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Frederic Perron
Frederic Perron

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Getting your First Software Engineering Job Before or While Pursuing a CS degree

So, you’re sitting in a classroom at university, pondering the mysteries of vector slope maximization techniques, and wondering how on earth they’re going to help you build websites for future companies. Meanwhile, there are these 16-year-old kids out there who earn a 6-figure salary and did not have to give a stupid amount of money to the education institution. Life is unfair, isn’t it?

You’ve probably heard those stories of people landing high-paying jobs without a degree. They started coding just six months ago and now they’re light years ahead of those poor souls who spent four years of their prime time chasing a piece of paper that barely prepares them for real-world business needs. And don’t forget the small fortune you’re giving to your educational institution for the privilege. It’s practically a scam, especially in software engineering!

So, what should you do? Should you send out 100 resumes every week and enroll in that magical online bootcamp promising you a six-figure job in just three months? Sounds like a dream come true, right? Well, hate to burst your bubble, but that’s very unlikely.

A hard choice when it comes to saving yourself a few key years
But fear not, my ambitious friend! I have planned everything for myself, in a similar situation as you, and I’ve come up with a plan to ensure you eventually I get what you want. Please copy this plan if you like it. Forget about those quick-fix aggressive job hunts that tempt you to abandon your formal education and jumpstart your career. Instead, buckle up for a plan worth pursuing (with a pinch of humor, of course).

First things first, let’s talk about how recruiters view you. Spoiler alert: you’re not as special as you think. You need to prove yourself, and your secret weapons are your projects and your online presence. That’s right, it’s time to leave a footprint so enormous that recruiters can’t help but stumble upon it. Without that, your profile will be as interesting as watching paint dry.

But wait! Don’t drop out of school just yet. Your beloved educational institution might actually help you snag some internships, which could be your golden ticket to the job market. So, part of our plan will rely on those internships (more on that later).

Now, building a portfolio is the first step, or so they say. But let’s not get stuck building a gazillion trivial projects like a calculator app. No, no, no. We need to show the world that you’re worth more than those CS degree holders. So, tackle some real problems, my friend. Build four or five impressive projects that solve a small problem efficiently. And hey, make sure the problem already has existing solutions on the market because you don’t have 60 hours a week to put into that, right? Oh, and niche down your project to make it extra unique. Recruiters might not even look at your projects, but at least it’ll give the impression that you’re a coding maestro, which you might be. Plus, practicing with projects will ensure you’re not as terrible at programming as you fear.

In the eyes of a recruiter, a CS degree-less individual isn’t very appealing when there’s a swarm of CS degree-wielding contenders waiting in line for the same opportunity. So, here’s a spicy tip: pursue multiple projects simultaneously. This isn’t your ordinary multitasking; it’s a strategy to avoid getting stuck forever on a single project while creating the image of a consistent and diverse coding history. Just switch projects every now and then.

Now, let’s talk about the social aspect of getting a job. Brace yourself, it’s time to unleash your social skills.

· Build your LinkedIn and GitHub profiles, share content online (blogs, videos, posts, code, …)

· Contribute (even if it’s just a little) to open-source projects

· Mingle with actual people in your field (in real life and on social networks)

· Send out a ton of resumes intelligently (sprinkle them like confetti)

· Join coding discords, and chat away about your projects.

These steps are so obvious, and people often skip them because they just want to code, but not you, my friend. You’re here to break the mold! It’s time to practice what you preach and reach out to the world. Heck, writing this blog post is part of it! Because let’s face it, coding skills alone won’t get you far unless you reach out and touch someone — figuratively, of course.

Let’s talk about internships now. Most programs offer internship assistance, so make it your number one priority. Get one as soon as possible and rock it like a boss. Who knows, if you’re exceptional, they might even let you skip school and hire you full-time. But you have to really stand out. Reach out to recruiters, ask them questions about the roles they’re looking for, and find out how you can stand out from the herd. Soft skills come into play here, my friend. Create your own opportunities, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll land that dream internship with a job afterward.

Now, let’s address the elephant in the room — what if you fail? Well, fear not, even if you go through all your studies without landing that coveted SE job, all hope is not lost. With that shiny piece of paper in hand, life might get a tad easier. Or maybe the market just doesn’t appreciate what you have to offer. Learn from it, adapt, and improve. If you’re truly good at what you do and can make people see it because you have remarkable social skills, you will get a job.

And from there, my friend, you’ll build your own plan. The one I’ve shared is a mere starting point, flawed and far from optimal for everyone. Your plan should be as unique as you are, with specific techniques to build your image and achieve your goals. Benchmark your progress, know where you stand, and always have a clear target in mind. Remember, critical self-assessment is key. In the long run, if your plan succeeds, you might save a few precious years of your career and a whole lot of money.

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