Graduation season is upon us and with that, many fresh grads are leaving the warm shelter of A+ tests to the colder realms of "Yes, I have no real world experience". But fret not. That's a part of the game. Nobody expects a fresh grad to come out of college to run Facebook. But it isn't a simple process either getting your foot in the door.
The month after graduation is very crucial, particularly if you have nothing lined up ahead of time. So today, let's go over some paths that you can take that will hopefully lead you to a happy and fulfilling life in Computer Science.
Internships are incredibly important
Aside from the fact that you will get to add this to your resume, internships offer you an opportunity to see the inner workings of an actual company on a daily basis. Most companies these days use the same software for their day to day work. If you're a programmer, that includes a specific IDE, RDBMS, bug tracking, task management, etc. And this is the #1 thing that most fresh grads are lacking in. Most haven't heard of Source control and many more are only aware of tech from a non-practical perspective.
If you're getting paid, even better. But don't rely on that. A 3 month internship at a notable company however can land you a much better job later on and the knowledge that you will gain will propel that much faster. So don't focus on pay. Just make enough to eat well and stay caffeinated in the beginning as you get your bearings straight.
Applying to a startup would be a good route to take as you are both learning the ins and outs of business. And it will give you a much different perspective than if you steer towards a more traditional corporate structure. You'll get 2 entirely different ideas as to what business is.
Use your programming skills daily
Everyone out of college assumes they're amazing at what they do. How could they not. They get A's, B's, awards and such. College is a great time to bolster that ego. And after college is a great time to come back down to Earth a bit. Employers want to see tangible work for the most part. Yes they know you're young, but also yes, they have work that needs to be done.
As someone in the software engineering field, do what you do best. Engineer software. Set up a CodePen account and write Pens. I would spend time on your CodePen if you were applying to our company. It would give me an idea of how you code and more importantly how creative you are.
We're constantly learning each and every day, and if anything college is a very limiting place to learn where boundaries are indeed drawn but very narrow. You'll learn of concepts, but you won't use them in the real world way, as the real world way is normally quick, grimy and many a time filled with potholes. And nobody wants to pay for college to watch a professor spend an hour on StackOverflow.
The more you fail the easier it becomes
The first month out of college found my vehicle and I driving around the city frantically just barely making appointments. 22-30 in all were to be had. And this came down to getting up early each and every day and sending out my resume to every job posting available on any of a dozen websites. A spreadsheet was used to keep track of status updates and navigation came down to a 99 cent notebook with directions scribbled on it. This wasn't a "fun" time if you will. But bills had to be paid and food was to be eaten.
By the 10th interview, questions were anticipated ahead of time, and voice control was much stronger. The "hmms" and "umms" were kept to a minimum and overall the energy was alot more alive in the interviews. There's only one way to get to this point. And that's through practice. That moment you get asked a question that you have zero knowledge about, and your entire body begins to tingle in this stress response. That's a good stressor to have. Now figure out the correct approach to that question and that feeling will eventually subside. Failing is a part of the game, so learn to enjoy it.
Should you even look for work
I saved this topic for last as it won't appeal to many young grads. But there exist an option that most people don't ever consider when it comes to what to do after college. And that is to skip the looking for work part and to create your own work essentially. It's the most challenging route, but because of that it has the most to teach and the most to give in the grand scheme.
When my friends and I began our company, we had no idea how to even begin to start a business. And we were nearing our 30's. We weren't sure of the paperwork required, the legalities, the marketing needs and everything else in between. Within the first year however, we managed to work for half a dozen clients and bring their websites to life. We slowly figured out the ins and outs and it's only gotten more complex since then. But it's also gotten much more rewarding as we attempt to navigate and learn from this business world.
Whatever it is that you choose to partake in, make it something that you love doing and not something that you feel will generate the most wealth. Make your wealth doing what you love to do, that's the best advice that I can conjure for you young tech folk out there. So go forth and spread technology in the most imaginative and creative way possible.
Walter Guevara is a software engineer, startup founder and currently teaches programming for a coding bootcamp. He is currently building things that don't yet exist.