February 28, 2021
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Your VB Career

  • By Dax Pandhi
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So you wanna start out on your career as an employee of a big corporation? That's great.

The whole process starts early in your high school years. Let's figure out what you should do:


Practice, practice, practice! A programmer programs! Whether you're in school or studying on your own, you should spend as many hours possible, in programming something. Never settle for less - work till you die (Ed: Not recommended) - but make what you make the best you can. Keep raising the goal post, keep yourself challenged. Don't throw away your older projects, keep 'em organized and dated. They are a record of your life long work that just might get you a job.

A creative coordinator at a major corporation in LA (name suppressed) told me he was dismayed at the small quantity of work graduate programmers showed in their interview portfolios. So make 'em well and store 'em good!

Résumé & Cover Letter

When sending off your resume (CV) for a job, remember to include a cover letter. Keep it all business-like - neat, and professional. If you submit anything containing typos, it doesn't speak well for your attention to detail. Run a spell check, that's what it's there for.

Creative layouts of résumés are A-OK, but make sure both the résumé and the cover letter are easily readable. Tahoma, Arial, Verdana and Times New Roman are the best fonts. Tiny or confusing typography is counterproductive.

Stress your schooling and/or industry experience. The better places to work have gotten past the sweatshop mentality. They're looking for people with balanced lives. The burnout rate on workaholics is too high to support in the long run.

In your cover letter, stress the position you are applying for and why you want it. Show that you understand what the job entails, and why you want to work for that particular company.


You got the call for the interview! That's great! Now, calm down. That's the first rule of surviving an interview. Yes, its stressful, but no one's ever been executed for a poor interview! You'll live through, buddy!

Right now, the demand for competent and talented programmers is high, so considering you're one of 'em, you're in a great position. Just relax and be yourself the interviewer is looking for reasons to hire you, not turn you away.

Most companies are very casual places but at the interview, you need to make the best impression possible. So show up in smart business attire, clean shaven.

In addition to checking out your techie talents, they'll also wanna know whether you'll fit into the crowd. If you mix with the present team, it's gonna be bad. I've heard of talented people working with talented people, but were fired because they just didn't 'fit in'.

Also, remember - the interview is the perfect time to ask questions. Ask about the environment, ask about the people working there, ask about the benefits of the job. There is usually a tour of the facilities and environment along with the interview. If not, politely ask, "Could I have a brief tour of the work area?".

Also, if you're looking for a more relaxed working environment, check out the company walls for funky posters or cartoons. In my company, all the cubicles contain posters - Doom, Quake II, Simpsons, Robotech, etc. Try to gauge how strict they are and whether that suits you.

Houston, The Eagle Has Landed

You got the call you got the job! Congratulations! Now, the first thing to do is NOT to say yes right away. Tell them you'll get back to them. If they get all cranky, you're probably better off without the job anyway.

You might also want to ask them to mail or fax you a copy of the terms of the position and all the other official whatnots. Get everything in writing (or e-mailed, if accompanied by a digital ID). If not, you won't have a legal leg to stand on if things get sticky.

Are they offering enough compensation, both in pay and benefits? Will you be able to cover your living expenses, plus taxes, and other financial needs? There's nothing wrong with making a counteroffer, if their offer is too low. Benefits like vacation time, overtime, and comp time are negotiable, too. Unless the company is very large and has ironclad labor contracts, everything is on the table. If your annual two week trip to Yellowstone is more important than an extra $3,000 in salary, negotiate for the extra time off. It is wise to stay aware of the going compensation for equivalent positions in other companies.

Before you sign an employment contract, read it carefully, and possibly run it past a good lawyer. It could save a lot of trouble down the line.

Houston, The Eagle Has Crashed

No phone call yet? No "when can you start" messages? Don't just sit there! Send out further résumés. Stay in contact with previous potential-hirers and it may turn out you're the gold mine for that position opening up in a few months!

If you get a definitive turn down, don't take it personally - and don't give up. Take this opportunity to ask the interviewer (politely, of course) for a critique of your work and/or the interview. If the decision was based on the quality of your work, ask them what you should improve on.

Press on nothing can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Perseverance and determination alone are omnipotent" - Calvin Coolidge

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This article was originally published on November 22, 2002

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