Yesterday at the Java User Group, I talked to someone with a recent Ph.D. in Computer Science who can’t get a programming job. Why? He doesn’t have experience. Everyone wants to hire a Java programmer with Spring and Hibernate to program in Java using Spring and Hibernate. To get experience, you need to have experience. This same chicken-or-the-egg problem shows up all over the job market.
Me, I’m lucky: I graduated in 1999 when everyone was hiring entry-level programmers. You could graduate with an English degree and get a programming job in 1999. 
The real way to get a good job is through word of mouth. The best jobs don’t go through the recruiters who are screening everyone for experience in Spring and Hibernate. Like so many things in life, it’s all about who you know. And how do you get to know people? Through people you already know! It’s all about being part of the community.
Communities exist in our field at many levels. In Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Kuhn shows that small communities within each scientific specialty decide when a new paradigm is superior to an old one. They control the direction of the field and set the rules for all practitioners of their science.
Getting a job is one challenge. Getting into the community that defines the direction of the field is another.
To excel takes hard work, merit, and opportunities. If any one of these is most critical, it is opportunities.  How does a person become qualified for an industry-leading group? Experience. How do they get experience? Someone gives them that first opportunity.
How does a hard-working, skilled person get into a community? Someone invites them in. Work all you want, but until someone gives you a chance, you’re stuck on the outside.
Me, I was lucky: someone invited me into the conference-speaker community and introduced me to people who are now my friends. I’m speaking, blogging, tweeting, and digging into technology all because one person held out a hand and said, “you could do this too.”
If you are a hiring manager, look outside the official experience profile and hire someone smart.
If you are part of a community, especially an informal one, find someone with potential and hold out a hand. Invite them to your gatherings and share ideas. Look beyond the obvious candidates. Raise up more chickens, and we’ll get more eggs. Everyone will eat better.
 My coworker Sarah did.
 Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell. If you disagree and haven’t read the book, please read it.