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I have more than 11 years experience in IT support and administration (first-third level support), having worked on complex and large environments.

I always wanted to change my career towards software development, however, it’s difficult to do so without a degree… so six years ago I started my academic journey (evening classes out of my own personal finances) and am in the final stages of completing my degree in computer science.

My current salary (in IT administration) is very low (my current employer does not pay well and it is a well-known fact locally that it pays the lowest salaries). I was passed over for promotions due to a high level nepotism in my current company (others with less academic qualifications and experience were promoted several times - so it’s not the case that I lacked qualifications or experience), and I have been communicating with recruitment companies about job vacancies in software development, and from their feedback, my salary range will be about €4k more than I currently have. Furthermore, I am noticing a pattern, in which recruiters who I am communicating with are only referring certain job vacancies or nothing at all, when they have a vast list of job vacancies which appear to match my profile.

I did not start job hunting earlier, since my current company offers high job security and stability, something which I needed until I completed my studies.

I will also be looking for job vacancies on my own, and will not completely rely on recruitment companies.

I am more comfortable in certain software development platforms, and are more preferable, since it will be easier and take less time for me to adapt to, but I do not want to restrict myself in any way.

How can I improve my odds of getting a software development with a decent salary?

Which skills shall I put on my resume to make it stand out? Which side projects should I undertake… to build up my portfolio?

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    I'm not going to vote on your question either way, but the title of this question is basically a magnet for close-votes. Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 7:41
  • Thanks for your comment. The title was changed and made more specific
    – oxyrend
    Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 8:02
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    Career changes are always difficult. You just have to keep trying. Most hiring managers will look at your 11 long years in support/admin and rigidly assume that means you can't do other things. Just find any opportunities to demonstrate, in a concrete way, that you can do the things you want to do.
    – teego1967
    Commented Oct 3, 2022 at 23:44
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    "How can I improve my odds of getting a software development with a decent salary?" What do you consider a decent salary? Is it what you earn now, or average for a junior position? If you start out with no experience in the field, you should expect to get paid a junior level salary. Nobody is going to pay senior level salary for a junior.
    – Dnomyar96
    Commented Oct 5, 2022 at 14:15
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    Don't work with recruiters. Use job portals or check for open positions directly on the company website.
    – Elerium115
    Commented Oct 10, 2022 at 14:25

4 Answers 4

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Okay - IT Professional here.

Short answer: Be Proactive.

Longer, more in-depth answer:

So, you currently work with a company in a 3rd tier of support, yes? And you have exposure to Complex Environments? My first suggestion would be to find some commonly occurring task that you don't like to do and is laborious and try to automate it/build an application to handle it.

You don't have to do this as part of your official, day-to-day work, you can do it in your own time (so that Management can't have a whine about it).

First and foremost, this will make you encounter various real-world issues and in trying to overcome them, you will gain valuable, real-world experience. I have taught myself several different programming and scripting languages simply to overcome a current issue that I'm having - and you mentioned you haven't chosen a specific direction yet - so this will help you.

Secondly, When it comes time to talk with recruiters or potential other employers, you will have something that you can point to - that you identified a problem and sought to use your newly obtained skills and abilities to solve it (even better if you can throw out a metric of how it saved your current company Time/Money/Resources).

Now - onto the Recruiters part - if you can see that a Recruiter has jobs that they are not putting you forward for or are not sending to you - the first thing I would do is to pick one or two examples and ask them direct:

"Hi Mr/Mrs Recruiter person - I noticed on your website that you have these 2 jobs listed that I believe I meet or exceed the criteria for - yet, I don't believe you've contacted me to setup an Interview for them - can I ask why?"

They will probably waffle off some standard spiel - which is when you want to counter with something like:

"Okay, what can I do so that you would feel confident in recommending me for that Position?" - at which point, if the Recruiter is good, they will give you some aspects to work on - it may be experience, it may be skillset, it maybe familiarity with a specific language - whatever they say - you now know what it is you may need to work on in your own time to be able to say you meet those criteria.

And as a final thing - I'm currently moving from a Sysadmin type role to more of a BI/Data Type role, specifically because I did those things that I'm telling you to do - I found something that sucked (Finance Reports) and automated them and built a dashboard for them - taught myself PowerBI and some other stuff.

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  • "My first suggestion would be to find some commonly occurring task that you don't like to do and is laborious and try to automate it" - good grief, if you have to actually suggest to him to do this, he'd be going absolutely nowhere.
    – Steve
    Commented Oct 6, 2022 at 9:41
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The main sticking point for recruiters will be simply that you have no professional experience or background as a software developer.

There is almost no prospect of you getting that initial professional experience on a "decent salary".

And anecdotally, I see no evidence that those who only begin writing software around middle age, ever demonstrate a flair for it. I'm assuming that with 11 years experience in IT administration, you must be at least in your late 20s, if not mid 30s.

I suspect this is partly because as people get older, they accumulate commitments like partners, children, running independent households, and full-time jobs - they don't have the time and mental energy to invest in developing new skills to a high standard.

Also, since probably the 1980s, and certainly since the 2000s, hobbyists have been able to get access to personal computer hardware and pirate software at home. If you have that hobby background, it's generally unnecessary to be trained in computer science - you could have just found a developer job 6 years ago.

This is different from say the 1960s when people didn't have access to computer equipment outside of specialist employment, so it wasn't unusual to find adult workers who had no prior background, suddenly becoming good programmers.

I mention this because you refer to other people being promoted over you with less experience and qualifications - in fact, it's not unusual in IT that experience and qualifications correspond only very modestly with ability, performance, or perceived potential.

My advice would be that you should be prepared to take a salary cut and accept virtually anything with the title of developer. Even just three months of professional experience - assuming that you find it to be a walk in the park - will put you in a considerably stronger position in looking for a better developer role.

Alternatively, if a pay cut is unthinkable, consider looking for some kind of role that combines IT administration/support with software troubleshooting or maintenance programming in a larger team. An employer will be more prepared to pay when a candidate has a solid background in at least some of the role, and where a team environment allows individual strengths and weaknesses to be averaged out.

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I have more than 11 years experience in IT support and administration

So no software development experience

am in the final stages of completing my degree in computer science

Also, no relevant software development experience (you would have mentioned it otherwise)

I am noticing a pattern, in which recruiters who I am communicating with are only referring certain job vacancies or nothing at all, when they have a vast list of job vacancies which appear to match my profile.

I guess that they offer you entry level jobs, or even internships, since your CV is mainly blank...

Which skills shall I put on my resume to make it stand out? Which side projects should I undertake… to build up my portfolio?

"which skills" - reading between the lines of your question, you do not have such skills (not something worth mentioning, I mean)

"to make it stand out" - it is blank, it kind of already stands out, but not in the way you want.


So what can be done? Well, in the first place, make sure that you really want to do software development. Getting a degree and performing a job are not the same. If you did not accumulate software development skills and experience in 6 years, you might not be cut for it. A real "programmer" cannot stay away too much from the computer. He always has an idea about testing some program or some script or to automate some task.

If you have this kind of experience put it in your CV. If you do not have it, build it. Do programs at home. Tinker things. Maybe enroll for an internship.

Or, take the easiest path, accepting the downsides: accept an entry level job. At the beginning you will have a smaller salary, but you will build experience without sacrificing personal time. Gradually, your salary will increase. Either in the company, or by changing companies. You already lived so many years on a small salary, for no reason (i.e., you could have went to a better company). You have the chance to have a reason, even though the salary will be small temporarily.

However, you need to remember: no company will pay you a senior level salary for an entry level job. The opposite can be true, though: work as a senior, be paid as a beginner.

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  • "However, you need to remember: no company will pay you a senior level salary for an entry level job" This is a very important point. Don't go in expecting to get the same level (or more) of pay then your current pay with 11 years of experience. You'll start at junior level, with matching pay.
    – Dnomyar96
    Commented Oct 5, 2022 at 14:10
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Have you taken any college level courses, certificate programs, online learning, etc. in software development? If so, list though classes. Also why haven't you pursued an online degree or taken one class a semester to reach toward a college degree, even an associates? It seems that in the last 11 years that you could have made progress on your education and skills to get to where you claim you want to be.

I graduated with a BS in electrical engineering and struggled to find work and then decided to look for software engineering jobs. I took an 8 week certificate program in UNIX and C programming from a prominent local university. I couldn't afford it but I took out a student loan to cover the cost. It was a rough 8 weeks working full time and being in class full time but I got through it. That certificate lead me to an entry level tech support job with a software company where I learned everything I could about the product, architecture, etc. I started fixing bugs and then moved up the ladder. Today I am a principal software engineer with 25 years of experience and can pretty much write my own ticket.

So get some additional formal education and be ready to start at an entry level position. No one will probably care about your 11 years of IT experience unless it is directly relevant to the position in software development. Then be patient and work your way up the chain.

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  • I am in the final stages of completing a degree in Computer Science. I also have a diploma in IT.
    – oxyrend
    Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 13:41
  • Then you should be able to land some sort of entry to mid level job in development once you obtain your degree.
    – rhoonah
    Commented Aug 24, 2022 at 3:52

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