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Job Search

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During mid-October, I mentioned that I started my job search with a job fair at a local university. To summarize that experience, although I did get a couple leads, the recruiters were mainly looking for entry-level software developers.
Since then, I have not worked much on my job search due to my work on the java developer exam (which is not complete yet) etc, but this past week I have started a serious job search starting with personal contacts from work and grad school. Over the next week or two I will probably have a good idea where those contacts might lead me, and in the meantime I contacted two recruiters whom I was referred to by personal contacts. I will greatly appreciate some advice.
First, some background information: I worked at a large outsourcer/consulting company for the past 4 years, and started a sabbatical in June due in part for the need of a personal break and because my employer had very little new business (my personal work on the project was completed before going on sabbatical).
The length of the sabbatical was to be approximately 6 months, and after working full-time for 7 years I thought this was a good time to do so. My employer contacted me at the end of 4 months, and wanted to know on-the-spot whether I would be returning in 3 days, or resigning. I resigned for several reasons, which I will not go into at length here (none of these reasons are related to the employer or my experience there). Anyone who decides to respond to this post, please spare me any criticism.
According to quite a few individuals, including my last two managers, I was one of the best employees at our site. I received decent salary raises each year and regularly received financial bonuses. I am just wondering how to best approach the job search. I am currently in an MS computer science program, having taken 4 courses (C++, UML, Discrete Math, etc) so far, so I am still a couple years away from completing it if my current plan of 1 course per quarter continues. My first two projects at my last employer were mainframe-based, and I learned a great deal (an understatement). The last project was Unix server- and PC-based. Among other things, during my sabattical I attained Java programmer certification and am about half-way done with Java developer certification. I also worked on a web site with Java servlets etc but have no finished product to show, since quite a bit of work still needs to be done on it. When the site is completed I will be seeking collaboration with my university.
I'd like to get into object-oriented development, and do not want to go back into mainframe for fear of getting stuck there, and am wondering what all of you would recommend my next steps be. I have written quite a few C++ and Java programs now, but have no real-world experience with these languages. Based on all the reading I've done on the internet, it seems that the market is not doing so well, but I really do not want that to get me too stressed out before even giving my job search a real chance. My first job out of undergrad was a sales position, so I realize that the potential to get a lot of negative feedback before getting any positive feedback is very real (my sales did not seem to increase at that job until I realized this fact). Thanks so much in advance for your advice.
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From what I hear, things are starting to get better - albeit slowly. I think the "job search" nowadays really has to be a skill in itself and takes some dedication. It sounds like you have some qualifications so if I were you, I would really bear down and focus on finding something. You may have to put some time into it but it will be worth the effort. One thing you did mention about the mainframe. You can take it however you please but personally I would wait for the booms to be picky. The way things have gone lately you may want to take whatever you can get and switch off later. There are experienced software engineers waiting tables you know.
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