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How Does a Self-Taught Computer Geek Get Hired? 523

Posted by samzenpus
from the self-made-man dept.
An anonymous reader writes "I'm essentially a self-taught computer geek who started learning BASIC at age 12, but decided NOT to do the traditional computer-nerd thing (comp sci or physics, computer degree, etc.). I've essentially kept up with computers as a hobby, teaching myself web-design, Linux/LAMP, Javascript, and now Drupal. I've worked for a short time at a web dev shop but mostly have just done freelance projects and here-and-there stuff for websites or projects, many of which have gone under or are no longer accessible. I'm creative, have Photoshop/GIMP skills, I'm personable and self-motivated...and I'd like to get a 'real' job now but I don't really look like much on paper — how can I (specifically with Drupal) make myself look good on a CV and/or establish solid credentials that will make people more willing to take a chance and hire me? Will Drupalcon 2012 help me make inroads? Are there other ways to 'prove' myself to be a capable web admin/developer?"
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How Does a Self-Taught Computer Geek Get Hired?

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  • by CmdrPony (2505686) on Monday November 28, 2011 @09:06AM (#38189274)
    Instead of running your own business. Then you don't need to provide your quality and skills to anyone, and it can make more money in the long run as you are not limited to your salary and don't have to fear getting fired. If you know web-design and running Drupal, then start to work with those. Make your websites. Now, learning some information about other subjects will help. Learn things like marketing, SEO and in general running a business. Most of the information can be found on webmaster forums. Then it's up to you - you can even sell your services to local businesses. You also have the added benefit of working with your projects instead of someones else, which is always more boring.

    It seems like most people, especially geeks, want to take the easy route and try get a job. Being self-employed or running a business isn't all that hard and it is much more rewarding, especially for a computer geek now in internet age.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 28, 2011 @09:12AM (#38189326)

      Instead of running your own business. Then you don't need to provide your quality and skills to anyone, and it can make more money in the long run as you are not limited to your salary and don't have to fear getting fired. If you know web-design and running Drupal, then start to work with those. Make your websites. Now, learning some information about other subjects will help. Learn things like marketing, SEO and in general running a business. Most of the information can be found on webmaster forums. Then it's up to you - you can even sell your services to local businesses. You also have the added benefit of working with your projects instead of someones else, which is always more boring.

      It seems like most people, especially geeks, want to take the easy route and try get a job. Being self-employed or running a business isn't all that hard and it is much more rewarding, especially for a computer geek now in internet age.

      In this economy I'd take a salary (certainty) over the kudos of being an entrepreneur (uncertainty) any day of the week. Competition is stiff in the web dev/design market. Makes much more sense to throw your lot in with a group of established designers and developers that have a client book.

      As an alternative, I'd suggest looking at big corporates that have marketing/web dev teams and apply for those jobs instead. You're less likely to be as harshly scrutinised by people as clued up as yourself and your salary is not dependent on how many clients you secure or websites you build as your job will be focused on your own company's website. Whilst not a long-term solution, it may be the viable in road you are looking for.

      • by Chrisq (894406) on Monday November 28, 2011 @09:32AM (#38189540)

        In this economy I'd take a salary (certainty) over the kudos of being an entrepreneur (uncertainty) any day of the week.

        I would too. After seeing a program about successful entrepreneurs I think this means that neither of us are cut out for running a business. The ones who succeeded often did so after several attempts, putting in long hours, sinking their own assets into the business, failing and then doing it over again. They had a drive and ultimate confidence in themselves that meant that they would never be happy taking the safer option of a salary, unless it was short term during which they would scrimp and save what they needed to start another business.

        • by TheLink (130905) on Monday November 28, 2011 @10:07AM (#38189940) Journal
          The other thing is you never see a program about those who still haven't succeeded after going bankrupt a few times... And that certainly does happen - just doesn't make for a good show I guess ;).

          I've eaten at restaurants that have failed, and sometimes I have no idea why they aren't a success. Price reasonable, food is good, location is about the same as the successful ones, but no customers.

          I'm sure you've seen those books where one rich guy says he succeeded by not giving up. Then you have another book where a rich guy says he succeeded by knowing when to quit. Then you have another rich guy saying he succeeded by starting many different businesses at the same time and closing down the ones that don't succeed. Then you have yet another rich guy saying he succeeded by focusing on one thing... Another rich guy says "buy property", but if you bought the wrong property < 2008, you'd now be stuck paying off a loan that's a lot more than your property. So good luck figuring out what the real secret to success is.
          • by John Courtland (585609) on Monday November 28, 2011 @10:14AM (#38190014)

            So good luck figuring out what the real secret to success is.

            Upbringing, networking, persistence, work and a hefty dose of luck.

            • by datavirtue (1104259) on Monday November 28, 2011 @10:34AM (#38190256)
              I might add that statistically the old boring saying is true: "most businesses fail in the first five years," but you can't expect to fail. Also, another boring adage is true as well: "a business doesn't make money in the first five years." You have to be very frugal and very focused with always an eye to learning lessons and learning from hard nosed successful small business owners. Some of these people are quite jaded and pessimistic, but others can be a breath of fresh air. Always find out how they started and what resources were available to them. Don't act big! If you are a small one man operation do not pretend to be a big company to others; celebrate your small, nimble, and innovative reality. Inc. Magazine is awesome for entrepreneurs! Yes, a print magazine that gets mailed to your house, get it. There is tons of valuable insight to be gained from that publication. I have been working on a project for 8 years, a dream I have had for almost twenty years now. It is just now starting to mature (software) and my website is now enjoying enough traffic to pay for hosting (small Google ads), and other promotion and development costs. But I have sacrificed and risked my career and a lot of money to get to this far and I can still fail, but in my mind that is not an option. The things I have learned are priceless and the experience is VERY rewarding. Oh yeah, it isn't all about the money, my dream is one of helping people and being a service to mankind in the ways that I can. I think that if I do a good job at this then I will be rewarded with money as well.
              • by sosume (680416)

                There's a difference between being self-employed and running an business in this regard. Self employed people tend to be most profitable during the first five years.

                • by timeOday (582209)

                  Self employed people tend to be most profitable during the first five years.

                  That's a really interesting statement, could you please explain further?

            • by soloport (312487) on Monday November 28, 2011 @10:58AM (#38190510) Homepage
              Even if you're a FT employee, you are always selling yourself -- to your one and only client. The only difference with self-employment is you wake up to this fact (or starve, go back to selling yourself during a FT employment interview) and may have more than once client at a time. Even some FT employees work two or more jobs to get by. Self-employment is similar.

              Want to get excellent at sales (even if you're going to stay with FT employment)? Read and re-read: Socratic Sales.

              A lot of people believe that start-ups succeed or fail because of cash (enough or too little). Certainly cash flow is king when it comes to staying in business. However, the reality is: You either have time or you have money. It takes time to develop a clientèle through carefully crafted product fulfillment and good service. Or you can accelerate this process through expensive advertising. You can burn through a lot of cash if you solve everything with it. Or you can be more creative and leverage time, including other people's time, and spend from less to zero. Time and persistence can pay big dividends.

              So, hone your skills. Sell them. Watch your cash. Develop relationships (clients vs customers). Bank!
            • by witherstaff (713820) on Monday November 28, 2011 @12:14PM (#38191326) Homepage

              Your list is pretty good. I'd also add self-confidence. If you're not sure you want to gamble it all on your skills then you probably aren't cut out to go it alone. I was raised in a small business environment and I've also done my own thing. I've had some successes, some failures, and am still working hard. I have learned more of what not to do than to do, but here's the biggest thing I have seen...

              It's easy to start your own business but hard to keep one going. I owned an ISP for a decade and had contact with many small computer shops. I saw many of those come and go as technical people thought it'd be smart to go into business because they are good with computers. Frequently they would undercharge their clients, take too much on, or would have trouble with sales. It's not just techies, I see the same with the trades. Someone gets a license and heads out on their own. Awhile later they hang it up and go back to working for someone else.

              There are just enough success stories to keep the game being played. For every Gates and Jobs there are a bevy of failures. But we celebrates the success to keep entrepreneurs going. Just down the road from me is the Ed Lowe Foundation. He made his millions with Kitty Litter. His endowment for the foundation was around the 100 mil mark if I recall. Being rich from cat shit, who would have thunk. But he was peddling clay bags to the local stores for a long time before it took off.

              Now back to the original poster, if he has any prior work to show then that's what you need. Go to a hiring small business and let your work speak for you. If there is a big HR department then look for a smaller shop.

          • by Moryath (553296) on Monday November 28, 2011 @10:15AM (#38190044)

            What do all these books have in common?

            Oh yeah, they all STARTED with a big-ass pile of cash that they could fritter away on risk.

            Like the recent Republican debate - Gingrich talks about Bill Gates being a "high school dropout" who founded Microsoft, but he fails to mention that Gates was the prep-schooled son of upper 0.5%'ers who had a ton of mommy and daddy's money to pay Paul Allen (the real programming genius of the company) and later to front in order to buy 86-DOS from Seattle Computer.

            Funny how that all tends to work out only for those who already inherited wealth.

            • by CmdrPony (2505686) on Monday November 28, 2011 @10:22AM (#38190116)
              Bill Gates might had have rich parents, but Steve Jobs certainly didn't. He was adoption child and really poor in his young adult years, even up to the point that he collected money for food by returning empty bottles to a store. He also dropped out of school.

              Sure, having loads of cash helps. But it isn't required, and certainly not something that guarantees success.
              • by nahdude812 (88157) * on Monday November 28, 2011 @11:58AM (#38191162) Homepage

                That's a little like saying that Michael Jordan can jump really high, so if you work hard enough you can too. Most people aren't Michael Jordan, so no matter how hard they try they're never going to jump that high. But even if they were such a one-in-7-billion people, they're not in the right place at the right time. Golden opportunities are rare, and very minor changes in circumstance would have had Steve Jobs be a name we recognize only once we've looked it up on Wikipedia, and that's if he made the notability cut. He succeeded because all the big money bet in a different direction, and they lost that bet.

                If you use Steve as an example that money isn't required for success, you might as well be advocating that people play the lottery instead, the odds are not as long, and you could then take your winnings and found a company with a respectable shot at success.

              • by b4dc0d3r (1268512)

                You have a single counter-example. The point above was that most people had an advantage. Your point was that a few did not. Same argument. No it's not required, but it helped a lot of people get in the door, or decide to take a risk when they otherwise might have had a second thought.

                Your own business is all about risk, some people are not prepared to take it. Operating at a loss for a while scares most people, and where I live I see more businesses open and close than is comfortable. Even ones that

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by mrmud (219198)
                Bill Gates might had have rich parents, but Steve Jobs certainly didn't. He was adoption child and really poor in his young adult years, even up to the point that he collected money for food by returning empty bottles to a store. He also dropped out of school.

                No, but he did have an angel investor named Mike Markkula [wikipedia.org]. Funny how that is also neglected. He didn't just "build it from the ground up in his garage" as is often touted. He received a serious dose of cash from his angel investor.
            • by Alomex (148003)

              the prep-schooled son of upper 0.5%'ers

              This is a bit misleading, because it sounds like he was the children of multimillionaries, which is not the case.

              His father was a successful lawyer making upwards of $350K+ a year or top 1%. This is an upper middle class brackground: you live quite comfortably but you still need to work for a living.

              • You overlook his mother, who was on the board of numerous high profile charitable and for-profit organizations, and as such had the extensive contacts and networking that helped Bill get that crucial first appointment at IBM because she knew Mr Opel, the IBM chairman, personally.

                in other words, good ol' know who is what got Bill started...

          • by pwizard2 (920421) on Monday November 28, 2011 @05:16PM (#38194788)

            I'm sure you've seen those books where one rich guy says he succeeded by not giving up. Then you have another book where a rich guy says he succeeded by knowing when to quit. Then you have another rich guy saying he succeeded by starting many different businesses at the same time and closing down the ones that don't succeed. Then you have yet another rich guy saying he succeeded by focusing on one thing... Another rich guy says "buy property", but if you bought the wrong property < 2008, you'd now be stuck paying off a loan that's a lot more than your property. So good luck figuring out what the real secret to success is.

            I remember the whole "Rich Dad/Poor Dad" craze that went on a few years ago. There were lots of seminars where every guy that made it big in real estate had his own "system" that you could use to get lots of $$$. (after buying your way in, of course) There was much talk about "dreams", "goals", and lots of other dog-and-pony show bullshit that was big on emotion but skimped on real substance. That whole thing mostly dried up after 2008 when the economy went to shit... people are mostly trying to stay solvent these days, not get rich.

            After going to a few of these seminars in my younger days, I soon understood that there is no "big secret". Those guys probably made more money selling books/learning materials to people who wanted to be rich than they ever made in real estate. It's far easier to sell a dream to others than it is to produce real goods.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 28, 2011 @10:08AM (#38189958)

          I think you'll find a common theme among successful tech entrepreneurs and among most entrepreneurs and small business owners is cash reserves. Businesses typically operate at a loss for the first 1-5yrs so if you are living paycheck to paycheck then forget it.

        • by aqui (472334) on Monday November 28, 2011 @12:28PM (#38191488)

          I working in IT now despite not having any related qualifications on paper at the moment. I'm working towards getting those credentials though. I got in through networking and getting my PMP (project management professional) certification. I'm currently working towards becoming an enterprise architect (certified).

          A couple of key things to getting in the door (past HR):

          1) HR people are all about risk reduction. HR staff don't get rewarded for hiring good staff, but they do get fired for hiring too many bad ones. From an HR perspective ideally you have 1) credentials (including degrees) 2) a track record of performance 3) come recommended by someone they know (someone in the company will do). Typically anyone having all 3 won't turn out to be a bad hire. They don't hire for intelligence and capability, they are looking to be able to cover their asses in case you turn out to suck. Whatever you do don't lie on your resume, if even the smallest thing is determined to be untrue HR will drop you like a hot potato.

          Keeping the above in mind most applicants have some credentials (1), some experience (2) and no internal recommendation (3).

          To get credentials spend the money and get some certifications in the area you work in or others related. Pick credentials in areas where you already know the material and have had some experience as well as frequently occurring as a requirement in the type of jobs that interest you, buy the prep books and study and you can be certified inside of a month or two for $300-1000. You can list credentials you are "working towards" as well (helps with the keyword search).

          2) Networking (not the computer kind), If you haven't started building a network (of people) start now. Set the objective to add 1-2 people to your network every week (during your job search) once you're employed continue to do this 1-2 people per month. Use a tool like Linked in. Once you get about 30 or more people in your Linked in Network it becomes useful in that you can find someone you can be introduced to that may be able to help.

          Key concept in networking: its about informal meetings 10-15 min, at the convenience of the person you want to talk to, to do these things:
          1) give something back (listen, or share something that interests them).
          2) create the opportunity to meet other people in the area you want to work in
          3) learn about the industry you want to work in.
          Finding an opening or opportunity and reference from the inside are not the primary objective.
          By giving I mean: treat the person with respect like a person, only ask them for what they can give you (aka do not ever ask for a job), ask them for advice, ask them how they got to where they are, and make them feel like you care and are listening (this is the give back).

          Think about it from the networking contacts side. Imagine you're the contact: A colleague (Bob) you trust emails you and writes I'd like to introduce you to an interesting guy (you), he's trying to learn about our industry and find out what he need s to know to be able to fit in. A day latter you get a polite email from the guy asking if you'd be willing to share your expertise and advice in a 15 min meeting at a coffee place and time convenient to you or to talk to you by phone for 10-15 min. You agree to meet because 1) you trust Bob, 2) you're curious 3) you have 15 min 4) its convenient 5) it beats working ;).

          In the meeting you talk about your own success and answer a few interesting questions and generally feel good about your own success. You leave the meeting feeling like you met an interesting person with good questions (that you could answer). The person emails you a day or two later and asks a follow up question or two and if you have any suggestions of people you know in the industry that would be good to talk to. You liked the guy so you offer to introduce him to Keith and Sharol two of your suppliers. You also agree to join his network on Linked in.

          So now how does a network translate into a

      • by Plunky (929104)

        As an alternative, I'd suggest looking at big corporates that have marketing/web dev teams and apply for those jobs instead. You're less likely to be as harshly scrutinised by people as clued up as yourself and your salary is not dependent on how many clients you secure or websites you build as your job will be focused on your own company's website.

        But, to get past big corporate HR you will generally have to have qualifications and certificates. The more the merrier.

      • by capnkr (1153623) on Monday November 28, 2011 @09:39AM (#38189640)

        Like the OP, I am self-taught, and am of the same mind as CmdrPony, having done it myself. If you need to start working right away...

        Start your own shop, but count on the website/SEO/marketing side of things to start slow and develop (no pun intended) over time - likely several years. The market for "website developers" is fairly well saturated, albeit with far too many that are no more than Dreamweaver/FrontPage/MSWord-using ex-construction worker/secretary types who are 95% clueless yet able to put up a $200 site in a few days by advertising on Craigslist. Yes, your site may be far better, but money talks, and many clients don't understand the finer points of what makes a really good, nice-looking, fast rendering, cross platform website, or what SEO is and the kind of time it can eat.

        Until you have a solid core of client sites showing your skill and capability and helping you sell at a price point that makes it worthwhile, your working capital and day-to-day income can be supplanted by the other computer skills you have: repair, networking, etc... Be willing to make on-site visits (even to homes - at least until you get too busy), and have a fast response time. Come up with good ways to describe common computer problems and your fixes for them in normal human-speak - people do like to understand a bit about what you are doing, and teaching them a little helps them become better users and clients.

        Find a small, cheap location where you can set up half a dozen systems while you work on them, get some biz cards made, and put out your shingle. If you do a good job, word of mouth will start putting feet in your doorway in a matter of months, enough traffic to live off of so you can begin to grow and thrive and start getting website work, likely from many of the same clients whose system you maintain, once they realize that their super-cheap website really is for the dogs. Being their trusted and proven IT guy helps you sell yourself in this area - they understand that you know what you are talking about, and will be more willing to pay you a fair price to help them market themselves better online. Good luck!

        • Like the OP, I am self-taught, and am of the same mind as CmdrPony, having done it myself. If you need to start working right away...

          Start your own shop, but count on the website/SEO/marketing side of things to start slow and develop (no pun intended) over time - likely several years. The market for "website developers" is fairly well saturated, albeit with far too many that are no more than Dreamweaver/FrontPage/MSWord-using ex-construction worker/secretary types who are 95% clueless yet able to put up a $200 site in a few days by advertising on Craigslist. Yes, your site may be far better, but money talks, and many clients don't understand the finer points of what makes a really good, nice-looking, fast rendering, cross platform website, or what SEO is and the kind of time it can eat.

          The problem you have is you're always competing with the $200 folks - at least in the customer's mind. Unless you can build up repeat business maintaining a site you'll face the "So and So will do it for $XXX." Until you get a good book of references it's hard to overcome the price shopping; and most small businesses you'll target are very price sensitive.

          Until you have a solid core of client sites showing your skill and capability and helping you sell at a price point that makes it worthwhile, your working capital and day-to-day income can be supplanted by the other computer skills you have: repair, networking, etc... Be willing to make on-site visits (even to homes - at least until you get too busy), and have a fast response time. Come up with good ways to describe common computer problems and your fixes for them in normal human-speak - people do like to understand a bit about what you are doing, and teaching them a little helps them become better users and clients.

          I'd add in - be willing to change your business model. You may find fast in house support is more valuable than web design - if so, go with that. Offer

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        In this economy I'd take a salary (certainty) over the kudos of being an entrepreneur (uncertainty) any day of the week.

        With me, in any economy. There's a different skillset used in building a business than in building code. I couldn't sell a hot meal to a starving eskimo, and without sales skills (people skills), your business will fail.

        As to the actual topic, well... you need people skills to get a job, too. I was never any good at it (glad I retire in 2 years).

        Some time in the mid '80s living in Florida,

        • by jedidiah (1196) on Monday November 28, 2011 @12:17PM (#38191360) Homepage

          Been there. Done that. Was ribbed about my suit for months.

          The suit was not the problem.

        • You can overdress for a job interview. I didn't get the job, despite the fact that he was impressed with my coding.

          Yep. There was one interview I went to in slacks, white shirt and tie because, like you, I was trying to look professional when I made my first impression. I did get the job, but one of the two guys conducting the interview later told me he almost didn't hire me because I was wearing a tie. Lesson learned: research the corporate atmosphere before you interview, and maybe dress slightly better than typical attire. If everyone typically wears jeans and t-shirts, maybe khakis and a button-up-the-front shir

    • by CubicleView (910143) on Monday November 28, 2011 @09:12AM (#38189334) Journal
      Maybe he should, maybe he shouldn't but either way that's the anwser to a question he didn't ask.
      • that's the anwser to a question he didn't ask.

        He didn't ask it outright, but very often people ask for overly specific answers when they haven't really thought through their actual problem. Sometimes (well, most of the time if you're doing IT support for example) it's better to ask what they're trying to do before giving them the answer to their actual question. Maybe this guy would hate to work for himself, or maybe he just needs a little inspiration.

        • by Darfeld (1147131)

          I'm not sure about that. All too often, when I ask a specific question I get solution to some problem I don't have, or when I explain what I'm trying to do, I'm asked why I would like to do that in the first place. Its annoying. Plus most of the time I don't get answers at all. (Cause, you know, before asking I actually do a google search first, so when I ask something it's often not trivial.)

          Anyway, not getting the answer to your question is frustrating. I welcome advises of any kind, but I like to have my

          • Well, in the past by just doing what people ask for, I have ended up wasting a lot of my own time when they then fail to do what they were trying to do and have to ask me more questions. Better to ask what they're trying to do to get to the root of the problem, allowing you both to deal with it as efficiently as possible.

            I've love to work for myself, but since I already have a good job I don't think very often about starting my own business. If I was unemployed then I'd definitely give it a go.

          • I'm not sure about that. All too often, when I ask a specific question I get solution to some problem I don't have, or when I explain what I'm trying to do, I'm asked why I would like to do that in the first place.

            Perhaps people are trying to encourage you to follow ESR's advice of describing your goal [catb.org] so that they can understand the step.

            (Cause, you know, before asking I actually do a google search first, so when I ask something it's often not trivial.)

            ESR also says you can sometimes get more helpful replies if you tell people what queries you've already used unsuccessfully [catb.org].

    • by MatthiasF (1853064) on Monday November 28, 2011 @09:15AM (#38189350)

      I'd suggest getting to know more open source projects, starting with Drupal was a good idea.

      Get to know Open Atrium, design some nice themes for it or make a module to solve a problem someone has, then post it all online someplace that allows people to post comments or a download count.

      Having a list of achievements on the Internet, with people giving feedback or allowed to see your progress, can be a resume in itself.

    • by vlm (69642)

      Many independent contractors are hired into permanent positions, if you want that path.

    • by Anrego (830717) * on Monday November 28, 2011 @09:22AM (#38189450)

      It seems like most people, especially geeks, want to take the easy route and try get a job. Being self-employed or running a business isn't all that hard and it is much more rewarding, especially for a computer geek now in internet age.

      Guilty!

      I hate marketing stuff, I hate business stuff, and I really hate "networking" .. what I love is building software. I'm happy to be able to come in, do my thing, and let someone else worry about all that other shit. Long as I'm reasonably well treated and paid... I'm happy being a wage slave.

      I suspect the same is true of most geeks. As a community we are not known for wanting to wear suits, speak in buzzwords, work with excel and powerpoint, etc. Some pull it off, and some even enjoy it, but I think for the most part we like to be in the background doing our thing while the "suits" figure out how to make money from it.

      • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Monday November 28, 2011 @10:00AM (#38189864) Homepage Journal

        As a community we are not known for wanting to wear suits, speak in buzzwords, work with excel and powerpoint, etc. Some pull it off, and some even enjoy it

        I believe the technical term for such people is "assholes".

        This is not my own opinion. I know several programmers, and have heard many variations on, "You know that guy Chad? The assistant team leader who's always in a suit, with the buzzwords and the powerpoint? Yeah, you know, the asshole."

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          As a community we are not known for wanting to wear suits, speak in buzzwords, work with excel and powerpoint, etc. Some pull it off, and some even enjoy it

          I believe the technical term for such people is "assholes".

          This is not my own opinion. I know several programmers, and have heard many variations on, "You know that guy Chad? The assistant team leader who's always in a suit, with the buzzwords and the powerpoint? Yeah, you know, the asshole."

          Also known as the guy that makes twice as much as you.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 28, 2011 @09:25AM (#38189478)

      Being self-employed or running a business isn't all that hard

      You obviously have never run a business before.
      As a coder who has done exactly that for the past 10 years, I can say, it can be a real slog.

      Agreed I am now earning more than I could employed, but the first 5 years are make it or break it.
      Not knowing where your next mouthful is coming from requires certain nerves. You will under sell yourself.
      If you are doing it alone (like I have done) it is even worse, you can lose touch with peers to be able to pulse local market direction.
      IMHO it requires an immense amount of discipline, a stable mind, good communication skills (which many coders lack) and a little luck.

      I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I started.
      Though maybe that was a good thing. I do have no regrets.

    • by JoeMerchant (803320) on Monday November 28, 2011 @09:26AM (#38189498) Homepage

      Being self-employed or running a business isn't all that hard and it is much more rewarding, especially for a computer geek now in internet age.

      Having worked in various sized companies, from self-employed through 10, 20 and 500-1000 people, it became apparent to me that all businesses need:

      1) Sales and Marketing
      2) Accounting
      3) A product

      If you have no interest in 1) or 2), being self-employed is not for you. Also, when taking into account what you get paid for your "Product" as a coder, bear in mind the hours invested in Sales, Marketing, and Accounting for essentially zero compensation..

      • by achbed (97139) <sd@achb e d . org> on Monday November 28, 2011 @09:49AM (#38189756) Homepage Journal

        I second this. Running a small business is a different animal altogether. Unless you can make enough to support hiring someone to do your marketing and accounting, don't go here. It's a world of pain if you screw things up (especially from a tax perspective). In addition, if you're having trouble getting a job, it's going to be just as hard (if not harder) to develop a client base to support a small business.

        Oh, and I assume the reason you're looking for work is to get money in your pocket. If you start a business, be prepared to lose money (and potentially lots of it) in the first several years while you get your name established.

        If you go the independent contractor route, be aware that a lot of businesses are getting really picky about independent contractors as states begin to crack down. I've had several friends lose their gigs because the business says that they don't meet the stringent "requirements" in the law for being classified as an independent contractor and the business could be fined severely for "misclassification of employees" (note that this applies to the US, your locality may vary).

        • I'm sorry, but this just isn't true, the whole lose money for years thing. It's a myth propogated by everyone, but unless you are starting a serious capital intensive business it's just not true. Also a lot of those figures are paper numbers, but not true in reality. For example if I purchase a 100,000 dollar gadget, and depreciate it over 3 years, then that makes my business look pretty awful to the IRS, but if that item is financed on a 10 year note, then my cash flow doesn't look as bad.

          I've operated

      • by vlm (69642)

        Being self-employed or running a business isn't all that hard and it is much more rewarding, especially for a computer geek now in internet age.

        Having worked in various sized companies, from self-employed through 10, 20 and 500-1000 people, it became apparent to me that all businesses need:

        1) Sales and Marketing
        2) Accounting
        3) A product

        If you have no interest in 1) or 2), being self-employed is not for you. Also, when taking into account what you get paid for your "Product" as a coder, bear in mind the hours invested in Sales, Marketing, and Accounting for essentially zero compensation..

        "In this economy" and all that rot, unless you're an orphan, you're probably related to an unemployed person or persons who happen to specialize in need #1 and need #2. Possibly someone typing in a non-techie website right now, that all they need to start their own business is a tech/product guy, if only they knew an interested one...
        Of course family businesses can result in some of the most spectacular business related drama known to mankind. Be careful not to end up on Dr Phil or CourtTV or whatever its

        • by mcgrew (92797) * on Monday November 28, 2011 @11:20AM (#38190712) Homepage Journal

          Watch Opera? When you have no job, looking for work IS your job and you should spend at least 8 hours a day doing it.

          • That's actually horrible, stupid, ridiculous advice and will actually fuck you over completely if you follow it.

            There are only so many leads available in your area, only so many job openings you might qualify for. Saying "You should spend 8 hours a day looking for work" is stupid because there may not *be* 8 hours worth of stuff to look through daily. Then people who foolishly try to follow that advice will feel guilty as if they aren't doing enough to find work if they can't figure out how to look for work

    • It seems like most people, especially geeks, want to take the easy route and try get a job.

      Or... you might find that running a business and writing software are very different skills. Running a business takes you away from the thing that you actually want to do! I know, I used to freelance, but now I work in an office where someone collects the money and finds the client. Much happier.

    • by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Monday November 28, 2011 @09:49AM (#38189754) Homepage

      Being self-employed or running a business isn't all that hard

      I wish you had said that at the beginning of your post, so I could have stopped reading. This is absolutely false!

      You can be the most brilliant technician in the universe, and still crater your business if you don't have the sales persistence to turn those technical skills into money, and the support team to handle users' invariably simple problems while you focus on the next big thing, whether that's the next version of your product, or a separate item with strong cross-marketing potential. Just because a handful of ethically-questionable teenagers won the dot-com lottery, does not mean the same will happen to anyone with basic web development skills they picked up from a few Youtube videos narrated by 12-year-olds.

      To the OP: if you want to find work, contact staffing/contracting agencies near you. They will find you paying gigs, and the experience you gain there will be more valuable than any paper knowledge you have amassed up to this point. There are lots of hobbyists like you, but companies are interested in people who can efficiently solve business challenges. If you really want to stick with web development as a serious career, then start putting together a portfolio. Don't rely on web sites staying up indefinitely with your old code, take screenshots and document them, briefly explaining (to prospective clients) why you were the right person for the job and what kind of unique or high-level skills helped bring it together. Take a dozen of your best examples and arrange them into a nice sleek gallery page. Get stupid old business cards printed with an eye-catching design and a memorable URL to your portfolio, and pass them around. You want people to see your work, be wowed, and contact you because you're the designer/developer they want for their business. Sell yourself!

    • by cultiv8 (1660093) on Monday November 28, 2011 @09:57AM (#38189826) Homepage
      I've run my own one-man Drupal shop for 6 years, keep this in mind if you decide to go this route:
      • It'll take 3-5 years to build a decent portfolio and client list
      • You only get paid when your clients pay you (it can be feast or famine)
      • Find a Drupal/PHP programmer who can do the stuff you can't or don't want to do
      • Go to DrupalCon, Drupal meetups, Drupal camps, etc. MEET PEOPLE IN YOUR SITUATION.
      • But don't confuse this with networking; go to Chamber of Commerce events, tradeshows, BNI, etc. GET CLIENTS
      • Volunteer, freely give advice, offer discounts to non-profits, help out on Drupal forums, etc.

      Most of this is business advice, not Drupal advice, but it all goes hand-in-hand. Make a name for yourself. Be good at what you do. Manage expectations with clients. Get a brochure and business cards. Write a blog; I wrote a book on Drupal [slashdot.org] which has been amazing for business.

      This economy is a bitch. Good luck if you start your own thing.

    • I did exactly that a few months ago. I was in a very similar situation to the original poster, self taught with good knowledge of HTML/CSS/PHP/MySQL and with plenty of experience running LAMP systems. I presume I got lucky, because within a month I landed a contract with a company that has ~100 outlets, all needing very different websites, so my timetable is full for the forseeable future.

      What I'm offering, which I think was a very important point of landing the contract, is building, hosting and maint
    • by beadfulthings (975812) on Monday November 28, 2011 @10:18AM (#38190076) Journal

      I agree with you wholeheartedly. WordPress is keeping the wolf away from the door here, and no one could be more surprised than I am. I came at it from a slightly different angle--I quit ten years ago after 20 years in IT in order to pursue my interests as an artist. While I always had a few Web clients, sudden widowhood and some acute financial worries made me take a closer look. A little attention to my "product" has paid off. My suggestions would be:

      1) Run your business like the big guys do. Learn how to prepare a proposal and a statement of work, and use them properly.
      2) Engineers and project managers are two different species. When you run your own business, you have to be both. Watch your time and billable hours. Beware of "scope creep," which can be your worst enemy.
      3) Develop a website for yourself as your first reference account. Lavish all the time, love and care on it that you possibly can. While it would be nice to use it to generate online leads, don't hold your breath for that. Use it instead as your online business card and portfolio--something prospective clients can review. It is the developer's equivalent of the artist's online portfolio.
      4) Consider doing at least one "pro bono" site for a local organization or charity you care about. Local is key so they can become a reference.
      5) See if you can find a niche. I fell into one related to my artwork, and it's a comfortable spot.
      6) Consider eventually offering hosting services. I found that a berth on a cloud site was not all that expensive. I house my clients there and provide them with backups, maintenance, security, and upgrades. They pay a monthly fee for the hosting and pay separately as needed for maintenance and upgrades. Small businesses appreciate not being abandoned to the wolves, and they like having a Web droid available by telephone.

      I'm not trying to build the next Apple. I'm just making a living, and it seems to be working quite well.

  • Examples (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 28, 2011 @09:08AM (#38189296)

    Show examples. Show your hobby projects. Show sites that you've built and that currently are in use. Show contributions you've made to open source projects.

    • If your portfolio consists of stuff that's gone offline, make something new. A web site about yourself would be good start. Another –completely different in design – dedicated to your favorite not-embarrassing hobby would be a good idea. The content doesn't have to be extensive or outstanding (though it wouldn't hurt if it could bring in a little ad revenue), just enough to demonstrate your design and development skills.

    • Re:Examples (Score:5, Interesting)

      by vlm (69642) on Monday November 28, 2011 @09:32AM (#38189556)

      Show examples. Show your hobby projects. Show sites that you've built and that currently are in use. Show contributions you've made to open source projects.

      Also local volunteer work. Sounds like the OP is Mr Webmaster at heart

      teaching myself web-design, Linux/LAMP, Javascript, and now Drupal.

      You set up the local homeless shelter promotional/donation seeking/contact page website, assuming they somehow don't have one, for free. Actually it costs you a little to register the domain, whatever. Schmooze at the organizational meetings with the group's volunteer accountant, who hires you to fancy up her self promotional website for a very nominal fee (probably not enough to buy dinner, barely enough to break even after paying for the homeless shelter domain registration out of your pocket). The accountant is best friends with a local bank manager, who needs to hire an IT worker with excellent references... This was more or less how a friend of mine started out. Next thing you know, she's working at the bank, in a paradise of AS/400s and token ring (yeah, this was awhile ago).

      You can also go the "work at a startup" route. They might not pay you, or might not pay you much, but its something to do, and looks interesting on a resume.

    • by TheMCP (121589)

      A job seeker can create a piece of software with the intent of it being an example of good work. Ideally, the project should look professional and have some useful purpose. The person can then point at it as an example, put it on their resume, mine it for code samples, and if all else fails maybe it'll make money on its own.

  • by FictionPimp (712802) on Monday November 28, 2011 @09:08AM (#38189300) Homepage

    http://groups.drupal.org/jobs [drupal.org] also, be active in drupal projects and build a name for yourself.

  • by chill (34294) on Monday November 28, 2011 @09:10AM (#38189308) Journal

    What you're looking for is a portfolio. They're common in any artistic arena such as photography, web design, hair styling and fashion.

    You need to SHOW people what you have done, using examples relevant to what the potential employer would be interested in.

    Also, just to make the HR people happy, get some certifications.

  • by RogueyWon (735973) * on Monday November 28, 2011 @09:15AM (#38189354) Journal

    Evidence, evidence, evidence.

    I don't work in the IT or compsci sectors, but I think there are a few general principles about how recruitment works that you might want to note.

    You don't have formal educational qualifications. Obviously, that's a handicap. However, you're not in a field here where qualifications are a legal requirement (unlike, say, medicine or law), so it's not insurmountable.

    Some employers still have a policy of requiring a degree from all applicants, but - personal view here -in many cases they're foolish to do so. In the current climate, a lot of bright people are choosing not to take on the expense and debt associated with a degree. I see a lot of employers insisting "graduates only" who are achieving little except needlessly inflating the starting salary they need to offer (though by less than in the past - the graduate premium isn't what it was).

    I've done a fair old bit of recruitment over the last decade or so and what a sensible employer will be looking for - when recruiting people for their "first proper job" - can be distilled down to: a degree of committment (as in, ability to stick at something which is difficult and takes time), reasonable interpersonal skills and, where appropriate, technical competence.

    Interpersonal skills you'll need to demonstrate at interview (and by writing a half-way competent CV and application form). The ability to stick with something and technical competence might traditionally be demonstrated - to a basic level - by the fact that the applicant has both had the perserverence and the ability necessary to earn a degree (though with degrees as debased as they are these days, it's increasingly difficult to use this as a firm indicator).

    So without a degree, you will need to have independent evidence of committment and technical ability. You've done some freelance projects - that's good. The companies you did them for may have gone under, but you kept your own work, right? Right? And maybe if those companies aren't around any more, there's less of an issue in sharing the work you did for them as part of your application?

    In addition, if you've done any non-technical work - even just office admin and stuff - that's also good and worth including in your job applications - particularly if you can get a reference. It shows you can get along with people in an office environment on a day to day basis, turn up for work on time, follow basic codes of conduct and so on (which is something that a surprising number of people - even graduates - in some fields especially graduates - fail at). Don't under-estimate this one. As a recruiter, in 95% of cases, I'd rather see a few summers spent temping in a "serious" workplace on a CV than some glamorous, expensive (and usually irrelevant) piece of gap-year do-goodery.

    Remember, being at a technical disadvantage, you'll need to use hard facts to sell yourself so far as possible. Part of TFS reads like a "personal statement" from a CV. Saying stuff like "I'm personable and self-motivated" is all well and good, but it won't get you a job. You'll need concrete evidence to demonstrate your skills and your ability to stick with a task. So yeah, I hope you kept all that evidence of your previous work.

  • As stated before..Take on some odd jobs (or do some demo work, not for a customer, but for building a portfolio). Once you have a decent size portfolio, showing how well you do in the field, you should be able to find an employer to 'take a risk' on you. (I say that loosely because although you could be the best programmer/designer ever, unfortunately you dont have a piece of paper backing that up). I was in a similar boat as you, only with Programming more so than design (C#, C++, AS3, etc). Once you build
  • Portfolio (Score:5, Informative)

    by zcomuto (1700174) on Monday November 28, 2011 @09:17AM (#38189370)

    Portfolio, portfolio, portfolio.

    Don't let a piece a paper show a potential employee that you have the skills on just that, paper, actually show them what you're capable of. Build a portfolio of work, showcasing your best products and sell yourself through that.

    If an employeer doesn't respect or look to the portfolio of a potential employee in that line of work, truth be told they probably aren't worth working for.

    • by rjune (123157)

      I would suggest finding some non-profit organizations and offering to develop/redevelop their websites. Many of them use template web pages that are of decent quality, but don't really stand out. A number of them would like to add more functionality, such as a "Members Only" area or a self service address update function, but lack the time or capability to set this up. Part of the work could include documentation, update procedures, etc. The websites of these organizations are generally hosted by a thir

  • by blcamp (211756) on Monday November 28, 2011 @09:19AM (#38189394) Homepage

    Not knocking Drupal or any other CMS, but don't get yourself boxed into just one specific platform. Keep up on where the overall development world is going.

    Most shops still build their websites in-house from scratch, without a CMS. Many strictly-Microsoft shops purposely avoid using Sharepoint, for example.

    Remember when ColdFusion was a big deal? Not so anymore. GoDaddy is dropping it from their hosting accounts.

    Keep your foot in general Java or .NET or PHP development... stay focused on the bigger picture, not just in a specific type of project. Watch the trends. What may be popular today will become passe tomorrow.

  • Get that degree (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gweihir (88907) on Monday November 28, 2011 @09:20AM (#38189408)

    Basically, it is not possible for any prospective employer to assess your skills. Programming skills, sure, but there is a lot of other important things you learn when getting a degree. These are hard to assess in your case. Sure, there are a lot of incompetent people _with_ a degree, but you can usually spot them, because they do not have the hands-on skills.

    My advice would be that for the moment stay self-employed and start to work on getting that degree. I have taught several classes for people that were in your situation (i.e. already working for some years but no degree) and all that I met later though it was very much worthwhile getting it. This was for a BA in EE (with a lot of comp-sci) and some went on to get an MA in addition. The problem here is that until you are fairly advanced in your studies, you do not see that the work is indeed worthwhile. For example, if you are smart then one thing you learn is that concrete technologies are almost meaningless and there is a whole layer of meta-technology behind them, which is eminently worthwhile picking up.

    So, no, a degree is not worth a lot by itself, but if you are already reasonably good in a field, it is what you need to advance. And I am not talking about the piece of paper here, although that also has some importance.

  • You've been doing stuff so you have code to show off and you should do just that. That will make a huge difference whether you have a degree or not.
  • If you see a job lead you are interested in, find a way to contact whoever is doing the hiring directly and avoid HR. They never know what IT qualifications are, so they end up hiring fresh college grads and cert chasers. If you are good and have natural ability, get some face time with the people doing the hiring/requesting. Once you convince them they might want you, passing your resume through HR becomes trivial.

  • Said in the tone of "Plastics" from The Graduate: "Contacts."

    If you've got no paper (diplomae), there is no other way to get paid what you are worth. Your prospective employer needs to know what you are able to do for them before they commit to pay you. Also, the fact that you haven't put up with the standard Academia B.S. calls into question whether or not you will put up with the standard workplace B.S. You need personal contacts who can vouch for your abilities and work ethic over a beer.

    Actually, people

  • by Letharion (1052990) on Monday November 28, 2011 @09:23AM (#38189454)
    For some of the Drupal-shops, including the one I work at, community involvement is highly rated. Contribute to the larger modules, Views/Panels, or Core itself. Get some CTR-rating. (certifiedtorock.com). The number may look meaningless, but people look it up when they are introduced to a new "Drupal-person". You can ping 'letharion', me on IRC if you wanna get involved in the community. DrupalCon sounds like an excellent place to go, people are often recruiting at them. If it gives you more hope, my employer, NodeOne, has a large percentage of people with similar backgrounds as your, including myself. That said, CmdrPony makes a good point. Why not do something of your own?
  • First hand advice (Score:5, Interesting)

    by un4given (114183) <bvoltz@nOSpaM.gmail.com> on Monday November 28, 2011 @09:24AM (#38189462)

    I am a self-taught geek, similar to you. I was a construction worker, and I wanted to change careers. I don't have a college degree. I built my skills by taking a few night classes at a local community college and by spending a couple of hours a night (or more), every night, working in my home lab, doing networking/IT kinds of things, and writing code. Next, I got a job doing some IT work for a construction company, on a project where a lot of construction knowledge was needed.

    After I got to the point where I felt comfortable with my skills, I put together a resume and got an interview with a small IT consulting company. I offered the company the following deal: Pay me whatever you want for 90 days. If at the end of that time I have demonstrated sufficient ability I want a raise to market rates. If not, I will move on, no hard feelings. Within 45 days, I got the raise. Within 3-4 years, I was making 100k a year.

  • Like most of the rest of us, you have to understand at the core level what you're going to be delivering and to whom one day. Learn what users are actually like and live the hell we all have at one point or another.

  • Maybe it will work for you??

    Oblig link [slashdot.org]

  • I totally understand your dilemma, because your dilemma has been my entire adult life. I learned BASIC programming 20 some years ago when I was a high school student and that's all computers could do. Then I went to a community college nearby (while in high school) and learned FORTRAN. After going to West Point for my education in physics (with no computers being used in schools back then), I did my time in the service and learned COBOL on my own. Meanwhile, I taught myself HTML programming so I could creat
  • Go to college (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Monday November 28, 2011 @09:34AM (#38189584)

    You don't have to do the four year marathon. You can do contract work to pay for your tuition. In the end, you'll make up for the tuition spent by making more salary than possible without that degree,

    Of course you could go the self employment route, the success stories are few and you'll get paid less than a college grad for your talents.

  • similarity (Score:2, Interesting)

    by g4b (956118)

    your resumée sounds like mine. you just chose drupal over django, a choice i never would have made. php is over, really. it was only popular as long ASP and JSP were feared to become mainstream, now we have serious tools in the web, php is just the cheap aftertaste of the 90s.
    also, with php you are basicly locked into the web business.

    it does not matter how you are educated and which papers you have, getting a job is
    1. look who needs you and what is to do
    2. know what you want to do

  • by vlm (69642) on Monday November 28, 2011 @09:46AM (#38189708)

    how can I (specifically with Drupal)

    Bad idea to focus too narrowly. Your average suit might not even know what Drupal is. Keep an open mind. The job you get manipulating Joomla or Wordpress might lead eventually to your "dream Drupal job"... however...

    So, I think I wanna do BGP routing on Cisco routers because I happen to have years of experience and I'm extremely good at it. That's nice, if only there were any hiring spots for that skillset at a location and salary I can tolerate. "Meanwhile" I'm working with RoR and Perl and a variety of SQL backends. Heck I don't even know if I wanna go back to being a router jockey, as if that opportunity will ever exist again for me. I really miss those weekly 2am on call emergencies, err, no not really. But this job puts me close both physically and technologically to the local OSPF operators, so if I wanted to, it would be an easy stepping stone back into routing and switching.

    started learning BASIC at age 12

    See, you're not trying to write CGI scripts in MSBasic so we know you've got an open mind... Go with the flow. Drupal is cool, don't get me wrong, but its not the end stage of technological progress or the end stage of your career unless you're in your 60s and planning on this being your toe-tag job.

  • Look for contract jobs advertised in the web in PeopleSoft, Oracle or Web design. Most of the listings will ask for qualifications and experience you don't have. But you are not looking for jobs. What you are looking for are the links to contractors who are looking for such jobs. Most of them are independent consultants. Some of them join together to own partnerships. Ask them to take you as an intern or a trainee and offer to work for free for three or six months to learn the job skills. They are likely to
  • Go to school!! That or get ready for many years of having to work harder just to prove yourself over and over again! Another alternative is contract to hire. That may work as well.

    On another note,hopefully you have learned about the necessity of Version control. You also hopefully have been learning good CS practices such as only having one source for information (code functionality is information) abstraction etc. There are good reasons for these practices and the sooner you learn them the more valuable yo

  • 1) As a student, i started my own business to make some money while doing what i like, and built a portfolio with that. Despite being hired elsewhere i today still develop websites and webapplications in my spare time. http://staesit.nl/ [staesit.nl] Also its a great way to finance your hobby.

    2) I also had a student job at a "detacheerder" as how its called in dutch. I don't know the correct term in english (temporary job?), but when visiting the dutch wiki page i see the english equilavent is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temporary_work [wikipedia.org] but it contains some (for me) weird implications.
    In essence, as a student i did work for http://www.ogd.nl/ [www.ogd.nl] which had me work on client locations to consult on specific computer problems i had experience in, do helpdesk work, program small applications and develop solutions.

    3) I also did voluntary work for several IT-related events. I developed a screen overlay system for internet broadcasts, and built a tournament matching system for Netgamez. (sadly nothing i built this way ever was opensourced, most where rather embedded solutions)

  • Everyone has already said 'You need a portfolio', and that is SO right. So I'll talk about the next step:

    Find the right company.

    The wrong company is a company that think college education means anything in and of itself. It doesn't. A portfolio shows your actual skill, and a good company will appreciate that. A good company will also have an interview that asks the right questions, and possibly asks you to show your ability. These are the companies you'll shine at. As a side effect, these are also goo

  • If you are going for contract work, the last thing people actually do is check your degree or to a certain extent, your work history. Be warned, the agent will call old work places to find new contract leads.

    They just want to know if you can do the job, that you can do it next week, and you can hit the ground running. If you can tick those boxes, everything else is irrelevant. If you are sh*t, expect to be out of your job pretty quickly. Never lie about skills you have no experience with ;)

    If you did work f

  • Most IT people suck at writing resumes. Shop around for someone who has placed a lot of IT workers -- or at least some! -- and go with them. If you have any friends who hired someone, see how they liked the person they worked with.

    A good resume will get you noticed, and they'll know the buzzwords that local businesses are looking for.

  • #1 thing to do ... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tgd (2822) on Monday November 28, 2011 @10:00AM (#38189856)

    First and foremost, don't convince yourself you're better than you really are. You need to be honest with yourself about your experience before you can be honest with a prospective employer.

    Being self-taught doesn't suggest you don't know the technology, but *does* suggest you may not know a lot of other things that are critical that come from studying things in school -- process, teamwork, communication, etc ...

    Basically, don't BS yourself into seeking jobs you really aren't qualified for, particularly in this market. You'll just waste your time, adn the time of those you're talking to. You're going to have to build up the credentials based on your work experience that you lack in formal education. (And, I can tell you as someone who has done a lot of hiring -- a lot of the comments here are wrong... you need actual *employment* exprience, not hobby projects to show your abilities, because as I said, doing something with a team, on a deadline, is very different than doing something by yourself.)

  • First, not having a four-year degree has held me back more than once. It sucks, but that's the way it is. Strangely, I think I could've had a degree in just about anything as long as I had one.

    Second, agencies that place you as a contractor someplace are good. That's how I got my current job. I started as a contractor, proved myself, and got hired full-time. My previous job was also as a contractor, after having been fired from the one before that (and therefore a high-risk candidate).

    Third, have proof of y

  • Your resume` should be online. A decent website. You should perhaps create a few template sites to use as a portfolio of your work.

    Once you've got those, then go chasing companies for work whether they are hiring or not. If you've got good skills you will find work. There are plenty of web "developers" out there who don't know shit from clay.

    if you still can't find salary based work, then use our portfolio of sites to pimp yourself out freelance. Or vice-versa, depending on whether you would prefe

  • Without a college degree or much previous job experience, your best bet is to have two or three gorgeous looking websites which are diverse enough to show some skill. Spend a couple months creating these sites. You will be able to quickly demonstrate your coding skill to an interested company.

    Brush up your resume. Make it look clean and professional. Don't lie, but remember that it is advertising. You are allowed to exaggerate a bit.

    Learn to interview well. This will make or break you. It's a c
  • To get jobs and business, in general, you have to have a recognisable "name". This is essential if you don't have a degree. It replaces the diploma at a later stages of your career. When you get to having 10 years of experience or a "name", only the government institutions ask for a diploma.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 28, 2011 @10:33AM (#38190248)

    I don't have a degree.

    I started programming at age 15, worked in a computer shop as a technician through high-school and got my first programming job during the high-tech bubble of 2000. I was 19 and had a bit of self-acquired java programming experience.

    Then the market crashed. it was arguably MUCH worse then today's climate. I was a junior dev with 6 months "official" experience and no degree.
    But i could talk, i could program and i was persistent. It took me 3 months to get a new job at lower pay but still a lot for my age.
    Now, ten years later i lead a development team, i have written 3 major products from scratch and worked for several companies.

    What i found was that my choice not to get a degree harmed my chances mostly with the larger firms. Smaller companies and especially start-ups care mostly about your skills and your experience and much less about your degree. I quit my last job during the crash of 2008 when companies were firing people left and right. i looked for a job for a total of 2 days. My current position and the one before that i got through contacts i made through the years.

    It's that first job that is hardest to get. be prepared, be confident. Apply for a position you are slightly overqualified for.
    Linked-in is your friend. Your business contacts and anyone you worked with and appreciates your skills can open doors that would be closed otherwise.
    There's nothing more valuable then a personal recommendation from a respected contact. Ask your friends to help you. Even those who aren't in this field may know people that can help and their word can be just as valuable.

  • by GWBasic (900357) <slashdot@NOsPAm.andrewrondeau.com> on Monday November 28, 2011 @02:22PM (#38192844) Homepage

    I'm a self-taught programmer as well. I started in Basic when I was 11, and moved to C in high school.

    How did I get a job? I went to college, like most other self-taught programmers! There's a big difference in the kind of skills and practice you need to win a high school programming competition versus building an industrial strength web application to handle millions of users.

    When I was in college, the best students were those like us, self-taught in Basic. Had I NOT gone to college, I would have wasted a lot of time, and not been able to write the programs that I want to write.

  • by JonToycrafter (210501) on Monday November 28, 2011 @02:22PM (#38192846) Homepage Journal

    I'm also a self-taught geek, and now I am part of a Drupal/CiviCRM shop with three other folks, all self-taught. We do very well, and just made a job offer to a fifth person, also a self-taught Drupal dev. Here's some thoughts from the other side of the interview table.

    A few thoughts:
    * Getting hired in the Drupal world as a self-taught geek is way easier than in most corners of the IT world. There's lots of small employers, and there are ways to demonstrate your skill that don't involve certs.
    * Drupal is a fast-moving product - we want to know that you know the latest tools. Have you developed in Drupal 7? If you're doing theming/front-end, what's your experience with Sass/Closure/etc.? Basically, if you're not plugged into the Drupal community, it's difficult to be up-to-date. So YES, go to DrupalCon, Drupal meetups, etc. - and make sure your prospective employer knows it (if you're looking to get hired by a Drupal shop)
    * The most important part of being hired is networking. Not what but who you know, etc. Another reason to hit the Drupal community gatherings.
    * I'll echo what other folks said about needing a portfolio. If you don't have one, make one. Seriously.

    When hiring, we asked for folks' Drupal.org usernames, and we looked at their history. Seeing that you've made a non-trivial patch to a major module counts for a lot. Seeing that you know how to make a comprehensive and useful bug report means you'll get better responses when you're working on our projects. We asked about community involvement, as a measure of a) seeing how up-to-date folks were, and b) determining if their contacts in the community will help in a pinch - our good relationships with key Drupal devs has certainly helped us in emergencies. It also means we've been referred work (particularly because we specialize in Drupal/CiviCRM). We looked at portfolio - especially important if you want to be a themer.

    Finally - one problem we had with hiring folks in your position was a lack of experience with tools used for working in groups. Familiarize yourself with at least one of the popular project management tools used in the Drupal community (I'd suggest Redmine, Open Atrium, or Basecamp). Learn git. Brush up on CLI tools like drush and ssh if you don't know them already. I think it's telling that the person we offered the job to was self-taught, but was already working in a small shop. A self-taught person with experience with the tools I listed above would have closed the gap that advantage brought to her.

    One more thing, I guess - there've been a lot of good arguments for self-employment on both sides of the debate in this thread. Consider the middle option of being semi-self-employed. Moonlight doing Drupal dev. I moonlighted as a freelancer, and brought my day job from full time to part time to gone.

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