How will I ever be able to find a job with all the genius programmers out there?

I started learning programming at an early age of 12, not out of willingness but out of necessity, my widowed mother was conned by a web developer that she contracted for her business website, out of a large sum of money, so I decided to start learning PHP to try and help. Well I completed that site (business closed years later), and to this date that was still my biggest programming feat. I went through school knowing that I would one day become a programmer until about grade 11 where I started realizing that there’s a whole world out there filled with genius programmers and that I would never be able to do what they are doing.

So in the end I applied for an electronics engineering bursary and got in, so naturally I gave up on many coding opportunities, especially since varsity kept me so busy. I still read up on new programming frameworks, and other languages, but I never got involved. Last year I was busy with my 2nd/3rd year (it was extremely rough with my epilepsy and ADD diagnoses) and at the end of the year I became so depressed with life that I failed all my modules, lost my bursary and I just gave up on life.

Now I’m sitting in this hole, as a 21 year old, nothing… and yet again out of necessity I have to start programming again, and now I’m faced with the fact that I have nothing to show of any of my skills, who would want to hire me for anything programming related… So I read some blogs, and several books, so my knowledge is pretty expansive on the topic, but as I said, I don’t have anything to show for it. I opened up a GitHub account years ago, but there is nothing on it. So I checked out some freelancing sites and topcoder. WORST mistake ever. I was baffled by the level of coding required by some of those tasks and the amount of people that bid on them. and to top it all of I found my way onto a site that preps users for programming job interviews. At that very moment I just cracked. I don’t think I am good enough to even answer a single question that those interviewers ask.

If you were in my position what would you do? I can’t go back to college, I don’t have any funds to do so. I do have the knowledge to be a successful programmer, but I feel like I’m struggling to apply myself sometimes. Just as a note, I finished all my coding modules at varsity level, and enjoyed them immensely, I even got distinctions in modules for C and Assembly programming.

I thought about just taking the leap and start contributing, and posting a bunch of several small useful projects. But is that really helpful in terms of employment?

Thank you for writing this,
You wrote something that you might not pay much attention to but I would keep in my thoughts

I do have the knowledge to be a successful programmer

I’m in a similar boat, where I’m kind of stuck in the middle of the ocean looking towards the stars trying to make a connection with the experiences I have and know.

Comparing oneself to others is something we all do, in tech we don’t have a measurement other than what is around us. It is pretty intimidating and overwhelming to see how you stack against others, but not practical.

Experience is important, it allows you to cast your opinion, be open to find something you can produce and see where you can go with it and not where it can go with you.

In short: yes. I struggled to get interviews when I graduated. One day I decided to scratch an itch and spent about a month - maybe two - writing a program which I ended up making open source. Long story short, that small, seemingly trivial program got me interviews and ultimately a job. Your giving potential employers a chance to see what kind of code you produce and how you go about solving particular problems.

I was in the same boat at your age; I was in a major, major rut and frankly I just didn’t think much of myself at all. I Started coding when I was 13, was pretty damn proficient in C but like you I just didn’t have much to show for it. I did my degree more to prove to myself that I could actually accomplish something more than anything. I felt the same as you too, in regards to the whole “genius programmers” bit. Well, fast forward 8 years and I’m a bit wiser. These genius programmers I was intimidated by tend to be pretty rare and frankly I’ve never encountered one in the work place. The vast majority of programmers are average, at least in my neck of the woods.

Anyway, I’m rambling a bit now. One of the best things you can do right now is to write code. Scratch an itch, join a project…anything. It gives you something to show off.

@drevir I feel better knowing that I’m not the only one.

@qux thank you for sharing your experience, I will definitely remember your advice. I have finally started contributing last night and I intend to make at least one contribution every day until it becomes a habit.

I really do enjoy programming and I know this is what I want to do with my life. I think I will start feeling better about myself when I start delivering and when I have a portfolio of projects that I can look back to

First, never compare yourself to the rest of developers out there, we tend to compare ourselves to the great ones and that will only contribute to become more depressed.

Second, it is not just about coding skills to become a successful developer, it is also about business knowledge and most important about your attitude. You can be the more skillful developer in the world, you’ll get nowhere with a bad attitude.

One thing I would suggest you to do, is to offer your expertise to non-profit organizations in a field of your interest.
Most of the non-profit organizations have very simple needs and are willing to let you use the technology of your preference. By working on a non-profit it can lead to:

A. Getting to know potential customers.
B. Get actual working experience you can use for potential employers.

Finally, read and listen to motivational material, I suggest you to begin by listening to Dan Miller from 48 days to the work you love.

You can also listen to the "Eventual millionaire"podcast from Jaime Tardy.

Hope it helps, keep in contact and take care.