I also work in the Midwest. At bigger corporations, I've seen more of an openness to hiring "minorities" (whites are now statically a minority). The problems I see, at least in my locality, are with small companies, especially well established ones in the 'burbs. A lot of the people running these places have kooky, old school race fear. I don't think they want to be racist necessarily, but they can't seem to quell the fear that has been taught to and bred in to them. I come to this from lots of observation. So my advice, for what very little it is worth, would be to focus on large corporations or small/medium companies closer to the urban core. In theory, they should be more progressive in their hiring practices. Sorry if I've offended anybody with my observations. In fairness, I'm another white joe who works in the 'burbs. Additionaly, the advices on a software portfolio, learning hot technologies like Struts, and getting involved in an open source project, are spot on. I would add some kind of volunteer experience, maybe even something where you mentor kids in technology, to that list.