Becoming a Programmer: Five Tips to Kickstart Your Career

I have been working with computers for well over 25 years and have programmed since Dbase 3. These tips come from those many experiences. The belief is that you are a current student or have newly graduated from school.

Get an education – This is the most important tip that you can get from anyone if you are in a high-tech career. On this point I speak from experience with a 20 year span between an AS degree in programming and a BS in business. That span included periods of un- and under-employment and extended lengths of time between interviews. Immediately after getting the BS degree employment in the IT profession was offered. I now work in the IT department of a local Community College.

Write Software – This is also an extremely important piece of advice. You should find a project to write on your own or for a small business. Look for charities or churches with a software idea but no personnel to create it. By practicing the principles and logic learned in school you will retain that information and be ready to apply it in a real job as soon as that opportunity arises.

Look for an internship – This may be a paid or unpaid experience. The main point is to hone current skills and gain more. If you don’t have actual employment in your chosen field, an internship will give an opportunity to build up a list of reliable references with true knowledge of your character and reliability. With over 20 years of experience in programming I took an internship with a local manufacturing facility and started as a runner for the engineering department. The opportunity to move into their IT department soon arrived.

Increase your reputation – The previous two paragraphs provide an excellent opportunity to fill your reference list with associates who will be glad to reward your hard work with a glowing job referral. Remember, you have provided labor for them at either a very cheap or free rate. In exchange you received valuable work experience and job references.

Never stop learning – This is a piece of advice to carry into your first job. It should be practiced until retirement. As a programmer you will be presented with an ever-changing landscape of new languages and new platforms to target. Reading, Reviewing, and Researching should be cemented as the most important “3-Rs” of your career.

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