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This is a really great question, and at one time the only answer would have been to slog it out and apply for jobs based on your training. And to some extent that is also true today. But, having said that, there is now a decided shift in the software development market place that would allow people who don't have lots of experience or a lot of education behind them to get jobs in the industry.
No longer is it important to have a degree or years of experience to cash in on. You can actually just "pitch" in on some projects and fiddle with them, thereby making a name for yourself as you go. Here is what we mean.
Nowadays there is something called open source and that has dramatically changed the face of software developers being hired. First, what is open source? Open source software is sort of like free software, but a bit less rigid. Users of open source software are usually able to view the source code, alter and re-distribute open source software. You get the idea. Jump in there and play with the code and see what you come up with.
The next step would be to share the code you have added and keep helping to work on the coding posted. This will let you get some terrific hands-on experience without taking a class, job hunting or even having an interview. Your work will be out there for everyone to see and use, and develop.
The best thing about volunteering to work on open source software, and helping others, is that you get the benefit of their knowledge and expertise. You would be getting things no one could possibly get in a classroom.
So really, one of the best ways to start trying to find a job in the industry is to just take a good look around and find out what open source projects interest you. There are so many to choose from, you will have no trouble finding something that gets your creative juices going. For instance, maybe working on utilities for Windows or even choose a huge project that has other projects within projects going on.
Okay, so you have found a project that captures your imagination and cannot wait to work on it. All you have to do is volunteer to work on the project. Start using the software and getting familiar with it. Ask lots of questions on the list you joined and get to know the players.
Go the extra mile and read about the technology you are working with and then start playing with it to see what you get. The more you work with it, the better you will get at being able to spot a bug. And when you do, try to fix it and post it (when you feel you are ready to do so).
If the fix works well and they like it, the person with the rights to the code will add the fix you sent into the code. Doing this will get you known on the list and get you credibility and job contacts. A job will not happen over night, as you do need to build up a "resume" of working with open source software. But once you have that under your belt, chances are you can get an entry level job in the field of your dreams.
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