Can we say uncertainty is the only certain thing in the career of a junior developer that just started? Well, maybe there’s no need for such a bold statement; but the truth is that many doubts can appear in the head of a newcomer.
- “Will I reach the expectations that are put on me?”
- “Am I in the right place to grow personally and professionally?”
- “How much time and effort will I need to become an expert?”
- “Perhaps I’m working hard, but am I working smart enough?”
- “Am I wasting other people’s time?”
- “Am I wasting mine?”
The list can be long, and the purpose of this post is not to enumerate all of them. What you will find here is what time has taught me what an effective and balanced early career might look like, so when a new doubt comes into your head you can answer: “Whatever, I’m in the right way”.
Challenges a junior developer must face
Challenge is real. You join a company and lots of things will look challenging. Well, actually they start being challenging even before, but if you are reading this you probably already overcame the firsts obstacles - e.g. you already successfully passed the job interview (if not, you might want to read some tips we shared about the coding interview) - and you are ready to nail your first position. Maybe your morale and self-confidence are high enough to not see them that challenging, but they are, and if they actually aren’t, then you aren’t in a place that is worth your talent. But how can you not feel overrun when almost everything looks like a challenge? The trick is that most of the challenges are similar to others, so they can be reduced to some roots:
- The challenge of building expertise.
- The challenge of working with other people (both within your team and out of it).
- The challenge of gaining confidence in your work (it’s not only about building expertise but also being aware of it).
- The challenge of finding yourself working in something you enjoy.
These four roots are self-explanatory enough not to require a description, and although they might not be the roots of 100% of the challenges you’re going to find in your career, I believe they can cover most of them.
Delivering good enough work? Expertise. Fighting bugs? Also expertise (the one of knowing the best places to search the source of that bug). Estimating tasks and projects? Confidence and expertise. Dealing with a tough client? Confidence and working with people. Reviewing code? Confidence, expertise, and working with people… And mixed with everything, seeing your job as something that gets you closer and not further to your personal fulfillment. The weight of waking up and thinking that something is wrong with your daily life is a colossal burden you don’t want to carry on your back.
Fighting those challenges the smart way
Once we have reduced the challenges to four, what can we do? First of all, we must know that overcoming them is a matter of day-to-day work. You don’t magically jump that ladder in one morning, you reach new heights by compounding whatever good practices make you improve. This fact leads me to the conclusion that our day-to-day activity is the key, so let me suggest what I identify as the four pillars of a successful and fulfilling career:
- For expertise: Do tasks in pairs with experts.
- For working with other people: Participate in meetings.
- For earning confidence: Do tasks on your own.
- For finding out if you enjoy your career: Research, practice, learn.
Don’t misunderstand me. This selection looks a bit dumb because “Hey! These are just the things I’m already supposed to do in my job”. Legit, but the idea is how important it is to practice the four of them with an active attitude and how important it is not to lack any of them. The moment one of those pillars is missing, the growth of your career loses balance.
Next week we will deepen each one of these pillars, to better understand which are the actions to take into consideration when creating a healthy day-to-day job routine. You won’t find any niche stuff or esoteric methodologies, just some actionable insights and reachable milestones that you can put into practice to overcome the challenges that, as a Junior Developer, you will face.
And remember that if you are a Nova member studying or working in the Software industry, there is a community specifically designed for you, with a dedicated Talent Agent to respond to your needs. Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to learn more about it.