|Keep It Simple, Stupid|
Going back to my experience ( a long time ago), having graduated with a 2 year technical degree in computer programming (not enough to impress head hunters or some of the companies that used HR for filtering).
First step was to do some programming as a voulenteer for some local charities. (some real world experience and some references). Also managed to work at a larger company as an intern - with pay (not a lot, but hey it was money). Spent some time keeping up with every IT related person I knew.
One of my old instructors, who had moved to the private sector gave me a chance.
Put in some years on Univac iron, then began to learn about those PC things. Eventually the company downsized - See YA! So I was unemployed with bills and nowhere to go. Well I did a little side programming for small companies, while going to the library in all my open time. Got the names of around 200 companies that looked like they might have some form of IT department, using the wonders of computer technology, created a cover letter that was modified for each company. Created a resume, made it one page, proofed it, re-proofed it, had friends proof it. Bought serious resume paper and envelopes. Had the resumes professionally printed (current laser technology should do now). Then sent the letters - a few each day.
Why so much noise about the resume? Because if there are more than six resumes to be reviewed a mis-spelling is tossed, sloppy work on a resume scares me because this is supposedly the BEST work this person will do, just to impress me, if it doesn't, odds are I do not want the person.
Unfair? You bet! But decisions are made based upon available data.
Just for you:
A couple of other hints: Left University due to financial reasons, am continuing my IT studies via non University training.
If you can show a solid base knowledge of IT, and a sincere interest in learning quickly, and on your own, someone will take a chance on you. Prove yourself by studying material needed for the job (if the job needs C, ask the company to pay for a C programming book of your choice, or a local class on C if picking up a language from a book is not your strong point). Have them pay for the book, so they know you are interested,and they also have some money invested in you.
You have chosen a tough route, but it can be done. The pay will be low, and the hours long (because you are learning and working).
Keep taking courses, certs, books and so on. These will increase your value to the company and to the outside world.
P.S. I did get a job out of the 200 letters. An accounting firm that wanted to start a computer consulting branch. Scared the heck out of me, but took the job, spent five years getting the branch up and running, then got an offer that was too good to pass up elsewhere. Not to mention the fine collection of rejection letters, some professional, some downright rude - be ready for the rude ones because they can hurt a lot, try to brush those off with the knowledge that it probably was not a good fit for you.