If I were starting out again, I’d do my utmost to work for an organisation that had high quality management and high quality products.
But it’s very very difficult to get inside the perfect organisation, even in good times like now. In bad times, the newly graduated are pretty well stuffed.
But they’re not without options.
If you want to get yourself into an organisation with very good habits, to learn those habits, then there are certain voluntary organisations out there.
My personal recommendation would be to try and get involved in a quality project. There are many. How do you find them? How do you know which ones are quality, and which ones have an unjust reputation. Find a group which has clear evidence of producing quality code, which quite obviously uses objective criteria to judge code. Have a look at those criteria, and make sure they include empirical techniques. Reputation may help you decide where to look at first, but it is not to be used to confirm you’ve got the answer: it is too easy to abuse reputation through the dark arts of marketing and lying and spin and so on.
Do not let reputation give you the answer. Have a look at the code. Have a look at how the quality is determined. Have a look at the process. Is it empirical? Is it objective? Ignore a lot of the comments that fly around, most people who comment are Mr Angry of Sevenoaks who still can’t quite get over the decision by the Yorkshire cricket club to destroy Sevenoaks’ seven oaks with a humungous fart (substitute any convenient enemy / victim / weapon / event).
In fact, I need to up my own standards again. I’ve not worked for an organisation with high quality code and high quality management for quite some time. My quality has slipped. My new job is very self–motivating and self–judging. If I am to bring my quality up to scratch, I need to get involved in something else with that desired quality to help me do so. It’ll have to be a fairly long term thing.