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Is applying to entry-level programming/engineering jobs a waste of my time?

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Hi. Here's the situation:

I just finished a BA degree in cognitive science. That major was, in terms of employment, a mistake, and to compensate for this I've tried as much as possible to develop some computer-science skills. I minored in CS, and made my honors project a programming project. I had hoped that my cognitive science degree would give me some sort of edge in applying to machine-learning-related positions. I'm pretty much a best-case-scenario in terms of innate problem-solving and learning ability, I'm a pretty amicable person, and, as far as I can tell, my college CS education wasn't THE SHALLOWEST. Alas, it doesn't sound like any of these advantages matter much to hiring managers. I can't escape the mountain of reasons to be highly pessimistic about getting an entry-level job, or even a paid internship, in programming or engineering:

- I don't know any of the acronyms in the job descriptions that I look at.
- Everywhere I look, I see Quora answers and Youtube rants saying that CS recruiters are swamped with delusional applicants like me, and this is a problem for everyone involved.
- For one of the jobs I applied to, I did the Triplebyte general aptitude quiz, and scored 1/5 in three of the four categories.*
- I'm a white male, so no diversity credit.
- The only language I've worked in is Java/C#.
- My github account only has two projects on it. One is a large group project that I clearly didn't participate in much, and the other is the above-mentioned honors project: a Unity program (could you guess Unity from the C#?).

Obviously, I'd rather be a programmer or an engineer than work in retail or in a factory, and I'm willing to put in work to find a programming/engineering job. But I read so many narratives from people more qualified than myself, people who drill themselves daily on coding practice questions, job-searching for years unsuccessfully. Past a certain point of hopelessness, shouldn't I just cut to the chase and go for the retail job?

I appreciate any candid advice you can give.


*Side note: I actually passed this quiz, and was offered fast-track applications. I Googled it, and this is actually not a universal outcome. It is possible to fail the quiz, and it is possible to not be offered fast-track. What happened here?
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Look around for summer internships at companies you would be proud to work at. There are new grad internships that pay nearly as well as full time employees. They are specific to new graduates so you need to look for them now. Don't rule them out just because it says internship. If you go in with the attitude that they won't hire you after the internship is over then they likely won't. Go into an interview with the mindset that you'll work there forever. No employer likes wasting valuable training on an intern who is only there to get the experience and leave. Obviously you can leave...but you need to show them you are an FTE they want to keep and pay well.

Northern Virginia, Denver Colorado and California (extreme cost of living here though) are great places to look.

I worked retail for a decade before getting into IT, it's a job. If you need money take a job, if not I'd go the intern route.
 

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I'll second the suggestion to seek limited-time internships and similar experiences. If nothing else, they'll teach you the sort of work environment and roles that you may or may not prefer before committing to a full-time position. That's been something I've learned from my two internship/co-op experiences I've had in college, and I hadn't considered that benefit beforehand.


Maybe not the most useful advice for you at the moment, but its something to consider.
 
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