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I graduated with a BS in CS in late 2013. I began working my first job as a 'programmer' almost three months ago. Since hire I have not seen or worked with code, and my impression is this won't change in the near future. I have come to the conclusion that my position is IT-support, mislabeled as programmer. My responsibilities can be summarized as updating / maintaining vendor applications through admin tools.

My performance review is in one week. I plan to discuss my concern with my boss and request a transition to a developer position based on my expectations prior to joining. My interview process included discussing C# / .NET development as well as general quiz questions regarding C#. I was a naive graduate who assumed this meant I would be working with this language and framework; I didn't ask the right questions.

My questions are:

  1. How can I convey my unhappiness with this situation to my boss without being fired?

  2. If there is no possible transition, should I seek new employment for a development position? I am afraid that if I continue to work in IT I will enter a limbo where future employers will not consider me for actual software development positions because I have no experience in the field. My only work will have been personal and academic projects.

I have asked family members for advice, and they are pressuring me to stick with this job for at least 1.5 years to get experience. I feel that this is going to doom my career. I love coding and am a loss as to how to approach this situation.

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    Welcome to The Workplace! As explained in our help center, questions that ask "What should I do?" aren't a great fit here. If possible, could you please edit your question to focus it a bit along the guidelines in the help center? As-is it will likely be closed very soon. Thanks in advance! – jmac Jan 17 '14 at 8:18
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    +1 for focusing on what you may have done wrong to contribute to the situation and what you can do to fix it. This is a very mature analysis of the situation, especially for somebody right out of college. – Brandon Jan 17 '14 at 15:30
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    I am not a fan of short-term first jobs, but in the case where you got misclassified out of the profession you wanted to be in, that is a legitimate reason to stay less than a year. I think very few people hiring actual programmers would care that you left a job not doing programming in less than a year. I think they would see it as the smart move as the longer you are away from programming the harder it is to get back. Just make sure you say you thought the role was programming and it turned out not to be and don't diss the current employer. – HLGEM Jan 17 '14 at 16:42
  • I'm curious what came of this. Do you have an update @user13482? – Myles Apr 8 '15 at 15:30
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You are on the right track. Getting "diverted" to support work can wreck your career.

Schedule an appointment (don't wait for your performance review), and talk with your boss, and tell him all of this. Ask him directly if there is a programmer's role for you in the company, or if what you're doing now is what he needs done.

If the former, work with him to develop a plan: Projects that need built, how to minimize your support role, etc.

If the latter, then find a programmer's job and leave as soon as possible.

Your family (and perhaps even your boss) likely don't understand the difference. For many, "Computers is computers." They won't / can't / will never understand the gigantic difference between roles.

If you get grief from your family, explain it to them this way: "I studied to be an automotive engineer. They had me changing oil."

  • Is it a red flag to bring this situation up before the three month mark? Will leaving a job before ~five months tarnish my resume? My friends / relatives working in business careers are warning me about leaving before the six month mark. – user13482 Jan 17 '14 at 2:39
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    If you get job #2 first, before leaving job#1, it won't matter, but stay at that job at least 2 years if you can. Anyone you interview with for job #2 will understand when you tell them your weren't doing the job you were hired for. Then, when looking for job #3, you can say, "Job #1 hired me for development, but I was doing nothing but support work." Then the 2-year stint on job #2 will "shine," especially if you can build up some good references while you're there. Job #2 will be the deciding factor. Make it a good choice and a good run. – Wesley Long Jan 17 '14 at 2:51
  • Your response is much appreciated. I'm still concerned with confronting my boss. I was planning to explain to him what I expected to be doing based on my interviews and the job posting. I would then explain that these duties are not lining with my career, but I feel that this will be offensive. I also am not sure how to end the conversation if he denies my request for transition. – user13482 Jan 17 '14 at 3:09
  • If you are going to work in software development, then you are going to have to get good at confrontation ... and at losing in confrontations. It's a harsh world. We eat our young in this business sometimes. If you don't stand up for yourself, who do you think will? If he denies your request, thank him for his time, do the work you are assigned, and polish up the resume. – Wesley Long Jan 17 '14 at 3:11
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    You don't have to be confrontational to raise the issue at your review (and it's only a week away). If merely raising the issue gets you fired, then you're seriously better off out of there. Otherwise, Wesley is right - stick it out where you are for now and use the time to look for Job #2 that really suits you, rather than jumping quickly and maybe ending up no better off. – Julia Hayward Jan 17 '14 at 10:07
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Support roles such as what you're describing are hard to fill, precisely because people want 'programmers' to fill 'non-programming' positions. Your employer has evidently structured the role so that no programming is even remotely possible - this is a bad idea for various reasons. If they can't see why, it's time to run for the exits.

The thing to ask for first is programming work of some sort, even if it has nothing to do with the product you're supporting. This will keep you engaged in programming work, even if it isn't your primary responsibility. The best objective in all of this is to get progressively more familiar with the internals of the application you're supporting.

If that is flat rule out, it's time to go. If you are interviewing with other employers, you can simply say: "They recruited for a programming position, and placed me in a support role. It isn't programming work.". Most employers would understand that instantly - keeping that job for a year and a half would be bad news.

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    I would just add, after working as a technology specialist helping my own company's HR department fill these support roles for the past year, that these roles are not "hard to fill" (as you say). It's just that companies tend to want to get young graduates who are overqualified. Such young folks need a first job on the resume, so the strategy truly is a "bait-and-switch" and so many companies do this intentionally. Convince the young person that the work is cutting edge and cool, but then switch it to all of the boring stuff that you want an over-qualified person to handle. My advice: run! – ely Jan 27 '14 at 14:20
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How can I convey my unhappiness with this situation to my boss without being fired?

Your performance review is in one week. This is the best time to discuss it with your boss. First, express your concern. Don't just request a transition directly. Listen to his explanation first. If the explanation he provides does not satisfy you, then request a transition. You need to be rational.

should I seek new employment for a development position?

Don't seek new employment just yet. Other companies may do the same thing. What are you going to do if the new employer does the same? Get another new job? Try to save the current job first. If no hope to fix it, then move to another one. You also should put other factors into consideration, such as salary, location, the boss and co-workers, etc., when you move to another job. Good luck!

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