Surviving And Thriving In Your First Year As a Junior Developer
I’ve been working as an apprentice developer for a year now, and I thought it time to share my experience with any people thinking about joining or who have recently joined the industry.
With any new job, it can seem like there is an insurmountable number of things to learn. In IT, that is tenfold. Not to worry though, you don’t need to know everything. No project you’ll work on will ever have you handling every stage of production. The more likely option is that you’ll be given a specific area to look at, such as developing features or testing an application. Whichever area you are handling, you’ll only have to learn a handful of technologies.
If this is still too scary or overwhelming for you, calm down! You aren’t in school/uni anymore, there will be no test. No one is expecting you to be an absolute genius your first day on the job. If you are, that’s great, but don’t let that make you think you’ll always be that way.
You need to always push yourself, every week you should strive to tackle something you haven’t before, a language, framework, methodology, something that keeps your mind active and willing to learn. A side project at home can be very helpful for this, for example, if you think you don’t know enough about web development, try creating your own personal website. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but practice is better than lamenting your lack of ability.
Set yourself goals! Always keep yourself working towards something personally. I’m not even talking just about technical goals, set yourself some goals outside of your comfort zone. A lot of people in a junior position might never have had a chance to speak in front of others before. Being able to talk confidently with a point is one of the key skills developers should have.
Sometimes a good product isn’t one that has been designed meticulously, but one that has a good story behind it.
For most people going into a junior developer position, it is a period of change in your life. You may be getting accustomed to living alone, paying bills, you know, adult stuff. This in combination with a new job and trying to keep up with all the new technologies you’re using can be extremely stressful, something I have experienced first hand.
What really helped me was realising that you are not expected to be as up to speed as everyone else. I would look around and see people completing pieces of work in half the time it would take me, and that would be very discouraging to me, but these are people who have been in the industry for years. It made no sense for me to compare myself to them, and neither should you.
In fact, they are your friends! Some of the most positive experiences I have had to date in my job have been sitting down with a more senior developer and discussing a problem at length. Having someone to converse with can make you feel like your voice is heard, like your opinion matters. No one is going to laugh at you for not knowing something, or for needing something explained again.
Sitting in silence will do no-one any good. If you are having an issue, there are an endless amount of people willing to help you, all you have to do is ask.
Be mature, but immature at the same time. If you are 18–21 and going into a tech company, it very well may be your first job, and while IT companies are generally known for having a more relaxed attitude, you should still strive to present yourself as professional. On the other hand, don’t let your first job rob you of your immaturity, be weird, embrace your quirks, after all, they are what make you an individual.
Feedback is your friend. Ask your manager, teammates, work friends for constructive criticism regularly. Don’t take it personally, see it as a way for you to better yourself one step at a time. Feedback will let you know what practices are working and what you should generally stay from. You should aim to get at least verbal feedback from someone every few weeks, just to make sure you’re on track!
Possibly the most important advice I can give to new developers is to take breaks! Don’t let your job envelop your life. It’s fine to enjoy events like Hackathons or Conferences in your spare time, but if you find yourself working on a problem at 10pm on a Friday night, theres a problem.
Go out, have friends and enjoy yourself, don’t worry about that bug until Monday!
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