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What exactly am I qualified for?

  • Thread starter Mistake
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  • #1
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Main Question or Discussion Point

Here's a picture of my resume:

4ZPTw.jpg

I tried to black out some things but you can probably figure it out if you do a lot of digging. Anyway, it doesn't. I just don't know what kind of jobs to apply for. No, I did not finish graduate school. I flunked out. That was almost a year ago as you can see. From then, any job I've looked at I just didn't feel I was qualified for. Oh sure, I applied anyway, but never heard back.

Engineering? Programming? Data analysis? No idea where to even look.

Currently I am learning more programming and will jump on an open-source project so I can tell potential employers that I'm actively learning on my own, enjoy programming (which I do), and hopefully it will show that I am capable. But this can take a long time before I can make any real contribution to a project I think, and I don't even know if that's my best option.

Can anybody please help? Or at least point me somewhere where I could figure this out? I did career counseling in my alma mater a few months ago. Nothing specific came out of it, just general resume building techniques and job search strategies. But nothing like "Oh yeah, with your skill set you should look at [career X]."

I'm not picky. I went into physics because I enjoy so many different things and physics let me experience a bit of everything. But I just don't know what I should be doing at this point.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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Well, start with your first job. You fixed low noise amplifiers. That should get your foot in the door for RF design work. You might also get some traction working with industrial engineering processes. Places like nuclear power plants are always looking for entry level engineers to pick up from the previous generation.

The truth is that a physics degree is very broad. Your skill set could serve very well, however, in an engineering/maintenance environment. Many graduate from schools who know nothing about how to solder, let alone how to configure an oscilloscope properly.

Consider working at a radio station or at a telecommunications provider of some sort.
 
  • #3
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Here's the thing: it wasn't so much a job as it was undergrad work over the summer. "Fixing" the pre-amps was a matter of my supervisor telling me "Replace these parts here with this new set I'm giving you."

I've been told the RF industry is in desperate need of people, but when I look at jobs in the field, say this one:

https://ericsson.taleo.net/careersection/usa_corporate/jobdetail.ftl?lang=en&job=897888&src=JB-202 [Broken]

I just feel woefully incompetent. Sure, I know a good chunk of those things, but nowhere near all. Most jobs in this area specifically require knowledge of how WiFi or some other protocol work and I have absolutely no experience there.
 
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  • #4
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Bring that resume to a career fair at your university. That's where the entry level jobs are. Look for big companies first. Larger companies will often advertise their career fair attendance schedule.

Look, you're coming in at the bottom. Your degree is simply a foot in the door. Where I work we would train someone for at least a year before we would give them tasks to do on their own, and then we'd monitor and guide them for an additional two years before we'd even think of giving them a significant project to work on by themselves. There is lots of mundane things to train you with: First aid, CPR, Arc Flash, confined space atmospheres, SCBA gear, climbing and rescue, defensive driving, financial policies, procurement card use... This stuff gets ridiculous after a while. And then there are the technical courses we take every year. Nevertheless, after having seen friends get hurt or killed, sometimes through no fault of their own, you begin to understand why this stuff is so necessary.

You owe it to yourself to learn for a few years, perhaps move laterally or up in the organization, and then consider how you might want to do a startup of your own or whether you want to do something completely different.

Contact the HR departments of some major employers. Tell them you're fresh out of college with these sorts of skills, and then see what they may have.

You might be surprised where you land.
 
  • #5
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Your resume (not your skills or abilities) STINKS!

Take off the soldering, o-scope, and power tool stuff. Makes you sound like a lab technician/machine shop monkey.

ONLY put the high level work, nuclear publications etc.

Get help rewriting the CV, it's really bad.

If this were Faraday's resume would you expect it to say "proficient with a coil winder and anvil"??
 
  • #6
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a resume =/= CV. No one cares about publications in industry. What they care about is the ability of you to provide profit to the company. You show that with specific skills that you have. Machine tool use is a specific skill. If you can provide profit to the company as a lab tech, then you're a lab tech.

On the other hand a publication shows *literally nothing* in industry. What are they going to do with a publication? Put you as a BS holder into research? Its like joining the army and wanting to be a general. And then you leave out the entry level stuff and you're *totally* unemployable.
 
  • #7
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Agreed- the point was do you want to be drilling holes in the machine shop or doing algorithm development for a commercially useful simulation?

The publications are evidence of a high-order technical skill. Knowing how to drill holes isn't.
 
  • #8
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Consider dropping the tools/oscilloscopes down to the bottom under a new header "other skills" or some such. I don't think you want them displayed so prominently for the types of jobs you seem to be seeking, but they're definitely valuable skills to have.

As far as that job description, it's kind of whack. I mean they're asking for an entry level engineer that "leads large engineering teams", "provides direction... for engineering projects/programs," etc. The job functions don't seem appropriate for the desired education/experience. Looks like a "wish-list" to me. Might as well apply and tell them what you know and what you can do. They will never find someone that can actually do that job description fresh out of school. Maybe they'll like you enough to throw you in the fire... which is a wonderful way to learn.
 
  • #9
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What you put on the resume is going to depend a lot on what sort of jobs you are applying for. If you are mainly applying for software jobs, your resume isn't all that good (Note: I'm physics PhD that now works in software). Too much of it is spent discussing lab-work related physics skills, which to be blunt are basically useless in this context. Emphasize the programming aspects of your different roles in both grad school and undergrad would be more helpful.

Some other things among many that would be useful to convey:
- Did you work on any code with others? That is useful experience to emphasize if you have it. A key aspect of software development is producing maintainable code that others can work with.
- In a similar vein do you have any experience with version control systems (e.g. subversion, git, etc)
- How many years experience do you have with the languages you know?


Also if you didn't take any basic data structures or algorithms classes in undergrad try to pick up a at least some textbooks to go through. You're to get a lot of questions related to this in interviews.
 
  • #10
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Thanks for the resume tips. I'll update it and give you guys round 2 if you aren't sick of me yet. :P

Also if you didn't take any basic data structures or algorithms classes in undergrad try to pick up a at least some textbooks to go through. You're to get a lot of questions related to this in interviews.
This is what I'm talking about. I have to make up for months of education that I didn't get in something like a few weeks? That's what makes me think maybe programming isn't the bet career choice for me. I'm just too far behind.
 
  • #11
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Thanks for the resume tips. I'll update it and give you guys round 2 if you aren't sick of me yet. :P



This is what I'm talking about. I have to make up for months of education that I didn't get in something like a few weeks? That's what makes me think maybe programming isn't the bet career choice for me. I'm just too far behind.
Fear not!

https://www.coursera.org/
 
  • #13
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Is that going to fly on a job interview?

"Have you taken any classes on algorithms?"

"No, but I studied on my own."

Or will they give me an actual test? You really have to understand here, I want a job ASAP. I don't have 10 weeks to sit around and do homework problems.
 
  • #14
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Is that going to fly on a job interview?

"Have you taken any classes on algorithms?"

"No, but I studied on my own."

Or will they give me an actual test? You really have to understand here, I want a job ASAP. I don't have 10 weeks to sit around and do homework problems.
Not likely...

Generally it will be questions or tests. Every (in person) programming interview I've ever been through involved questions about my knowledge, doing code on a whiteboard, and some sort of actual programming test.
 
  • #15
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Is it something reasonable or something very specific? Like... when programming in C++ I always have MSDN open. I know there exists some function call that I'm looking for... but I can never remember the details like what to pass it or whatnot.
 
  • #17
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It's not usually silly questions like the signature of some random method in some library that can be answered by google.

I've gotten some questions like "Can you explain the difference between allocating something on the heap versus the stack in C++". Most question are more like you are given a problem and they ask you how would you solve it. The interviewers want to see how you solve problems, and how you design software.


For the algortihmish questions it is usually something like:

They give you a sorted binary tree and you have to write on the whiteboard code for printing out the values in the nodes in order. Using recursion and then not.

Design a stack for holding values where you can always get what the maximum value is in constant time.

This usually only has to be done in pseudo code or language of your choice.


There is basically always a real coding test to where they give you a set of requirements and some time limit to complete it. In my experience you can choose the language as long as you provide instructions for compiling/running it. Sometimes there are platform requirements of some sort (e.g. Linux/OS X vs. Windows). Note: I've worked in basically a purely Linux + OS X environment (both in grad school and afterwards), so I don't have a good feel if its different in the Windows world.
 
  • #18
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How much do you actually know about programming? Like, where are you on this matrix: http://www.indiangeek.net/wp-content/uploads/Programmer competency matrix.htm ?
QA testing might be easier to start in.
Okay looks like software engineering is out of the picture.

I'm mostly at lvl 0 or 1, with a few on lvl 2 and I think 2 might even hit lvl 3.

So it looks like I shouldn't even bother with professional software development. I guess I'll look at QA testing, though I've seen requirements for that field too and the stuff they use is even more foreign to me.
 
  • #19
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Thanks for the resume tips. I'll update it and give you guys round 2 if you aren't sick of me yet. :P [..]
I think that the message to take away from those good advices, is that it would be wise to prepare adapted CV's for different types of job applications (assuming that you are interested in more than one type of job).

Still, that is not what you were asking. It appears that you are qualified for a number of generic engineering jobs as well as for assistant jobs in teaching (electronics or mechanics lab?). However, you seem to be more interested in programming. My guess is that there is a mismatch between what you're most interested in and what you really would like to do.

And perhaps there is a misunderstanding: in many places general jobs are not advertised, because some companies and universities receive plenty spontaneous applications (compare post #4). Did you try that?
 
  • #20
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Still, that is not what you were asking. It appears that you are qualified for a number of generic engineering jobs as well as for assistant jobs in teaching (electronics or mechanics lab?). However, you seem to be more interested in programming.
No no no, I'm not more interested in programming, I just thought that's what I was better at. I think I was wrong.

And perhaps there is a misunderstanding: in many places general jobs are not advertised, because some companies and universities receive plenty spontaneous applications (compare post #4). Did you try that?
I only briefly attended a career fair once because I was notified of it very late (I wasn't a student at the time so nobody really told me). Next time there is one, I'll be sure to go.
 
  • #21
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[..] I only briefly attended a career fair once because I was notified of it very late (I wasn't a student at the time so nobody really told me). Next time there is one, I'll be sure to go.
Actually, I meant spontaneous applications.
 
  • #22
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Cold calling? I wouldn't know how to even start that. Many places I've been applying to have numerous locations and I wouldn't know who to even contact or where.
 
  • #23
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Okay looks like software engineering is out of the picture.

I'm mostly at lvl 0 or 1, with a few on lvl 2 and I think 2 might even hit lvl 3.

So it looks like I shouldn't even bother with professional software development. I guess I'll look at QA testing, though I've seen requirements for that field too and the stuff they use is even more foreign to me.
I would not say that is necessarily fatal. It depends on which ones are at what levels. It probably also depends a lot on where (location-wise) you're looking for a job. Silicon Valley maybe not so much, but if you are in (or are willing to move to) an area where there isn't as big of a software talent pool you'll probably do fine. Also I don't know what field of physics your research was in, but targeting programming jobs where any of your domain-specific physics knowledge is useful might work.

Also smaller companies are probably going to be easier than large ones, since at large corporations your resume is more likely to get auto-filtered because it doesn't contain CS EE or CE as your degree field.

A more important question is do you actually enjoy software development?
 
  • #24
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Okay looks like software engineering is out of the picture.

I'm mostly at lvl 0 or 1, with a few on lvl 2 and I think 2 might even hit lvl 3.

So it looks like I shouldn't even bother with professional software development. I guess I'll look at QA testing, though I've seen requirements for that field too and the stuff they use is even more foreign to me.
Well the big problem with you getting programming jobs is not so much lack of experience, it's that your experience is in the wrong kind of programming. It seems like most of what you've done is making Monte Carlo desktop applications with C/C++. I had the same experience as a physics undergraduate, and the thing is... there just aren't that many jobs in that area, especially for entry-level programmers. To the extent that companies hire pure C/C++ programmers, they're mostly looking for senior-level developers to do really hard stuff, like making AAA games or operating systems. Any kind of "easy" C coding can either be done with existing software, or they can offshore it to India. If you had experience in networking, databases, or web programming it would be a lot easier for you to get an entry-level job.

QA can vary a lot depending on the company. Sometimes they want an experienced developer, other times they just want someone to randomly try everything and write down bugs. Like anything else, networking is by far the best way to find jobs there.

Another thing you can do, if you really need cash quickly, is to become a physics/math tutor for high school and college students. There's always demand for that.
 
  • #25
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A more important question is do you actually enjoy software development?
I enjoy software development, but I would rather go into engineering. However, like I've stated, I don't think I'm qualified to be an engineer either.

I have no direction right now. That's why I'm asking for help. If I get told "Your best bet would be a job as an X" I would do that, providing there is a career there. Tutoring math isn't a career in my view. Not one I'd be willing to stick with at least, so the question comes up again: what should I be trying to do with my skills? What should I be learning and how do I learn it?

I really wish I could go back to school, but I just don't have the money.
 

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