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

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.*
  • 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?

*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?

This is just my (not to informed, only slightly informed) opinion/observation…

My perception is that while a lot of people are able to get work in programming without a specific programming degree, things like CS and ML jobs tend to be more apt to expect a degree, even an MS. I think there are more web/mobile dev jobs, especially on the front end , that are willing to take a chance. There are some people in those other jobs, but I’d be willing to bet that they started out in something lighter and then made an internal transfer - I know a few people like that.

It is hard to get the first job. It takes a while. At least you have a degree.

What do you want to do? ML? B/E? F/E? Web? Mobile? Figure it out and start doing research. Find out what other people have. Look for people that have the type of job you want in linkedIn and see what they did. Maybe even reach out to them for advice.

But first you should figure out what you want to do. Then figure out what you need to do to get there. Then decide if you’re willing to do that. But, unless you are very lucky, it’s probably going to take a while. If these jobs were easy and easy to get, they’d pay minimum wage.

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My advice is to participate in a free bootcamp and contribute to open source project of your field of study , it will open to you a great opportunities and employer will appreciate that.