Wife needs advice on finding entry level IT job

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Wife needs advice on finding entry level IT job

Postby katnok » Sun Jun 30, 2013 8:02 am

My wife has just graduated with a masters in Comp Science, and is now looking for an entry level job in IT. She doesn't have any experience in IT other than the projects she did as part of her masters.

Her (our) situation is a little complicated in that she is looking for employment within 50 mile radius of where we live, because we do not want to move from the area for at least the next couple of years for various reasons.

Also, she did masters on a student visa, which allowed her to obtain EAD (Employment Authorization Document) under so called OPT (Optional Practical Training), but she must find employment (paid or unpaid) in 90 days from the start date mentioned on her EAD, otherwise, it would become invalid.

Now, her/my questions are:
1. Are there any better ways of searching for an entry level position in IT other than sites such as dice.com?
2. Given our geographical limitation, how likely is she to find a job that doesn't require experience? (I can tell you that we live about 80-90 miles from DC/Baltimore area and about 40 miles from Harrisburg, PA)
3. She is willing to take up a volunteer opportunity if she can find one (assuming she can not find a paid position in the next 90 days). Do employers offer unpaid positions or volunteer opportunities in IT? If they do, how should she go about finding one?

Your advice is highly appreciated. Thank you!
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Re: Wife needs advice on finding entry level IT job

Postby TorpedoBook » Sun Jun 30, 2013 8:22 am

Generally speaking, Dice is not your friend - it can't hurt to look, but it is typically overrun by recruiters and low wage hourly shops. The lack of any hands-on experience is going to make the process more difficult. Can you tell me a little more about the kind of job your wife is looking for - IT is a broad field? I'm not exactly clear where you are located, but if your search is limited to the Harrisburg area, you will have more challenges than in a larger metro area (e.g. Philly or DC). You could try contacting a local tech recruiter, but it's going to be more difficult to get an entry-level job using a recruiter - they typically charge the company 15%-25% of first year salary - and that's a big risk for someone without experience.

My suggestion would be to:

1) narrow down more specifics about the types of work your wife is interested in
2) start searching online for companies in your geo and look at their job listings and contact them directly - work up a short list of places, use LinkedIn to find people who work their, write individual emails. Don't just bulk email resumes.
3) find a user group in the area that your wife is looking for (e.g. MS .Net development, systems administration, etc) and start attending - word of mouth is the best way to find a job

More specifics on what area she's interested in or your geo and I might be able to provide some more ideas.
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Re: Wife needs advice on finding entry level IT job

Postby katnok » Sun Jun 30, 2013 8:53 am

Thank you, TorpedoBook!
Never thought about user groups. Will definitely look at them.
She is interested in .NET. We have been looking at the job listings of the companies around here. They do have jobs, but pretty much all of them require at least a couple of years experience.
Any thoughts about volunteer opportunities?

(PS: TorpedoBook, I just sent a PM to you with our location info)
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Re: Wife needs advice on finding entry level IT job

Postby LordB » Sun Jun 30, 2013 9:09 am

I don't know if you want to get into it, but why is someone with a masters in comp sci looking for an IT job?

Generally programmer/software engineer is a better fit for comp sci especially someone who has done it at the masters level (assuming this isn't a foreign degree that while they say comp sci is really more IT) and programmers despite having issues with outsourcing etc. tend to have somewhat less of an issue as software can be seen as adding value to the company (not as much as core operations unless it is a sw company) whereas IT is generally seen completely as something to spend as little as possible.

Anyways I don't know, but at the very least if you have any chance I would go for SW eng and IT jobs... double or more the opportunities.
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Re: Wife needs advice on finding entry level IT job

Postby kenschmidt » Sun Jun 30, 2013 10:33 am

I have always considered programmer / software engineer an IT job. IT is a large function encompassing many areas, one of which is development i.e. programming.
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Re: Wife needs advice on finding entry level IT job

Postby jridger2011 » Sun Jun 30, 2013 11:26 am

Would it be possible to ask a professor who has connections in the industry to help?
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Re: Wife needs advice on finding entry level IT job

Postby livesoft » Sun Jun 30, 2013 11:54 am

Connections are where it is at when it comes to entry level jobs. How many people do you personally know? On your block? In your neighborhood? At the grocery store? At work? At school?

My daughter was looking for a job using the usual "apply online" and send resumes methods. She did not want to use her mom's connections. She finally gave up and used her connections. She had an interview in about an hour and was hired the next day.

It would not hurt to get "What Color Is Your Parachute?" today and read it today.
It's all about short-term opportunistic rebalancing due to a short-term change in one's asset allocation, uh, I mean opportunistic rebalancing, uh I mean rebalancing, uh I mean market timing.
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Re: Wife needs advice on finding entry level IT job

Postby TorpedoBook » Sun Jun 30, 2013 12:59 pm

A position in QA can make a good entry level FT role for getting into a local company, so I'd consider that as well. The suggestion above for using the school as a resource is a good one - I would lean more toward the professors than the career center, although they likely have a jobs board. If the career center offers mock interviews, I would take advantage of that - I am on the opposite side (hiring) and see many people who interview very poorly. Work your personal network in any way you can - mention to people you know that your wife is looking if they know anyone that is hiring.
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Re: Wife needs advice on finding entry level IT job

Postby yosef » Sun Jun 30, 2013 1:03 pm

kenschmidt wrote:I have always considered programmer / software engineer an IT job. IT is a large function encompassing many areas, one of which is development i.e. programming.


I think it depends on your perspective. Being a software engineer myself, I tend to also put "IT" in a separate category. I work for a tech company. We have an IT department, but I don't work in it. Companies view IT as a cost, and will always be looking to reduce it. OTOH, if you can get on with a company where technology is their core business, you are an asset. And I'd agree that with a Masters in CS, you should set your sights a little higher than "IT". But in a rural area, that could be difficult.
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Re: Wife needs advice on finding entry level IT job

Postby ourbrooks » Sun Jun 30, 2013 1:47 pm

1. Most software development is for internal use; think what runs Google and Amazon and banks and the Social Security Administration. Software that is sold separately represents a smaller fraction of development. Internal development can range from development in standard programming languages such as Java or use of one of millions of packages, most of which require customization in a variety of programming languages. This work is usually done inside the IT organization; most banks don't have a software development department.

2. I'd second the suggestion to look at quality assurance and testing positions. Many companies still do lots of manual testing and they need lots of bodies. Also, it's a great way to learn about products and you'll have lots of contact with the actual developers. When an actual development position does open up, someone who already knows the products has a lot going for them.

3. While waiting for offers, see what skills people are advertising for and learn one of them and do something with it. Many academic IT/computer science programs focus on teaching fundamental principles rather than practical job skills. Showing that, due to your superior background in the fundamentals, you can teach yourself the practical skills makes you a more attractive candidate than someone who will require expensive training courses to be productive.

4. Learn COBOL. Yes, it's a historical language, but many key systems are built in it and the cost of re-writing the applications would be prohibitive. I've heard the claim made that there are more lines of COBOL in running applications than in any other language. The odds are high that, say, the Pennsylvania state income tax processing system is written in Cobol. Many of the people who know it and maintained the applications are now retiring. There seems to be a widely held belief that you've got to know the latest systems and languages to get a job. Not true.
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Re: Wife needs advice on finding entry level IT job

Postby livesoft » Sun Jun 30, 2013 1:50 pm

My company has IT and software folks. Among other things we sell computers. The IT folks set up the computers, install the software, make sure all the libraries are updated, make sure the video drivers are updated, and basically just make sure the darn thing will work when it gets to the customer site because it ain't gonna work out of the box whether it is a Mac or a Dell.

The software folks write the software that the IT guys are gonna install. The software guys follow the diretions of the R&D folks who conceive of the software. The R&D folks help write the software, test it, and complain about the software and IT folks.

And guess who gets to write the manuals for the software and for the software installation? And guess who trains customers on how to use the software? And guess who creates and uploads the YouTube videos on how to use the software?
It's all about short-term opportunistic rebalancing due to a short-term change in one's asset allocation, uh, I mean opportunistic rebalancing, uh I mean rebalancing, uh I mean market timing.
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Re: Wife needs advice on finding entry level IT job

Postby btenny » Sun Jun 30, 2013 1:52 pm

Try this web site for lots of IT related jobs...

http://www.beyond.com/tech

Bill
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Re: Wife needs advice on finding entry level IT job

Postby ourbrooks » Sun Jun 30, 2013 3:07 pm

livesoft wrote:My company has IT and software folks. Among other things we sell computers. The IT folks set up the computers, install the software, make sure all the libraries are updated, make sure the video drivers are updated, and basically just make sure the darn thing will work when it gets to the customer site because it ain't gonna work out of the box whether it is a Mac or a Dell.

The software folks write the software that the IT guys are gonna install. The software guys follow the diretions of the R&D folks who conceive of the software. The R&D folks help write the software, test it, and complain about the software and IT folks.

And guess who gets to write the manuals for the software and for the software installation? And guess who trains customers on how to use the software? And guess who creates and uploads the YouTube videos on how to use the software?


Who writes the software that actually runs the business, the software that runs the order management system, the payroll system, the HR system, and, of course, the corporate web site? The perception is that it's all now down with "packages" but just about every sizeable company seems to have a bunch of applications that they maintain themselves. It's almost never the case that any powerful package can be used out of the box; extensive "scripting" is required, sometimes to massage legacy databases, still needed by legacy applications, so that the new packages can access them. Often, all kinds of glue code is needed to make different packages talk to each other. There's lots and lots of programming/computer science work that needs to be done in any large IT shop. Even companies that sell software products frequently have extensive internal IT development.

GM has announced that they are hiring 10,000 new employees to do IT development. The press releases definitely give the impression that these employees won't just be answering help desk calls and setting up user accounts.

Limiting your job search to companies that are in the computer industry and write software for external use is ignoring a large part of the job market.
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Re: Wife needs advice on finding entry level IT job

Postby livesoft » Sun Jun 30, 2013 3:17 pm

ourbrooks wrote:Limiting your job search to companies that are in the computer industry and write software for external use is ignoring a large part of the job market.

Excellent advice. I think every company of more than about 30 employees will use the services of some IT person. One simply has to drive outside of their neighborhood of homes and make a list of every company they see and that may be a prospective employer to research why they would need one's skills.
It's all about short-term opportunistic rebalancing due to a short-term change in one's asset allocation, uh, I mean opportunistic rebalancing, uh I mean rebalancing, uh I mean market timing.
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Re: Wife needs advice on finding entry level IT job

Postby frugaltype » Sun Jun 30, 2013 3:26 pm

Bulk mailing resumes is useless. HR has stacks of those a foot or two high. I don't know if they even send out acks nowadays. Also, HR generally has no clue as to whether a resume fits a position. Worse, some places use software that scans resumes for keywords to select possible fits.

Talking to the faculty or any other contacts is likely to be much more useful. "Volunteer slots" are probably illegal; if she works, she has to be paid.

When I was hiring, my manager told me to look at resumes that came in from recruiters last, if at all. There were plenty of resumes that would not cost a fee. That said, there are a small number of useful recruiters.

Another thing to look at is temp/contract agencies.
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Re: Wife needs advice on finding entry level IT job

Postby livesoft » Sun Jun 30, 2013 3:32 pm

My spouse's company only uses a recruiter. If they get an unsolicited resume, they are required to forward it to the recruiter.
It's all about short-term opportunistic rebalancing due to a short-term change in one's asset allocation, uh, I mean opportunistic rebalancing, uh I mean rebalancing, uh I mean market timing.
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Re: Wife needs advice on finding entry level IT job

Postby yosef » Sun Jun 30, 2013 5:59 pm

Sure company IT departments have lots of internal systems that they either wrote outright or have heavily customized. And they are under constant scrutiny to reign in costs. I still maintain that it's totally appropriate for someone with a Masters in CS to have higher ambitions than developing (or more likely maintaining) yet another AP/AR/Quote system. Lest you think I am looking down my nose at that type of work, I started out doing maintenance development on internal IT systems. Some of it in COBOL even. Suffice it to say my experience is that working for a tech company is more challenging, more rewarding and more lucrative.
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Re: Wife needs advice on finding entry level IT job

Postby kenschmidt » Sun Jun 30, 2013 6:24 pm

If you earn a salary, you are a cost to someone.
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Re: Wife needs advice on finding entry level IT job

Postby yosef » Sun Jun 30, 2013 6:33 pm

kenschmidt wrote:If you earn a salary, you are a cost to someone.

No doubt. But people like paying some costs more than others.
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Re: Wife needs advice on finding entry level IT job

Postby VictoriaF » Sun Jun 30, 2013 6:37 pm

Considering the 90-day limitation, perhaps your wife can work for the university she has just graduated from? In the mean time she would be looking for a proper job.

If she has time/energy/interest, she could pursue some common certifications in the areas of IT, project management or security. While these are typically a step down from an advanced degree, certifications demonstrate some practical knowledge and improve the resume.

In the D.C./Baltimore area many IT jobs require a security clearance or an ability to obtain one, which would not work for your wife.

Good luck,

Victoria
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Re: Wife needs advice on finding entry level IT job

Postby katnok » Sun Jun 30, 2013 7:18 pm

Thank you so much for all the advice I have received so far. I will pass it on to my wife.

1. I have already talked to the IT guy working for my employer (healthcare), who promised to let me know if he came across a suitable position.
2. As some of you suggested, we have been looking at the job listings of the companies (not just IT) around here.
3. Will make sure that my wife gets in touch with her professors to help with this process.

Now, I have a few additional questions:

1. We certainly do not want to do anything thats not legal. Is it illegal on my wife's part to do volunteering work?
2. How difficult is it to go from QA/Testing to programming, if she chose to do so in future? Also, how common is it for people to go from non-programming side to the programming side or vice versa?

Thanks in advance!
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Re: Wife needs advice on finding entry level IT job

Postby KyleAAA » Sun Jun 30, 2013 7:37 pm

I'm not familiar with the DC market, but in the markets I have knowledge of it should be very easy for your wife to find a job depending on what her specialty is. It might benefit your wife to learn something a bit more modern than .NET. Ruby on rails is pretty hot right now but of course, there are still tons of Java and C++ jobs out there. Also, don't get caught up in the "years experience" requirements. Most jobs that list something like "2 years required" will actually consider entry-level candidates.

As for terminology, most software people I'm aware of consider it an insult to be called IT. I certainly can't stand it.
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Re: Wife needs advice on finding entry level IT job

Postby yosef » Sun Jun 30, 2013 8:06 pm

With regard to the ease of transitioning from QA to Development, it depends a lot on the company. But with your wife's qualifications, she should not have to settle for QA if it's not what she wants. Does her school not offer any career assistance? My company has an internship program and generally uses that to vet new grads....
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Re: Wife needs advice on finding entry level IT job

Postby ourbrooks » Sun Jun 30, 2013 8:17 pm

How easy it is to move from the QA side to the development side varies widely by company and situation. If the QA work involves just testing the software manually externally, then it's going to be harder than if your job is to write automated tests, where you can show off some of your skills. Some organizations keep the QA group physically and organizationally separate from the development group; others put them side by side in the same cubicles. It pays to ask if you get interviewed for a QA job.

Regardless of the relationship between QA and development, once you are inside an organization, opportunities become available that you wouldn't have outside. Most organizations post jobs internally before they post them outside.

Also, with a few exceptions, academic computer science departments teach computer science, not software engineering, so most graduates have to learn software engineering skills, like how to use application life cycle tools, on the job and it can be several years before they are fully productive. Someone who has worked in QA will have had to learn these skills, so even if they don't stay in the company in which they started, they'll have a much more convincing story to tell if they look elsewhere.

Last but not least, most modern QA shops are trying to move to automated testing and QA people who have followed manual test scripts all their careers are rarely up to what's needed. If it's challenging to write a program to interact with a user and write to a database, think how much more challenging it is to write a program which simulates user input and analyses and reacts to application output. It needn't be the case that someone who really wants to program has to leave QA.
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Re: Wife needs advice on finding entry level IT job

Postby mlipps » Mon Jul 01, 2013 1:03 pm

katnok wrote:
1. We certainly do not want to do anything thats not legal. Is it illegal on my wife's part to do volunteering work?


She should speak to the International Student advisor at her particular school. I work in the International Programs office at my university, albeit on the study abroad side, and my understanding is that it is perfectly legal to do volunteer work on OPT, but she needs to report it to her ISS office & then report to them if she changes jobs.
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Re: Wife needs advice on finding entry level IT job

Postby mollymillions » Mon Jul 01, 2013 1:10 pm

katnok wrote:1. We certainly do not want to do anything thats not legal. Is it illegal on my wife's part to do volunteering work?


It is illegal for any for-profit company to have employees doing work for which they are not paid (volunteer). It is not illegal for non-profit companies to utilize volunteers.

For-profit companies can provide unpaid internships, but there are lots of regulations surrounding these. They are generally required to provide educational credits and provide strong educational value for the intern. E.g. it is illegal to have an unpaid intern doing janitorial work.

As others have mentioned, you seem to be using "entry-level IT" very broadly. "Entry-level IT" would be a helpdesk/technician type position, which your wife seems absurdly overqualified for. The lack of relevant work experience will make things difficult, but the MS will help a lot. She should look towards project management, software development, auditing, QA, or research. An MS in CS is a nice degree to have as it opens up a lot of advanced career paths.

Dice and other job-boards - CareerBuilder, Monster, etc. are useful, but as others have mentioned can be very spammy. A small metro area without a strong R&D industry will not have as many opportunities for someone with a CS background, but you may be able to find something. Good luck.
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Re: Wife needs advice on finding entry level IT job

Postby hicabob » Mon Jul 01, 2013 2:13 pm

If she doesn't find a decent paid position many non-profits would be delighted to have someone build/improve a website. It's a great skill to know and can become a profitable entrepreneurial enterprise for those that "have the stuff". Helping a non-profit could open doors via contacts as well as get something on the resume.
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Re: Wife needs advice on finding entry level IT job

Postby jay22 » Mon Jul 01, 2013 3:12 pm

I have worked as a software consultant in the DC/Baltimore area for about 4 years and I can tell you that the software market there is pretty hot. Having no experience can be a hindrance, but I know so many recent graduates which easily got a job in that area. Keep on applying, network like crazy and be open to different roles (QA etc.). Shouldn't be that hard.
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Re: Wife needs advice on finding entry level IT job

Postby Mudpuppy » Tue Jul 02, 2013 3:48 am

It might be helpful in offering specific job hunting suggestions if we knew exactly what your wife's master degree was in. Computer Science is a rather broad field. Most people seem to be assuming something of a software engineering flavor. However, software engineering is just a small subset of Computer Science. Someone whose master work was in network security, artificial intelligence, databases, etc. is going to have a different set of skills and job prospects than someone whose master work is in software engineering.
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Re: Wife needs advice on finding entry level IT job

Postby LordB » Tue Jul 02, 2013 6:00 am

One comment for those debating the IT vs. Software engineering...

While the overarching department may be called IT a better word for the department is informatics.

Within an informatics department you tend to have an IT department which supports the hardware and infrastructure of a company's technology. They do things like setup laptops for new hires, manage the phone system, be the help desk, manage the various servers including email etc.

Generally within any large company you will have a separate department of Programmers/SW Engineers. They generally design and build the software that the company needs and uses or in the case of a tech company is the product as well. Obviously in companies where the software is the product this aspect gets much much more attention and would probably not be within the IT department's chain of command at all (unless you consider the CEO). Once it is built they usually hand it off to IT to support.

While these roles may be fuzzy in certain areas, it isn't too uncommon for the sw engineering group to have their own people to support the in house applications while IT only does the helpdesk for say Windows/office as one example or also IT people may make scripts and do light programming to make their users life easier, for the most part they are very much different.

If you say you are looking for an IT job to me I will assume you want to be supporting the desktop PCs or similar. If you as a someone looking for a job say you are looking for a programmer position I assume you are going to be designing and building the in house or external software applications.

Maybe this is a regional thing and not true in other areas, but I doubt it. To the best of my knowledge anyone in the industry is going to consider them to be very different.

Generally someone with a Comp Sci degree would be going for the programmer aspect of all this as at least in my experience those with IT degrees generally are not masters degrees though there are certainly people in Comp Sci who specialize in IT for their degree it is somewhat rare and usually when you find people with that degree in IT is a fallback when a career in sw engineering doesn't work out.

Anyways this is from my experience... YMMV.
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