I have quite a few questions on my mind, so please bare with me. Please don't feel obligated to answer all of them, any as you choose will do. I'd appreciate if you could share some insight on any of these.
Before I begin, some context:
I currently have almost two years of professional experience as a Software Engineer, mainly developing software in Java. At this point, I feel that I have reached the peak in my career growth at the current company I am at and therefore I am looking for a new job, ideally again, as a Software Engineer. I have been interviewing for the past few months casually but have not had luck with companies I have a passion for.
So, in no particular order -
1) In general, what are your thoughts on having graduate degrees in CS / Software Engineering. How much does it influence a salary increase, and do you think it's beneficial when working on real-world problems? I get the sense that a graduate degree in the field is trivial unless you really have a passion for research.
2) In general, in professional practice, how often had you have to write your own data structures and "complex" algorithms from scratch? In my own work, I have found myself relying mainly on third-party frameworks and the Java standard library to implement solutions as per business requirements. What are your thoughts on this?
3) In terms of resume, I feel the most ambivalent here. I want to be able to "blemish" my resume to a certain extent so that it stands out from others', but at the same time I do not want to over-exagerate my abilities. How do you strike a balance here? For example: I say that I am proficient in Java with data structures and algorithms. This is obviously a subjective and relative statement. I've taken the classes in my undergrad, and I've applied it in my work experience. What I feel as "prociency" can be seen as junior-level to others. How do you know what to say? Most of the time, recruiters (with no technical background) will be looking for keywords that stand out. This leads me to my next question (4).
4) Just from interviewing for the past few months (and getting plenty of rejections), I've come to realize that I may not be as proficient in data structures and algorithms as I thought I was. Do you think it's a good idea to remove the "proficient in java/data structure and algorithms"? I feel that being too hoenst on the resume will impede me from scoring opportunities to even have an interview with top-notch companies. What are your thoughts?
5) What is the absolute "must-have" knowledge going into a technical interview? I've been practicing several algorithmic and data sturcture problems now, and I feel that my abilities to solve arbitrary problems efficiently has not gotten significantly better. Do you think these abilities are something innate - it's either you have in you, or you don't? How can you teach yourself to learn, if you will?
Thanks so much for the long read. As a relatively new engineer to the real world, I am very humble and would like those who are experienced to shed some light. Thank you so much.