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SteveDeFacto

Fastest way to get started in the Computer Science field with only a High School Diploma?

29 posts in this topic

Basically I'm going crazy at my current job. When I first started working at the job I was always on time and polite to everyone but after 4 year the nature of the job is literally turning me into an animal like all of the people I work with.

I'm about to start classes for a CS degree this summer and I'm finally at a point where I feel confident in all of my skills including programming but I'm not sure I can stand my job any longer due to many factors. I know if I don't leave now I will do something that will get me fired which would be worse than just quiting because at least I could still put it on my resume.

If I could at least get into a job where they don't hire people with felonies or high school drop outs I would be happy. Though, if I could get a job in the programming field I would be willing to work for minimal wage without any benefits as long as I get enough hours to make at least 15k a year. What is the fastest way I can get an entry level job in programming?
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[quote name='SteveDeFacto' timestamp='1303171860' post='4800101']
Basically I'm going crazy at my current job. When I first started working at the job I was always on time and polite to everyone but after 4 year the nature of the job is literally turning me into an animal like all of the people I work with.

I'm about to start classes for a CS degree this summer and I'm finally at a point where I feel confident in all of my skills including programming but I'm not sure I can stand my job any longer due to many factors. I know if I don't leave now I will do something that will get me fired which would be worse than just quiting because at least I could still put it on my resume.

If I could at least get into a job where they don't hire people with felonies or high school drop outs I would be happy. Though, if I could get a job in the programming field I would be willing to work for minimal wage without any benefits as long as I get enough hours to make at least 15k a year. What is the fastest way I can get an entry level job in programming?
[/quote]

check with you're school. They usually staff their IT desks with students.
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What do you do now?

What experience do you have with programming (games, web, applications)? Do you have any relevant certifications or professional experience?
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[quote name='Ravyne' timestamp='1303177617' post='4800132']
What do you do now?

What experience do you have with programming (games, web, applications)? Do you have any relevant certifications or professional experience?
[/quote]

I have been programming since I was 7 and have used many different languages. The main project I am working on right now is in my signature though my site definitely could use more content.
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I think because I've been willing to work for a lower wage than most people has helped get me the jobs that I've had. Look for entry level and temporary positions. Maybe focus a bit on smaller companies. Show them programming is your passion. Show them what you can do. (Results may vary by economy).

One problem is though, if you start a job with low pay then there's a good chance that it won't be increasing much. Odds are in 2 to 3 years you'll be feeling it's time to move on. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
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[quote name='SiCrane' timestamp='1303201869' post='4800254']
The best way I can think of to get a job in your situation is straight up networking. I don't mean ethernet or wi-fi, but talking to people, being as personable as you can and letting them know that you're looking without making them think that the only reason you're getting to know them is because you're looking. If you're young, hang out with clean cut people and get to know their parents. Talk with your teachers and show them you're hard working. If nothing else in a university setting that can land you a job grading, but I've seen a teacher at a community college help a guy get a pretty good job in 3D modelling. Unfortunately, the current environment is not optimal, though ironically not having a degree may do you some good since people will be able to hire you for less. I don't want to tell you what to do with your hobby time, but if a good job is a primary goal, I'd switch gears from your current project to a few smaller things with a better "ooo shiny" factor.
[/quote]

Uhh comp science is an engineering degree. He can't just talk his way into a job in the field anymore...this isn't 1990. Pretty much anything he gets will be the same as the job he is in now.

He just has to wait till the degree is finished...like everyone else.
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[quote name='SiCrane' timestamp='1303201869' post='4800254']
The best way I can think of to get a job in your situation is straight up networking.
[/quote]
I find that networking is important in finding [i]any[/i] job, regardless of your situation.


[quote name='OneThreeThreeSeven' timestamp='1303224258' post='4800382']
Uhh comp science is an engineering degree. He can't just talk his way into a job in the field anymore...this isn't 1990. Pretty much anything he gets will be the same as the job he is in now.

He just has to wait till the degree is finished...like everyone else.
[/quote]
This isn't necessarily true. I had paid programming work before I got my degree. Nothing full time or long term, but then again, I wasn't looking for anything either. Some of it even paid much higher than my fulltime job after I got my degree.

You don't [i]need[/i] a degree to get your foot in the door, but it does make it significantly easier. And once you have a degree and have had a job or two, I think experience overshadows the degree, the same way as once you ave a degree, nobody will care much about your high school diploma.

So, yes, a degree will make it much easier to get your foot in the door, but it is not impossible without one either (though it is probably a lot tougher). Without a degree you pretty much [i]need [/i]to network, though, while with a degree you can fire off resumes to companies HR departments. Doing that without a degree probably won't get you far. In either case, networking will be beneficial (almost all of my job offers have come through people I already knew, one way or another).
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[quote]And once you have a degree and have had a job or two, I think experience overshadows the degree[/quote]

Man it's easier for you to say that when you already have a degree. I am currently going back for a bachelors in comp sci but I had an associates + work examples and still got turned down for jobs that required bachelors degrees. So I know you are full of crap. Convo's probably went like this:

HR: Sir you are not qualified.
Me: Maam, believe me I KNOW this field. I live it and breate it.
HR: Sorry sir, you need a bachelors for this position.
Me: blah blah - check out this work - blah blah - comparable to any bachelors candidate you will find -blah blah
HR: Sir, I need to end this call

...LOL. That's how they went.

The problem is that you will get HR people that are not tech saavy. They don't know about anything beyond turning the computer on, off, opening word, etc and so they strictly follow requirements.

But then again, for steves situation, it's probably possible to make $15k a year.

Sidenote:
Hey steve do you live in the projects? 15k a year...damn man. =D
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[quote name='OneThreeThreeSeven' timestamp='1303236757' post='4800437']
Man it's easier for you to say that when you already have a degree. I am currently going back for a bachelors in comp sci but I had an associates + work examples and still got turned down for jobs that required bachelors degrees. So I know you are full of crap. Convo's probably went like this:

HR: Sir you are not qualified.
Me: Maam, believe me I KNOW this field. I live it and breate it.
HR: Sorry sir, you need a bachelors for this position.
Me: blah blah - check out this work - blah blah - comparable to any bachelors candidate you will find -blah blah
HR: Sir, I need to end this call
[/quote]

Did you network at all? If you're calling people you don't know you will obviously get screened, but if you've networked with people they will usually get you through general screening to a point where experience is far more valuable.
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[quote name='OneThreeThreeSeven' timestamp='1303236757' post='4800437']
[quote]And once you have a degree and have had a job or two, I think experience overshadows the degree[/quote]

Man it's easier for you to say that when you already have a degree. I am currently going back for a bachelors in comp sci but I had an associates + work examples and still got turned down for jobs that required bachelors degrees. So I know you are full of crap. Convo's probably went like this:

HR: Sir you are not qualified.
Me: Maam, believe me I KNOW this field. I live it and breate it.
HR: Sorry sir, you need a bachelors for this position.
Me: blah blah - check out this work - blah blah - comparable to any bachelors candidate you will find -blah blah
HR: Sir, I need to end this call

...LOL. That's how they went.

The problem is that you will get HR people that are not tech saavy. They don't know about anything beyond turning the computer on, off, opening word, etc and so they strictly follow requirements.

But then again, for steves situation, it's probably possible to make $15k a year.

Sidenote:
Hey steve do you live in the projects? 15k a year...damn man. =D
[/quote]

Honestly, I'd have to say he's spot on. However you have to be networking regularly and you have to be doing non trivial, personal, projects. I don't have so much as an associates and I get roughly two job offers a month (and to be clear, I'm only 24, I don't have 15 years of experience here). You [b]have[/b] to network with people. Join #startups on Freenode to start with. Join [url="http://news.ycombinator.com/"]Hacker News[/url]. Get social. These are the people you need to get to know.

You do need to show yourself to be a decent programmer (and knowledgeable). Working on your grammar will also help significantly. Appearances matter.
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[quote name='OneThreeThreeSeven' timestamp='1303236757' post='4800437']
[quote]And once you have a degree and have had a job or two, I think experience overshadows the degree[/quote]

Man it's easier for you to say that when you already have a degree. I am currently going back for a bachelors in comp sci but I had an associates + work examples and still got turned down for jobs that required bachelors degrees. So I know you are full of crap. Convo's probably went like this:

HR: Sir you are not qualified.
Me: Maam, believe me I KNOW this field. I live it and breate it.
HR: Sorry sir, you need a bachelors for this position.
Me: blah blah - check out this work - blah blah - comparable to any bachelors candidate you will find -blah blah
HR: Sir, I need to end this call

[/quote]

use linkedIn.
get talking to recruiters with the inside ear. Recruiters tend to have some technical knowledge so they can get the right people.
starting blogging about stuff you know
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I do network but everyone I meet is as broke as me. LOL

But it doesn't matter. I'm not starving and I'd rather finish my bachelors and possibly even go higher.

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[quote name='OneThreeThreeSeven' timestamp='1303236757' post='4800437']
[quote]And [b]once you have a degree[/b] and have had a job or two, I think [b]experience overshadows the degree[/b][/quote]

Man it's easier for you to say that when you already have a degree
[/quote]
Of course. See the highlighted area. The degree makes getting the experience much easier. Once you have the experience, it will overshadow having or not having a degree. Of course, it will be a lot tougher to get that experience without a degree...

Note, when I say experience, I mean [b]professional experience[/b]. Having programmed for ten years as a hobby (unless you have a solid portfolio to show for - by solid I mean significantly large, non-trivial/complex [i]completed [/i]projects, or at least a popular/well-known/recognisable project) is unlikely to terribly useful. However, having completed large and complex projects or having been a major player in a large and/or popular open source project does help you get that first job. I know this because I know people who did get work like this - and now that they have professional experience, have little trouble getting more work.

Its definitely harder without a degree - you will have to network like crazy and will most likely need to work your ass off to build up your name (eg, online reputation). It does work.

[quote]
So I know you are full of crap. Convo's probably went like this:
[/quote]
I'm not full of crap, because I'm speaking from my and my friends' experiences. Yes, I have a bachelors degree now. Before I did, I I got offered work. Friends of mine have work now without ever having studied for a degree. We all network like crazy and have our own projects or open source work to show for it. Without a degree, you need something else to sell yourself and you most likely need some kind of introduction to get your foot in the door (networking is key).


[quote]
HR: Sir you are not qualified.
Me: Maam, believe me I KNOW this field. I live it and breate it.
HR: Sorry sir, you need a bachelors for this position.
Me: blah blah - check out this work - blah blah - comparable to any bachelors candidate you will find -blah blah
HR: Sir, I need to end this call
[/quote]
Large companies with HR departments are likely to react like this. Heres a secret: there are lots of small-to-medium sized software companies out there too. Some (but, again, not all) of these will hire without a degree. [b]You probably need to have met someone from said company though[/b] - I love programming/tech user groups for this. Tech conferences are good too, but usually cost money to attend (unless you happen to know the organisers - while I was a student, I got a number of free conference tickets like this - met the organisers at programming user groups). Degree or not, for your first job (ie, before you have professional experience), IMHO, networking is the single most important thing you can do. I'll also mention that I was involved in selecting candidates for interviews (from reading their CV's/resumes) and also sat in on interviews at my previous company. I'm not just making this stuff up as I go.



[quote]
The problem is that you will get HR people that are not tech saavy. They don't know about anything beyond turning the computer on, off, opening word, etc and so they strictly follow requirements.
[/quote]
In a large company. Try a small-to-medium sized company or a tech startup. They will likely have no HR department and you will most likely be interviewed by engineers instead. These types of interviews are much more receptive to work on personal and open source projects.
Full disclosure: I have never had an interview with the HR department of a large company - only these types of interviews.

[quote]
But then again, for steves situation, it's probably possible to make $15k a year.

Sidenote:
Hey steve do you live in the projects? 15k a year...damn man. =D
[/quote]
Sounds to me he wants money while hes studying, so he is most likely looking for a part time, evening or weekend gig, since he has studies during daytime weekdays.

[quote name='RivieraKid' timestamp='1303240226' post='4800465']
use linkedIn.
get talking to recruiters with the inside ear. Recruiters tend to have some technical knowledge so they can get the right people.
starting blogging about stuff you know
[/quote]
My experience with (most) recruiters has been the opposite, sadly. Blogging (and really, anything you can do to publicly gain recognition for your personal projects, skills or knowledge) is a good idea.

[quote name='OneThreeThreeSeven' timestamp='1303241675' post='4800478']
I do network but everyone I meet is as broke as me. LOL
[/quote]

You are networking with the wrong people. You need to meet people who are more experienced than you, have jobs (possibly high-up positions - even better if you network with company founders) and can refer you to others. That is, they should have influence within their company or amongst their peers. Students hanging out with students isn't really going to help you, for example.
It is important to do this face to face and [b]regularly[/b]. Going to a meetup once won't help you land a job, but going to every meetup for three or four months just might. Its important to make a regular appearance so people can get to know you.

I attend the Python Ireland meetups regularly (well, I missed a few recently, but before that attended nearly every single one for three years). The regular members know me well. They know what I've worked on, they know my skills and interests. They have also offered me work on multiple occasions.

Hacker News is a great place to learn new things (about programming, about the industry, about startups) and come into contact with lots of influential and clever people, but to really make the best of this, you should try and attend the gatherings and meetups (or start your own, if there isn't already one where you are).
In fact, any community site that helps you build your presence and reputation is good (Hacker news, linkedin, stackoverflow, gamedev.net etc etc; #startups and hacker news have done more than just won me contacts - its made me new friends too) - it all adds up in your favour.

To sum up the most important part of networking, IMHO: meet people face to face. Meet people who know more than you and have more experience than you. Meet people who are influential or who run companies/have hiring/referral powers.



PS: Even though I replied to [color="#2B3730"][b]OneThreeThreeSeven, [/b][/color][color="#2B3730"]this information is probably of most use to[/color] [color="#2B3730"][b]SteveDeFacto.[/b][/color]
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[quote name='OneThreeThreeSeven' timestamp='1303224258' post='4800382']

Uhh comp science is an engineering degree. He can't just talk his way into a job in the field anymore...this isn't 1990. Pretty much anything he gets will be the same as the job he is in now.

He just has to wait till the degree is finished...like everyone else.
[/quote]

LOL worst advice ever. Like a degree is some sort of magical fruit that gets you a job as soon as you have it.


Ask anyone who hires if it's better to have a degree or know people... sending your resume out to a company without an internal recommendation is like playing craps.

Here's a little story for you:

[i]A man is hiring for a new position in his office. His HR rep brings him a stack of 50 resumes to review. The hiring manager takes the first 10 resumes off the stack and says, "Bring these people in for an interview. Throw the rest out" The HR rep asks, "You didn't even look at the other 40 resumes?!"

The hiring manager responds, "We don't want anyone that unlucky working for us!"[/i]
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[quote name='OneThreeThreeSeven' timestamp='1303236757' post='4800437']
Man it's easier for you to say that when you already have a degree. I am currently going back for a bachelors in comp sci but I had an associates + work examples and still got turned down for jobs that required bachelors degrees. So I know you are full of crap. Convo's probably went like this:

HR: Sir you are not qualified.
Me: Maam, believe me I KNOW this field. I live it and breate it.
HR: Sorry sir, you need a bachelors for this position.
Me: blah blah - check out this work - blah blah - comparable to any bachelors candidate you will find -blah blah
HR: Sir, I need to end this call

...LOL. That's how they went.[/quote]

You *don't* know the field. You might know the tech, the languages, programming - but not the field.

If the company is aiming at government contracts or similar work, its employees *need* degree to meet requirements and quotas. And it makes management easier if everyone just has a degree. It also avoids potential liability issues in case where responsibility is shared between teams.

Think of it this way. An airplane crashes due to a design fault. Thousands of people were involved, but for 2 months, someone with no engineering degree worked in one of teams involved in failed part. What happens - company gets sued.

[quote]The problem is that you will get HR people that are not tech saavy. [/quote]Tech savvy isn't all that relevant. If a company needs pros - they hire $500/hour consultants. There is no reason to keep such people on payroll unless they are Google, and even then.

Full-time job is about grunt work. The lots of tiny irrelevant tedious boring details. The copy-pasta, the email haggling, meetings. And when building teams it's important to match up equals. Having no degree and using knowhow, experience or seniority or similar will have negative effect on the team. How would you feel if someone without a high school degree suddenly became your boss based on merit. And if it wouldn't bother you, it simply doesn't work for any regular person which represent the work force.

Third reason is standardization. Companies are not there to make breaking discoveries or cutting edge work. They want cookie cutter code monkeys. They don't want advanced techniques, they want someone who learned the 20 patterns by the book. Because the other 10 team members did the same. Mixing too diverse skill sets will end up devastating the team work in most places.

Soft skills and all that.


That is why you *need* a degree. It has nothing to do with tech, your skill, experience, proficiency, interests, seniority or anything else.

Or, figure out a way to solve the actual problems as to why a degree is required and work around that. But it's not the HR filter.

[quote][i]A man is hiring for a new position in his office. His HR rep brings him a stack of 50 resumes to review. The hiring manager takes the first 10 resumes off the stack and says, "Bring these people in for an interview. Throw the rest out" The HR rep asks, "You didn't even look at the other 40 resumes?!"

The hiring manager responds, "We don't want anyone that unlucky working for us!"[/i][/quote]
The real story?

HR rep got promoted the next day into position of the old manager who "left the position for personal reasons". Why?

What the hiring manager did was illegal in big way. Think discrimination and very ugly lawsuits. So all it took was one conversion with boss of the boss, and the deal was done. Imagine one of those discarded resumes had someone listed as disabled or part of minority.
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Well have you ever thought about going on a Rent-A-Coder type of site and doing some jobs? Obviously it'll be cheap labor on your part, but you'll get the experience and have a clientele and something to put on the resume.
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[quote]Tech savvy isn't all that relevant. If a company needs pros - they hire $500/hour consultants.[/quote]

What if I wanna be one of those $500/hour consultants one day?

And noone said networking wasn't needed but I'd rather have a bit more stability and flexibility than "Hey Bob started a new company last week, wanna join us?". Then two weeks later Bob runs out of money quicker than he thought. Oops, back to the drawing board! =D

[quote]
They want cookie cutter code monkeys. They don't want advanced techniques, they want someone who learned the 20 patterns by the book. Because the other 10 team members did the same. Mixing too diverse skill sets will end up devastating the team work in most places.

Soft skills and all that.

That is why you *need* a degree. It has nothing to do with tech, your skill, experience, proficiency, interests, seniority or anything else.
[/quote]

A degree proves intellectual ability. So let me ask you, who do you think has a better chance at getting into a code monkey job? Someone who has proven their skill with a degree or some guy who says he can do it? D:

[quote]Here's a little story for you:

[i]A man is hiring for a new position in his office. His HR rep brings him a stack of 50 resumes to review. The hiring manager takes the first 10 resumes off the stack and says, "Bring these people in for an interview. Throw the rest out" The HR rep asks, "You didn't even look at the other 40 resumes?!"

The hiring manager responds, "We don't want anyone that unlucky working for us!"[/i][/quote]

That is illegal. If you had placed any value on education, you would have known that and acted accordingly.
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[quote name='Antheus' timestamp='1303250775' post='4800534']
What the hiring manager did was illegal in big way. Think discrimination and very ugly lawsuits. So all it took was one conversion with boss of the boss, and the deal was done. Imagine one of those discarded resumes had someone listed as disabled or part of minority.
[/quote]

[quote name='OneThreeThreeSeven' timestamp='1303264917' post='4800592']
That is illegal. If you had placed any value on education, you would have known that and acted accordingly.
[/quote]


Is it? Companies regularly don't bother to look at resumes too carefully, in some cases at all. When you submit a resume electronically for instance, some companies have filters that scan for particular words or phrases, and if your resume doesn't include one, it never gets looked at. Maybe throwing the resumes in the garbage is a bit extreme, but it's not functionally different from being filed away never to be touched again. And it's not discrimination to not hire people based on luck-- that's not a protected class. It also can't possibly be discrimination based on anything other than luck because the resumes were never actually looked at; how would the hiring manager discriminate based on information he or she doesn't know? And it doesn't matter if someone who doesn't get hired is part of a minority or has a disability, because that doesn't mean that they must be hired, only that you can't not hire them based on that alone. Which, again, the hiring manager doesn't know, because the resumes were not reviewed.

[quote][/quote]
I could be mistaken (and please correct me if I am), but I don't think that companies are required to look at resumes, nor are they strictly required to make decisions based on them (Well, you're qualified Ted, the most qualified in fact. But I'm giving the job to my son.). What's illegal is deliberately choosing not to hire someone solely because they belong to a protected class. And even then, not much will happen without a pattern of that behavior. It's hard to claim discrimination because a single person wasn't hired for a job. The specifics of the story aren't so important, because I think that he point was that resumes aren't viewed very carefully, or necessarily in a way you'd expect.


[quote][/quote]
That nit picked, I still agree with the others in this thread. It's hard to break into any industry once something like a standardized and accredited degree exists when you don't have that degree, and you will be competing against people who very likely [i]all have degrees[/i]. That's a difficult gap to make up in the thirty seconds (max) that someone is reviewing your resume on that crucial first pass. That's not to say that you can't do it. But I think that conceptualizing a "fast" path for yourself to follow may not be as reasonable as it was when the industry was younger.

[quote][/quote]
EDIT: Awesome, my line breaks show up in the editor but not in the actual post. I guess quote boxes will do...
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[quote name='OneThreeThreeSeven' timestamp='1303224258' post='4800382']
Uhh comp science is an engineering degree. He can't just talk his way into a job in the field anymore...this isn't 1990. Pretty much anything he gets will be the same as the job he is in now.

He just has to wait till the degree is finished...like everyone else.
[/quote]
There are comp-sci related jobs available for students without a degree - if you know the right people. I already mentioned student graders. There's also paid internships, small contract work, tutoring and, if you're looking for an exercise in pain and frustration, web design for small clients. Large corporations in non-programming fields such as insurance, medical or manufacturing will often have programming internships, and nepotism abounds in such corporations. Ex: person A will help secure an internship for person B's son if person B helps person A's daughter's boyfriend get an internship. Will he be able to land a major full time programming job? Almost certainly not, but he can lay down the groundwork for such a job once he does have his degree. There's even non-job related money to be found. Teachers in particular are a good doorway to getting scholarships or grants. Are there as many opportunities as there were a few years ago? No, but they're still there and who you know is the best way to grab the opportunities available.
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[quote name='Alpha_ProgDes' timestamp='1303257359' post='4800553']
Well have you ever thought about going on a Rent-A-Coder type of site and doing some jobs? Obviously it'll be cheap labor on your part, but you'll get the experience and have a clientele and something to put on the resume.
[/quote]

I've tried it a few times but quickly lost interest due to the low pay for projects that would take months...
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[quote name='SteveDeFacto' timestamp='1303309372' post='4800772']
[quote name='Alpha_ProgDes' timestamp='1303257359' post='4800553']
Well have you ever thought about going on a Rent-A-Coder type of site and doing some jobs? Obviously it'll be cheap labor on your part, but you'll get the experience and have a clientele and something to put on the resume.
[/quote]

I've tried it a few times but quickly lost interest due to the low pay for projects that would take months...
[/quote]
get low pay for projects that will take days and consider the "pay" to be having something you can put in your portfolio rather than monetary gain.
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[quote name='way2lazy2care' timestamp='1303314079' post='4800804']
[quote name='SteveDeFacto' timestamp='1303309372' post='4800772']
[quote name='Alpha_ProgDes' timestamp='1303257359' post='4800553']
Well have you ever thought about going on a Rent-A-Coder type of site and doing some jobs? Obviously it'll be cheap labor on your part, but you'll get the experience and have a clientele and something to put on the resume.
[/quote]

I've tried it a few times but quickly lost interest due to the low pay for projects that would take months...
[/quote]
get low pay for projects that will take days and consider the "pay" to be having something you can put in your portfolio rather than monetary gain.
[/quote]

Yeah but the whole point of this thread is to get a entry level job in the field that I can use to pay rent...
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