What Should I Tell CS Job Seekers?

by Ming Chow

I am volunteering to be a representative at the Computer Science networking table at the Tufts University Career Fair tomorrow. In addition to meeting the assorted employers and graduate school representatives, students will have the opportunity to speak informally with Tufts alumni, and alumni enjoy the opportunity to share their expertise with students as well. Note, the goal for alumni at the fair is to provide advice and information only, not jobs (sorry, I don't have any of those to give out anyway). Of course, I will speak about my experiences on the job, how I got to where I am today, discuss important skills required to succeed, and advice. Here are some insights that I will certainly give to students tomorrow:

  • It is critical to continually develop professionally and technically. You should invest in all development opportunities either through work, or through your personal expense (including money and time). In an evolving and erratic IT climate, it is important for the business, and for you, to be ahead of the game.

  • You must understand your workplace's business and business logic. You can hack up the nicest looking GUI in applications, but it is completely useless if it doesn't fit your business goals and needs.

  • There are still many great CS-related jobs available in the US, and the notion of all IT jobs going to India is not true. In fact, this country needs you. If you are a good programmer, developer, specialist, etc., there will always be room for you.

  • Some areas of IT can be thankless. As Coach John Wooden once said, never let criticism, and praise, get to you...

  • ...which leads to the importance of the soft skills. Chances are, you will work with a majority of non-technical personnel. You need to learn how to communicate to users effectively (which may take many iterations; it is not easy, believe me). The more effective you communicate with users, the better it is for everyone else, and the more visible your group will be.

  • Start out small, and work your way up. This may be a hard thing to accept, but it makes your job that much easier. For example, are you going to be a manager without any experience working with customers in the past? For future developers, learning QA first will help you understand the problems that can occur, and how not make the same mistakes in your own work.

I would welcome any comments and insights, including your own experiences. Thanks for your help.

So what other advice would you tell new Computer Science job seekers?


2005-10-18 09:24:26
More Advice?
That is excellent advice.

I would also encourage job seekers to not get discouraged. In recent years, employers have been able to demand more specialized experience, thanks to the web. With powerful job sites such as Dice, Monster, and HotJobs, it seems employers can search and find any specialized talent they want. And this is most unfortunate for someone out of college with not much more than generalized experience.

As you recommended, "start out small, and work your way up" is somewhat of a strategy to combat that. Don't worry, your first professional job out of college you might be a generalist, especially if you are at a small organization. But eventually, you will probably get more skills and become a specialist so you can be in high(er) demand.