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I have a degree in Business Administration. I have one year and a half of experience as an accounting analyst (where I live -not USA- people who have a degree in business have accounting jobs).

I discovered programming and liked it very much. I decided to change careers. My plan was to leave the job I had as an accounting analyst and learn programming on my own to become a freelance web developer. I resigned, started learning programming but realised freelancing was difficult (especially if you have never worked as a programmer).

I started studying Computer Science at university and now I am looking for my first programming job (where I live people work full time and study at university at the same time). There's a gap of more than one year where I was self learning programming. I made two websites that I uploaded to my personal website.

My question is: How can I describe that gap where I did not work because I was self learning programming? Should I tell my original plan (self learn programming, then start freelancing, realised freelancing was difficult)? What is the best way to tell this? Do you think I should get an accounting job now (because my work experience is related to that and because having no job is bad) now and then, in the future, change to a programming job? I have no expenses, I like with my family.

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    Would you mind giving more specific information about where you live, exactly? How to frame your history positively is very culture-dependent. – MY_G Apr 13 '16 at 15:34
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In your interview you need to portray your original plan as spirited and driven but ultimately naive. You need to be able to show that you had specific goals in mind for self-study with the end purpose of starting your own business.

You don't want to use the word "hard" in an interview. As you gained more experience from your self-studies, you realized that your original plan was flawed and you would need more formal education in order to meet your end goals. To this end, you have enrolled in a university and are back on track to become a programmer. At this point, you feel you would benefit from more hands-on experience before attempting to again "break out on your own". Hence, the reason you are looking for a new job.

A description of what you did during the time as well as an introspective review of your year of unemployment will show that you were not just sitting around during this time frame. More important, it will also show that you learn from your mistakes and adjust plans in order to meet end goals. Self-determination is desirable in the workplace but foolhardiness is not... so you want to attempt to portray yourself as independent and self-reflective rather than idealistic and whimsical.

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    You may not want to say that you're taking the job as a stepping stone to what you really want to do. – Amy Blankenship Apr 13 '16 at 21:21
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I would never mention anything that wasn't successful. I would say I was studying or just say I was staying home helping a family member during which time I did what I could to learn developing. Your explanation comes across to me as long winded and unproveable (you have no certifications, and two websites is not much) and therefore pretty irrelevant.

You're going to be applying for a starter position, this sort of stuff is not as important to the interviewer as what experience you have. So I would push the experience angle.

It's generally a good idea to be in constant employment, but if you have no expenses it's up to you. It looks better on a resume, and employers prefer it for many reasons. I'm not sure I would want to employ someone with no expenses, it means that my major hold on them (pay) is less important, so I need to motivate them another way and discipline might become an issue in the future. For this reason I never take on the kids of well connected, wealthy families here (third World) because they don't care about the job in the same way.

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How can I describe that gap where I did not work because I was self learning programming?

You say, "I decided to take time off and focus on learning how to program."

Should I tell my original plan (self learn programming, then start freelancing, realised freelancing was difficult)?

You say, "I started out wanting to do freelance work. However, I realized that I'd rather focus on the programming side and leave the business side to others while working in a more stable environment."


Running a business isn't for everyone. Some people love wearing all the hats, others realize that either they have no talent for it or simply decide it's just too much responsibility to bear for the life they want. Freelancing itself is "feast or famine" - in other words you can go from drowning in all the work you have to not having any work at all. Some people can excel in that environment, others hate the instability of it.

There's absolutely no shame in this. Recognizing your desires and/or limitations is a huge plus. Any manager you'd want to work for wouldn't think bad about you because of it. Rather they should applaud the spirit of your attempt.

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In your interview, it's important to tell the truth about your experience and skills as it relates to the facts. You know language/framework/platform X. You worked Y number of months/years at position Z. You spent a year learning to program.

How you present those facts is entirely up to you, and in an interview scenario you want to relate them in a positive way, and in the most favorable light. You may have your own internal interpretation of what these events meant in your life, but they may now take on a new meaning because they've led you to new opportunities you wouldn't have had before.

Changing careers is hard -- there's no harm in saying simply that you took a year off in order to retool for a career change. That takes dedication, sacrifice, and passion -- qualities that a potential employer looks for and certainly takes into account.

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