A question was recently posted on Twitter on how we got our first jobs in the industry. This was my response:
Post college, answered an ad in the classifieds in the newspaper for a tech support analyst.
— Sarah Dutkiewicz (@sadukie) September 11, 2017
However, I had internships pre-college and throughout college and figured I’d share those stories as well.
Internship doing Datasheet QA – Pre-College
One of my brothers’ friends’ dads worked for a large company in the area, dealing with software-related things. He talked with me and his team interviewed me, having me QA their database, checking that the data in the database matched the datasheets in the specs. As someone who has an eye for data, this was a great step in the right direction. While at this place, I found myself moving to a project with a contractor, learning how to migrate from an Access database to a SQL database with a Visual Basic front-end. I was already familiar with Access and Visual Basic, as I had been playing with those as a hobbyist at home, working on an address book (that I later released on Nonags). That contractor saw my love of data and introduced me to the Oracle DBA, so that I could see that as well. Seeing SQL Server and Oracle, I hoped that (1) college wouldn’t be so awful and (2) once I get through that pain, maybe I’ll get to work with data.
Job Source: Family connection
Yes – that was my job! In the summer of 1999, I ended up working in headquarters of a local retail chain, making sure accounting, payroll, and other systems were Y2K compliant. I learned FoxPro for this job as well as doing more ETL. Now how did I end up in this role? I used to work in the retail chain as a pharmacy tech, working for my now father-in-law. I think he told me about the role up there. It was great to get in at HQ, and it was even better when they walked me around on the first day and I ran into family from my mom’s side.
Job Source: Family connections
The Internship That Didn’t Exist
When I came home in the summer of 2000, I didn’t have an internship lined up, and the university’s co-op program placement was useless. So I looked at the classifieds in The Plain Dealer, a local newspaper for Cleveland and its suburbs. I noticed a Fortune 500 company with a listing looking for a developer with Visual Basic and SQL Server experience. Knowing that I had those skills from my past experience, I wrote a cover letter that sold them on the fact that (1) I’m young (and cheap!!), (2) I already have the skills they need, and (3) I don’t need a lot of hand-holding and tend to hit the ground running. Also, I pointed out that they could bring me on board so that the project didn’t get back-burnered and since I was temporary, it would give them more time to find a more permanent employee. All the magic words led to an interview, which led to a corner office in downtown Cleveland and a project working on Visual Basic and SQL! I finished the project with weeks to spare, and they didn’t need to hire an employee for the role after all.
Job Source: Classifieds in The Cleveland Plain Dealer + good personal sales
And, of course, the job I ended up at the longest while in college…
IT Support with the Coolest Guys Ever
Yes, I loved working in IT for the Arts & Science College Computing crew at the University of Toledo. It was an adventurous part of my career in learning about just what IT encompasses and the good and bad parts, especially in the academia realm. Supporting students, teachers, and executives, I learned a lot there and was privileged to work with a wonderful, supportive crew. So how did I end up with this role? A friend of mine was in the role prior to me, and he recommended me for the role.
Job Source: Friend
Some Keys to Employment
This is something not just for juniors but for those overall – networking is key. Talk to people, and listen to people. Talk with family, friends, and yes… even strangers! Go to Meetups, user groups, conferences, and other gatherings and network with others.
Don’t be afraid to see what opportunities are out there. Newspaper classifieds were where I turned, but that was because in the late 90s and early 00s, that was where I knew to look. Nowadays, we also have LinkedIn, Dice, Indeed, Glassdoor, Monster, Careerboard, ZipRecruiter, and other websites with job listings. And if you see a listing you aren’t 100% qualified for, take a chance if it’s something interesting and you think you can learn the stuff they don’t have. Most job listings are guidelines, not requirements that are completely set in stone.
You never know where your next opportunity will be. Put yourself out there. And remember – no one can sell you and your capabilities better than yourself!