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I am looking for a source of income this summer, and I am 15. I have several years of experience with software development and about a year of web development experience with PHP, JavaScript, etc. and would like to try to get a job at a local software company. I have a couple in mind I might be able to apply for, but I am not sure how to be taken seriously, as I would prefer to try to avoid doing something more like an internship than a job. One company, for example, has summer camp programs that are essentially unpaid internships, aimed to give some experience with software development. I am more trying to actually see if I can work somewhere and do work for the company like a standard employee. I do not have any well-known projects that I have worked on, but I do have some of the code that I have written and enough know-how to pass most skill tests for several programming languages.

What are some complications I will likely have to deal with when applying for a job? Any advice on how to go about this?

  • What jurisdiction? If United States, which state? – Andrew Jun 9 '15 at 2:43
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Monica Cellio Jun 10 '15 at 20:53
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What are some complications I will likely have to deal with when applying for a job?

  • Reliable transportation to the place of work
  • Permission from your parents
  • Your age
  • Your lack of ability to show your experience through prior work
  • The short duration of your availability

All of these "complications" can work against you. But, as they say, "it only takes one".

Any advice on how to go about this?

  • Put together a terrific resume and cover letter
  • @Luceos would suggest including code examples
  • @phyrfox suggests including a portfolio
  • Have them reviewed by someone experienced in this field (perhaps those folks at Hyland you know)
  • Send it to several companies (preferably a company where you have an "in" like Hyland)
  • Prepare for (and even practice) your interview skills
  • Hope for the best
  • As @ToddWilcox points out, if you land a job offer, you'll need your Social Security card, and in some states you'll need a work permit as an underage worker
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    If you add prepare a code example to the résumé i think your answer is amazing. – Luceos Jun 8 '15 at 16:06
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    Even better, a portfolio. Perhaps a GitHub repo that contains several public open source projects you've done. Doesn't need to be mind-blowing, just carefully developed and free of show-stopping defects, like memory leaks, etc. Code that you're proud enough to share, but not so "intellectual property"-ish that you don't want to share. – phyrfox Jun 8 '15 at 20:18
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    In the USA, also have a copy of one's social security card and any work permit required at that age. In Virginia, you have to have a work permit to hold a job if you are age 14 or 15. At 16 you can work without a permit. Anyone who actually hires you (As opposed to being an independent contractor) will have to verify your work elegibility (i.e., citizenship or green card) and will need to see your social security card for that. – Todd Wilcox Jun 8 '15 at 21:04
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There shouldn't be any legal issues with your age, but a couple things to think about:

  1. If you will be going back to school in the fall, then you are highly unlikely to get offered a full time position. It just doesn't make any sense to hire you as a salaried employee (as opposed to being on a contract) when you'll be leaving in a few months. Even graduate students with 1+ degrees in programming still only get internships if it's temporary.

  2. What makes you think that an internship is any less 'real' than a 'standard employee'? In software, it takes 4 - 6 months for a new hire to get used to the codebase, that company's dev cycle, etc. For the first 4 - 6 months you're gonna be on a learning curve - and treated as such - whether you choose to call that an internship, or something else, doesn't change the experience.

  3. Rather than asking yourself "Do I have the knowledge to pass an interview test?", you should really be asking "Am I more skilled / have more experiences than other people who are applying?" You will likely be applying against people with college degrees / years of work experience, many of whom are happy to start with an internship. Is there a reason that you're a better candidate than them?

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Others have commented on the legal/professional issues but I feel I should comment on the technical issues. I was in the same position as you were at one point so I have some insight others may not have.

When I was 15 I had extensive knowledge of computer programming as well, at least I thought I did. When I was 16 I published multiple Apps to Google Play and even made a few websites. I definitely felt that I was ready for a software developer job so I was in the same boat as you.

But you do need to keep in mind that watching videos, reading books, and practicing code only gets you so far. There is NO substitute for actually taking University level classes. The amount of technique I learned in just 2 years of University made what I knew before-hand look like nothing.

So what I'm saying for your situation is that I'm sure that you are quite skilled, but being able to do software development and do it well are two incredibly different things. You need to be sure that you are to the level that a professional would be before attempting to get a professional level job. In the professional workplace software developers are expected to know A LOT about what it is they are doing. And it can get hard even for people with CS degrees.

I know that it is hard to imagine that there are things you can still learn about software development when you already know so much, but take my word that there are things that you probably haven't even considered. Algorithm Time Complexity, Optimization techniques, industry standards (BIG one), and how high-level langues are translated to low-level byte code (seems unimportant but can really improve your code) are just a few of the things that go into being a software development.

So all-in-all id suggest an internship or similar where the point of you being there is to learn, as opposed to keep up with professionals is the way to go. And don't take my answer the wrong way. I'm not saying I think there is no way you are actually good, I'm just saying you most likely are not YET ready. I may be wrong, but my personal experience tells me you may get in over your head at a real software development job at 15.

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    I like this answer because it outlines what I'm sure a lot of developers have been through. The amount of information out there is absolutely staggering and often times, outside of the basics, you won't even know what you need to learn until you run head first into it. It has nothing to do with age and you learn to be humble about it. That being said, I think that getting a part time position as an intern or even just job shadowing a software development position would do wonders for anyone just starting out. – zfrisch Jun 8 '15 at 23:54
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    I take some issue with "There is NO substitute for actually taking University level classes". I think the flip side is potentially more true - there is NO substitute for working with professionals on real projects with real deadlines for real users. You can be a cog in that machine at any experience level as long as you stay humble about your current level of knowledge. QA & documentation are super important, no team would turn away another person working on them, and acting like they're "not real dev skills" is harmful not only to the individual, but their team and the industry as a whole. – iabw Jun 9 '15 at 17:34
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    @iabw I would argue that both are equally true. You certainly need both equally. In terms of knowing the industry there is NO substitute for working with professionals, but what I was saying is that just watching videos and reading books (like most beginners do, I certainly did!) is no substitute for a true education in Computer Science. And I never said that QA and doc is not real dev skills. Being a cog in the machine is different than what the OP is asking. He is asking about a full Software Dev job. For which my answer is tailored to. Just QA and documentation sounds like an intern to me. – Troy Jun 9 '15 at 21:34
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First good luck with this, it can be hard to find a summer job but it is great for you in the long run if you can get early experience in your eventual field.

You would be looking for short term, entry level employment. This is pretty much the definition of an internship. If they already have a program which is basically unpaid internships, getting HR to bite on paying you to fill the same role is not completely impossible but tough.

Ways to get around this are to leverage your network and reduce competition. To reduce competition look at other software companies that don't have an unpaid internship program going. These are more likely to have non-essential projects that they could throw your way. Regardless of which company you go to, get in a good word from anyone you know working there. When it comes to giving someone their first break this is of huge value.

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It is extremely unlikely that you will get a position higher than intern in that field at that age. Even under the generous assumption that you can convince a employer that you have the requisite skills you will be unable to convince them that you have the requisite commitment. A step further, assuming you can convince some employer that you meet the minimum requirements to even be in consideration you still have to prove your a better hire then the dozens of adults with many fold your experience and formal education (even other self taught programmers will have at least a GED if not additional certifications, college education).

It would be much easier to convince someone that you would be a solid choice as cheap intern that can bang out a couple low impact scripts/apps in place of hiring an actual employee they have to salary, and provide benefits for.

I would recommend looking for paid internships. If none are available, then determine why you want the job. If you want it for experience then take an unpaid internship, if you are looking to make some cash find a more age appropriate position.

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No, you cannot really work like a "normal" job, and I am bit surprised that noone has pointed this out yet.

The problem is not experience, it is simply your legal status. In every first-world country people which are not adults (mostly 18 years) are able to void any contract anytime and their legal custodian must also affirm a contract to make it valid. There are also in many countries very strict laws concerning the amount of work a minor may do to avoid harm. Can you imagine that the local CEO of a software firm would give you under this circumstances a "normal" job ?

That is the reason for internship. You can also make money by doing isolated programming work, but it will not be comparable to a regular job for the reasons mentioned above.

ADDITION: The questioner explicitly said: "I am more trying to actually see if I can work somewhere and do work for the company like a standard employee.". So he is not asking if he can work (yes, he can), but if he can work exactly like an adult person. Minors are working for small services (paper round, waitress, tasks like painting and repairing) and part-time work (often starting their apprenticeship), but for this work you don't sign contracts and as minor you almost always never earn the same amount of money.

Work yes, standard employee no.

I know that 16-18 is the transition phase from adolescence to adulthood and some adults don't take the difference very seriously. But a company puts itself in a very risky legal situation if they try to treat him as standard employee, so they don't.

  • I don't think it works that way. When I was growing up in England, the age of majority was 21, but the minimum school leaving age was 16. I don't remember any restrictions in the 16 to 21 year-olds getting regular jobs. – Patricia Shanahan Jun 9 '15 at 4:18
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    @PatriciaShanahan You might start with Minors and the Age of Majority: Entering into Contracts with Minors for a general discussion of English contract considerations with minors (i.e., under 18). Such contracts are valid, but they're also apparently generally voidable by a minor party for essentially no reason. Numerous other sources are easy to find. – user2338816 Jun 9 '15 at 7:44
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    There are two very different issues here, entering into a binding contract and getting a job. The second is the relevant one. As a matter of direct observation, it is possible for people to be able to hold jobs without being old enough to make binding contracts. – Patricia Shanahan Jun 9 '15 at 8:54

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