe that of you, and you can land your first job.

Written by John Smiley, MCP, MCSD and MCT, author, and adjunct professor of Computer Science at Penn State University in Abington, Philadelphia University, and Holy Family College. John has been teaching computer programming for nearly 20 years.

John Smiley is president of Smiley and Associates, a computer consulting firm located in New Jersey.

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