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Advice for anyone with little work experience...

Started by Devon Berry, 2006-12-23T09:59:50-06:00 (Saturday)

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Devon Berry

Based on my personal experience, I have some advice which probably will only apply to a lesser portion of students who read this forum, but nonetheless I think it is important, since things could have been quite a bit easier had I known this.

I went into college with no job experience. I didn't really have a need for a job and I felt I performed better academically when I had the extra time to work on assigments and projects. After five years I had earned my degree (I was in no hurry to finish, since less classes meant more time for each class and better grades, so I generally only took 12 hours per week.) and I was ready to begin the job search. I began sending resumes and e-mails to many companies in the local area and nationwide. After five months of disappointment, I still did not have a job. I even applied for some local, high school level jobs just to get money for survival, but I couldn't even seem to get those. I had a degree with a good GPA, it just seemed that there was not a single job that wanted me. I have now learned that I was in an unusual position which made it difficult for employers to decide to hire me. For the jobs which required a degree, I had no job experience, so they did not know how I would perform under a real job environment and so I was too high of a risk to hire, regardless of my good academic statistics. For the jobs which didn't require a degree, (so I could earn some job experience...) I seemed overqualified to work at those places. Thus even though I was eager to work anywhere, the employers were hesitant, since my qualifications meant I would not be staying long and that I would leave as soon as I found a better job.

Thus, due to this overqualified, but underexperienced catch-22, I was unable to get any sort of job until I moved to South Carolina where my Aunt and Uncle live. My Aunt works for a hotel reservations call center and so she helped me get a job there for the time being, since she was able to reassure them that I would be willing to work there for some time, despite my overqualifications. So in a way, you could call this the happy ending to a difficult ordeal, but I still have to work at a job that is not quite right for me until I have enough experience to try for something which is better for my interests.

So, based on my past experience, I offer this advice for anyone who is like I was, with no or very little actual job experience. Before you finish college and get your degree, try to get an intership so that you can get some quality job experience. Even if you cannot get an internship, try to get some sort of job experience, even if it is working at one of those high school style jobs that anyone can do, at least it will get you work experience so that anyone who wishes to hire you in the future will know how you perform in a real life work environment. If you fear that having a job will adversly affect your acedemics, like I did, then I recommend  getting a job over the summer or taking a semester off from college to work on getting work experience.

Well, I guess that is the end of my story/rant, so I would like to wish everyone good luck in your endeavors and [color=aa0000]happy[/color] [color=006600]holidays[/color]! :-)  

Also, if anyone has any comments or other advice, students, professors, or alumni, please share to add to the general knowledge about this transitional period from college and after.

Peter Motyka

Bummer, sorry you had such a problem finding work.  Do let me know if you'd consider the Denver area.  There is a healthy IT market here and I'd vouch for you as a top performer and put you in touch with some prospective employers.

On the same topic, I put together this post a while ago summarizing my job hunting experience.  Currently I’m working for a Fortune 500 financial company and am quite pleased with how everything is working out.  Do take a look at the post if you're having issues launching your career.

Drake3 is right, internships and work experience are nearly as important as earning a degree.  I see ripe college grads passed over frequently by my current employer in favor of IT professionals with a few years experience under their belt.  It is an odd phenomenon as I imagine many talented folks are passed over because of a lack of "experience".  Unfortunately, this seems to be the trend at most companies.

Best of luck!
SIUE CS Alumni 2002
Grad Student, Regis University
Senior Engineer, Ping Identity

Devon Berry

Gosh, that post was a while ago, wasn't it? I wish I would have noticed that before or when I graduated. I made some of the mistakes you mentioned. I wasn't able to pay for relocation, I sent out generic resumes with nearly generic cover letters, (insert company name here etc.) and I didn't prepare myself well for the standard interview questions.

If I had put more work into it and followed those points, I very well may have gotten a job before I had gotten my unfriendly eviction notice. On the bright side though, since I couldn't find a job I did have fun with my extra long break. I can always have fun playing games. ;-)

On a side note, due to all the preparation and searching that must be done, searching and applying for jobs can be as much work as a job itself. :lol:


If an internship or summer jobs are not your thing, then you can always try to find campus employment.  Most jobs (tutoring, cleaning, office work, residential life, and food prep.) don’t pay much better than your average â€Ã...“high-school jobâ€Ã,, but they have the advantage of conforming to your schedule much better and a regular job.  The campus employers take the same breaks as you do, they work with you to schedule around your classes, and many are forgiving when it comes to finals week.  

The best part about on-campus employment is that they ultimately want you to succeed at school more than at your job.  So you don’t have to worry about having a boss that is unconcerned with your academic success.  Many on-campus employers even use a minimum GPA as a criteria for maintaining you position.  This helps prevent campus employment form interfering with student’s academic success.

From personal experience, I suggest that you try to get a job within your academic department before you look at more general jobs.  It is more if a resume builder to have work experience in your field than to have work in-general.


I had quite a difficult time finding a job after graduating with my Bachelor's degree in 2003, as I may have mentioned in the thread pmotyko linked to.  (how is it going, Pete?)  The job market was really bad that year.

I can relate to the overqualified and inexperienced problem, even though I had been a grader/tutor at SIUE.  For people with high grades and low experience, I recommend applying to larger companies such as Boeing who are willing to recruit fresh college students because they expect them to spend a large portion of their career working for them.

One of the first things I learned on the job was how unprepared I was to just jump right in to my work, despite being only 4 credit-hours short of my Master's degree.  I would have been far less prepared if I had started work immediately after obtaining my Bachelor's.

Even though SIUE does a better job of preparing students than most universities, computer programming is a diverse field of study.  Rather than just teach you how to do a specialized job, as most technical colleges do for many careers, I realized what I got from SIU with my Bachelor's was just enough that I could teach myself how to do any job in the field.  Employers realize that most graduates will take 3-6 months of on-the-job experience before they will be productive, so they are a little reluctant to hire those with no experience.

I like SIUE's CS department's Senior Project for this reason.  However, I would like to take it further to have (or at least have the option of) working an actual internship for Senior Project.
"If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy." -James Madison

Jesse Phelps

Not that I have years of experience in the job market but something I have noticed in my personal experience as well as has been documented in numerous business magazines... the number one way to sell yourself and make sure you get the job is effective communication. It may sound stupid but it is very important to be able engage in an intelligent conversation in just about anything. You don't have to know it all... but try to know at least a little something about everything... and specifically know your employer (not just the company but your superior). With a little creative googling you can often find out information about people that you can then use in a discussion with them... but don't try too hard with this... just kind of an aid.

I have a decent amount of experience in the political realm and let me tell you... this has paid off well for me on numerous occasions.

Anyway... just a little thought.

William Grim

Yeah, I'd have to agree with what Cyber-Dogg said.  It's definitely important to know what you're talking about when you're in a conversation or at least a little bit about it.  You should definitely be prepared to answer any questions about yourself, you should be able to make up questions to ask others on-the-fly, and you should know as much about your employer as you can.  You don't want to be spouting facts to them that they already know, but you want their business to seem like second nature to you.  Their business will become your business if you're hired with them.
William Grim
IT Associate, Morgan Stanley


I absolutely agree. College isn't just an extension of high school but really a time to seek out what you really want to do. I encourage college students to take an internship either in the summer or during the school semester. Some schools even give class credits for internships. If you are lucky to find a job that you like and see yourself doing in the future in your internship, you might even be offered a job there upon graduation if they really like you!


While I don’t know what it’s like after graduation, I do know that I don’t want to wait until I’m 40 and have proven myself as a creative and intelligent software designer to begin doing what I love which is game development. I want to be one of those people that walk out of college with industry leaders knowing my name and having them ask me to work for them rather than the other way around. I know these aspirations may seem a high, but no one was ever condemned for trying. I don’t believe I can do it alone, however, which is why I want to get a team of people who, like myself, don’t want to half-ass their way through college just to be looked over when it comes time to doing what they want to do with their life. In actuality, I don’t want this to even be exclusive to a small group of people like how most games are developed; I want this to be open for everyone. For those that can't land an internship yet or have one and want to beef up their resume that much more, this would be a great addition. I want to put together a team of software engineers, graphic artists, and anyone else who thinks they can help contribute, both undergraduate and graduate, to develop, implement, and test a game. With competitions like  Hidden Agenda and Dream Build Play, there is plenty of room to not only get your name out there, but, possibly, make quite a pretty penny.

Ultimately, the way I would like to set this up would be to have at least one meeting here before summer break. I would like everyone who would be interested in the game in any way, from a technical lead to a part time coder/debugger, to just come and talk about some ideas. Initially, I would just like to know who all would be interested in helping put this game together and getting their name out there. I would like to throw around some ideas on what the game should involve and who would be interested in participating. Those that were ready to devote more of their time to help this game succeed would be leads and anyone else could just be part-time coders, with the few exceptions of students who have only taken the first few programming courses like CS140 and possibly CS150 simply because there may be a lack of understanding about the latter aspects of O.O. programming.

I would like to set up a time and place to meet at least once before the semester ends. I realize that this is a little late, but I figure that at this meeting I can get a much better understand of whom all wants to help and a way for us to communicate over the break. I will prepare a slide show to better visualize my ideas on what I would like to get done and about how I would approach it. If anyone is interested in this please respond to this post, send me a message and/or email, or simply show up to the meeting. I realize that everyone is busy, as am I, and I plan on being as flexible as possible about both the meeting time and the schedule of creating the game. Also, if anyone knows of available times and places to hold this meeting or where I can go to find a list of availabilities, that would be much appreciated.

Thanks everyone, and I hope to see you soon.


Companies expect lack of experience from college hires.  Instead, it's all about passion and willingness to learn, which unfortunately is difficult to assess from reading a resume.  Given a lack of an internship on an applicant's resume, a potential employer might draw the conclusion that the applicant is not as passionate about working in the field as other applicants.

Of course there are other ways to show passion and motivation. Phoenix, I think your idea is a great one.  It also shows your leadership skills.  I'd encourage you to put it on your resume.


I think most of the students studing Computer Science right now know that an internship would benefit them greatly, but it is easier said than done.  

Has anyone put together a post or anything that show avaliable jobs at school, or interships that are avaliable in the area?  All I every see is the occasional post by an employeer asking for people to apply, but most of those jobs are full time things, or very limited.  

So, does anyone have any advise that would actually help people who want an internship or a job at school, get a job?
I would rather be hated for doing what I believe in, than loved for doing what I don't.


I had an internship last summer and fall and I now currently have a full time job as a software engineer. My advice to you or anyone that cares about a job or career after collage is to sign up and participate in the programs offered at the Career Development Center (CDC) as soon as you can. I personally signed up when I was still classified as a sophomore. I went to all the career fairs (1 a semester) and participated in the internship program they offered. After all that work the CDC forwarded my resume to my current employer as they were looking for interns in my area of study. I did not apply of the internship and the CDC did all the work for me. I received an interview and then I received the internship. After the internship program ended for me, they offered me a full time job.  Our program doesn’t really encourage a student to participate in the CDC until you enroll in CS425. That is way too late in my opinion. I would not have a career now if I had waited for our school to encourage me to think about my future. I want to point out that I did not expect our school to help me with my career. I am just pointing out how late the CS school waits to make sure a person in our school knows about this valuable resource. The CDC is located in Founders Hall Room 3126 on the 3rd floor. There is a sign right outside the door. Go sign up, it well do nothing but help you with your search for a career.

William Grim

I knew about the CDC my freshman year.  Then again, I didn't use them; I've done all my job hunting without them.  I think better opportunities can be found if you actively search on your own.
William Grim
IT Associate, Morgan Stanley


I did not say only use CDC but if you got that out of my post then I guess other people might have as well. I thought this thread was for helping other students with thier career. I don’t think posting â€Ã...“I think better opportunities can be found if you actively search on your own.â€Ã,  really helps anyone reading this thread for the career help information. It is a great opinion but not very helpful. I could be wrong. The fact is that everyone is different and I thought I would share my experience with the CDC and tell how they helped me. Information is cheap and how well you use any information is up to the person using it.


I agree Dallas.

The two things that worked for me:
1. Job Fair
2. Career Development Center

#1 helped get me my internship at Enterprise for this summer as well as a couple calls for interviews. :drool:

#2 is currently still helping me get some coops going for next Fall. ^-^

I suggest that even if you don't plan on using the CDC, at least jump through their hoops and get set up. All you do is call them and tell them you're interested in job #xxxx and they do all the work sending your resume for you.
SIUe Computer Science Graduate