Originally posted by Jeff Bosch:
I feel for you! I spent about 15 years as an analog video systems engineer, then went into embedded systems as an engineering technician, and had been hired by Cisco Systems to work in their optical R&D department. Then came the dot-com debacle, and I couldn't find a job after my employer went under and Cisco instituted a hiring freeze, so I never got to start there.
I entered programming through another door that I've since found works for quite a few people: I took a job as a tech writer for a major data processing company. While there, I sharpened my C and Java skills, got my SCJP among others, and began volunteering for programming tasks. Before two years were out, I was the tech lead on a major state-wide systems upgrade, and I had senior programmers under me.
Now I'm with a new company, a small Java shop, again as a tech writer. The difference this time is that they know of my experience and certifications and I will have the opportunity to work on programming projects. In fact, I just submitted my first design proposal for a Java-based utility.
While this path, tech-writer to programmer, may not be for everyone, there are variations. Heck, I had become so desparate that I had offered to sweep the floors in tech shops, just to get my foot in the door and get a chance at some point to show what I can do.
Good luck, I know what it's like to be in your position, but at least you have a job you hate during this search (though maybe for not much longer, I see). I had none.