Internship vs. Master's Degree - Ticket to Success?

Written on 4:27 PM by Robert

I've been working as an intern now for about 6 months, and I have to say that it's been the best career choice I've ever made.  I would not have been here if it wasn't for the fact that I decided to go back to school for a Master's degree.  In 6 to 9 months, I should have my degree in hand.  I will also have a solid year of C# experience under my belt.  Which one of these two are most valuable?  I suppose it's a matter of debate.

In one of my previous posts, "Is a Bachelor's Degree Enough Nowadays?", I explored the possibility of higher education being more valuable than work experience based on what I was seeing as a job hunter at that time.  That article ignited some debate about the validity of that statement.  I have to clarify my position and stating that a combination of both "upgrades" are important when looking for new opportunities.

A computer professional (whether they specialize in hardware or software) searching for a lucrative position should look at his or her situation objectively.  You need to ask the following questions:
  • Have I learned something new this year?
  • Will another degree benefit me?
  • Am I focusing on the right things in this field?
Learning the latest and greatest technologies (hardware or software) will give you an edge in the job pool.  Mentioning these skills in your resume will get you noticed above all others.

If you don't have a degree, think about getting one.  Applying for an available position is a very competitive process and you need whatever edge you can get above the other applicants.

If you like what you do but are getting bored, then maybe you need to learn a new programming language (for example) and try coding with that for a while.  You are still doing what you love to do, but adding a new twist and breathing new life into your skillset. 

A degree, as well as experience, are just tools - means to an end.  The same can be said about certifications.  We can debate about which one is more valuable than the other, but the bottom line is getting THAT JOB by any means necessary.  Go into that interview room with added confidence knowing that you added that little extra something to your resume.

I've mentioned internships, degrees, certifications, and new skills as ways to enhance your situation in the job market.
So what other things can an unemployed computer professional do to help them with their job search situation? Edit

Another Update - What's new?

Written on 11:18 AM by Robert

I keep saying this is my final post on this blog, but here I am writing another one! lol

So what have I been up to since my last posting?  That's a good question.  My newer blog never got off the ground after my second or third posting because I just never had the time to research topics to teach about.  I was continuously trying to get that ever-elusive job offer.  Then I got a call to interview for a position I had applied to months earlier.

The position was for an IT Support Assistant for a 3 month contract in a local college here in Brooklyn.  The pay was horrible, but I was willing to break my long streak of being unemployed with anything I can add to my resume.  The interview went incredible smoothly and I had the immediate feeling that the job was mine.  A day later, I received the phone call that I can start on the next Monday.

The job was super-light compared to what I was used to working in the Manufacturing industry.  All I had to do was answer the phones and provide level 1 support for a college web application.  I also helped out with technical support in the computer lab, but the problems were very few.  I gave myself the added responsibility of creating a VB.NET / ASP.NET application for them in the ample spare time I had and added that fact to my resume.

The application was basically a combination of an inventory listing of every PC in their main computer lab, as well as a troubleshooting log.  The log showed the trouble history each PC had and how the problem was resolved (and by who).  The list was sorted by "Station Number", but behind the scenes (using SQL Server Express), the data was linked by MAC Address.  It was a simple application that gave me some more hands-on experience with ASP.NET.

When that assignment was over, it took about 2 weeks for me to land my latest venture.  I'm now an intern for a major New York City government agency's IT department.  It does pay something (even though its a small salary) and the experience gained from this position will elevate me to the big leagues in no time.  The shop uses all sorts of technology, including VB.NET, C#, ASP.NET, SQL Server, and Oracle.  I know I have tons to learn, but that's why I'm here!

So, while I sit here on my first week of my new job, my only advice to any of you still trying is to NOT give up, and to try any job (including internships) to get your foot in the door at a great company. 

Good luck, and let me know about your IT job-hunting stories you might have! Edit

Journey Into Programming

Written on 4:01 PM by Robert

I am happy to announce that I have created a new Wordpress-based blog named Journey Into Programming.  This new site will explore all sorts of programming techniques, but it will be geared towards the absolute beginner.

I will feature programming languages such as HTML, Visual Basic, and ASP.NET.  Later on, I will feature languages I will be learning along with you.  Hopefully, you would be willing to take this journey with me.

I'd just like to thank everyone who's been following this blog since I started it over a year ago.  Stick with me - the best is yet to come! Edit

My First Business Site / Future Plans

Written on 9:50 AM by Robert

I know I've been out of the loop from the blogging world for a while, but I've been trying to concentrate on finding work.  I've also started a refresher course on ASP.NET in order to compete with today's programming environment.

I created a new business site for a friend.  He is running a Cleaning and Restoration business and needed a web site.  The name of his company is Strictly Cleaning Restoration and is based in Brooklyn, NY.  During this time, I learned a lot about SEO rules, requirements, as well as sharpened my skills in CSS, HTML, and ASP.NET.  The web site still has a little work left on it, but I hope to hear from some of you about any tips or suggestions, even some criticism.

As far as blogging is concerned, I think I will be wrapping up this blog very soon.  I plan to create a new one for developers starting out with ASP.NET for the very first time.  I'm still thinking of a UNIQUE name for the blog.  I hear "Adventures in Programming" is already taken, so once I think of a good name, I'll get to work on that.  I may use WordPress for that one, just to be familiar with it.

So I'd love to hear from you about any of these topics!  Just send me a message! Edit

What I've Learned

Written on 11:53 AM by Robert

It's been a while since I've blogged about my journey through unemployment, but now I have a few lessons to share about my experience.  Hopefully you can apply some of these ideas in your situation.

  1. Learn Open Source!  If you're a programmer, or aspire to be one, learn some Open-Source languages.  Get that under your belt and add it to your resume.  These are some of the only programming languages that are ok to learn without having the work experience to back it up.
  2. Be a temp!  Find a local staffing agency that may be willing to utilize these new skills as a temp or a consultant.  This will add to your resume and give you credibility so you can have a better footing when the job market turns around.
  3. Go back to school.  Whether you need to complete your Bachelor's degree or continue with a Master's degree, elevate your educational worth by making this investment.  Obviously you can't afford it now, so get a loan and head to an inexpensive but well-known school.  This will also increase your career's net worth.
  4. Map out your career.  I've never done this while I was younger, but you need to know where the future lies careerwise. Start from the bottom and work your way up - but always keep your eyes on the goal.  I just found this PDF from the Workforce Development Council of Seattle, which spells out the career paths of several careers, including Infornation Technology.
  5. Use LinkedIn!  I went to a very informative workshop at my school last week by John Crant, a job search guru, among other hats he wears.  I've learned that you should spend less time in the day on job boards like Monster and more time researching companies on LinkedIn.  You can find people on LinkedIn with the position you might want, and see what companies they currently work for, as well as the companies they used to work for.  From there, you can search for the hiring managers at those companies, then contact them directly.

I still have a lot to learn and need to implement some of these great suggestions in my own life.

If you decide to follow some of these suggestions, or if you disagree with something I've said, or even if you have something to add, just post a comment to this entry so we can all discuss it!  I'd love to hear other suggestions!

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