I am becoming extremely frustrated and I don't know if my current situation is common or if I am doing something wrong.

A little on my background:

I am a technical person by nature. I moonlighted on help forums for technical issues which awarded me a Microsoft MVP for three years before I transitioned to Information Technology for my career and started going back to school.

Now I am an IT Professional with experience in Exchange, Active Directory, PowerShell, Windows, Office, Mobile devices, hardware etc. I have written a handful of applications professionally for use by a team, and also by a region with thousands of users.

In my spare time I tend to work with various programming and scripting languages. I have released a handful of these on various sites (CodePlex, SourceForge, Windows Phone Store). I also have released some YouTube tutorials (which I have never posted in a resume if it matters).

The truth is, I am passionate and enjoy development. I have spoken with coworkers who are developers by trade and receive nothing but praise and encouragement.

Now the problems start: I have little to no formal training. I have just received my Associates of Science - Liberal Arts and plan to continue for Computer Science / Computer Engineering.

Most frustrating however, is I cannot get a single serious conversation with a company for a development position. Each time I apply for an entry level position which I should qualify for I receive no response, an auto-reject or a recruiter that seems to not understand my qualifications and then no follow up for interviews. I receive maybe a dozen jobs a week for Sr level C#, or Sr Android Developer positions which I know I am not qualified for, but I speak with the recruiters and put on my best phone presence...

My department is being eliminated so I have to find something. One direction is to continue on my current path and take a progressive route in IT doing something like server Admin. What I want is to take this opportunity and move to development.

So my question ultimately is: What is wrong here? Am I over-shooting? Am I severely under-qualified or is the first step into development always this difficult/frustrating? How can I increase my chances of getting an entry-level development job before I complete my Computer Science degree?

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    hello, consider editing the question to make it better fit site topics laid out in help center. In particular, this guidance may help to learn what is expected of questions here. Good luck! – gnat Dec 19 '14 at 17:06
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    Recommended edits to make your question fit closer to the guidelines. You seem to want to know if you're likely to be hired for a dev job with informal experience, and how you can communicate that experience to get more interest. "Am I severely under-qualified?" is a specific, individual question. We can't really know, and answers that are useful for you won't be for others. "Is the first step into development always this difficult/frustrating?" is really subjective & variable, so it's also hard to give a real answer. But "How do I showcase my programming experience?" we can work with. – Kelly Tessena Keck Dec 19 '14 at 18:41
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    What are you doing with the "dozen jobs a week" that you do get? Perhaps you are shooting off your foot here as that seems a big contradiction with the "I cannot get a single serious conversation" to my mind. – JB King Dec 19 '14 at 19:05
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    This question is very relevant to me. I am in the exact same boat, down to my current position in IT managing the Windows domain. Glad to see that I'm not the only one having such horrid luck, I feel a bit better about it :) – user17163 Dec 19 '14 at 19:12
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    You do realize that what is considered senior in one place may be junior in another right? Sometimes language can be BS but I do think you may be turning down opportunities because you are expecting things to be packaged in a specific way that isn't likely that realistic but hey that's just my free advice for you. – JB King Dec 19 '14 at 20:09

What is wrong here?

HR people, and hiring processes in general are frequently horrible. They are extremely biased towards people who follow "the Right path" - college with CS bachelors, then experience.

Am I over-shooting?

It depends on the positions, and it depends on the quality of your CodePlex/SourceForge stuff but it doesn't sound like it. By simply having successful working code, you're better off than most professional programmers (at any level) who spend their time maintaining aging codebases or gluing databases to basic UIs.

is the first step into development always this difficult/ frustrating?

I had far less visible experience than you when I made the transition. It took 18 months of applying to pretty much any development gig that was remotely relevant. Maybe 1 in 15 or so applications got so much as a phone screen. But I did eventually find a company to take a shot on me (at a decidedly below-market rate), only to find I was the second best programmer in the group.

Some years later, and my career is well off. Having that passion and actual ability is far more valuable once you get "experience" so that the HR roadblocks play to your favor.

For now, I would recommend using your "coworkers who are developers" contacts. They can put in a good word for you, which is the first, best way to circumvent the HR bureaucracy. All you need is the foot in the door.

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  • Thanks a lot! Not all my hosted examples are working but the ones on my resume are at least Beta on average... As for the coworkers unfortunately our local market is pretty poor - So I am applying basically 7 hours drive in any direction and outside their sphere of experience in market knowledge (ah, the challenges of relocation talks to boot) – AthomSfere Dec 19 '14 at 17:00
  • @AthomSfere - You might be surprised at the range of influence groups of people randomly have. – Telastyn Dec 19 '14 at 17:02
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    Disagree with this part: "By simply having successful working code, you're better off than most professional programmers (at any level) who spend their time maintaining aging codebases or gluing databases to basic UIs.", writing your own working programs is much much easier than understanding and maintaining legacy codebases, especially with the quality of a lot of these legacy codebases – cowls Dec 19 '14 at 17:03
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    @cowls - it depends on the job. There are certainly some challenging codebases, but in my experience, making small changes with solid requirements requires far less skill than designing something from scratch with more ambiguous requirements. YMMV. – Telastyn Dec 19 '14 at 17:05
  • @Telastyn I would agree with you. The best situation is to have both: A job where you are maintaining a codebase but are developing a new system at the same time (for example, a project that helps team productivity). Writing APIs gives you design, and maintaining code gives you implementation. Combining both is gold:) – Lawrence Aiello Dec 19 '14 at 17:48

It sounds like you have more than enough experience to qualify for a development job.

Consider focusing on smaller businesses and startups. Many of those types of companies don't have an "HR" department who will filter you out based on a hard set of requirements. The owner/CEO themselves might even be the ones doing the interviewing and hiring. They tend to have more concern for practical experience than paper credentials.

Also, put together a portfolio of the applications you've created. Nothing complex, just one page per application with a screen shot and very brief description. That shows concrete production. This way you can show them actual finished projects you've worked on, and help alleviate any concerns about being qualified.

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