Jumpstarting Your Career: Tips And Tricks For Succeeding As a Junior Developer

Tips and Tricks for succeeding as a junior developer

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The transition from university to joining a developer job can be brutal, especially when you never did an internship in a development role. One of the major turning points in your life will be your first days as a junior developer (yes, your whole life, not just your career). I've observed that many people choose to take one of two paths at the start of their careers.

The first is being the shy guy, who believes that everyone is more knowledgeable than them and must compete to prove that you deserve your place. This is commonly referred to as Imposter Syndrome. You will often compare your work and progress with other new joiners from the same batch as you and think they are doing better than you. Unfortunately, you may be experiencing such feelings for the first time and unsure how to deal with them.

The second path is where the fresh graduate believes they know more than everyone. They tend to believe that senior developers or leads are outdated. They believe they will change the project/team/company because they are the new blood who have learned all the latest technologies at their university.

Both paths are dangerous for our new colleagues. One reason young graduates engage in such behaviors is that they have no idea what it means to be a developer and want to be the best new recruit for the company/team. In this article, I will share some of my observations and experiences on what a junior developer should remember to avoid being trapped in these two paths.

1. Be honest about what you do not know

This advice applies to fresh graduates and anyone who recently joined a company, changed jobs and roles, or is experienced.

It may happen that during your training, reference to some other technologies or concepts will be made to explain how the particular topic works. However, you have never come across that before. So, you look around and notice that all the new joiners seem to understand the reference. But for fear of being judged or laughed at, you do not ask the mentor to explain again as the reference is unknown to you or you do not understand.

Remember that universities teach us concepts and train us to have the right mindset to solve problems. They do not teach us the industry standards. It is completely normal for you to be unfamiliar with other languages or concepts. Such things are learned on 'the field', and you will learn by asking questions or doing a lot of self-study.

2. Include learning in your free time

Being a programmer implies agreeing to be a perpetual learner. Completing your studies with a first class degree does not automatically make you the best programmer ever. It shows you have the will to learn and deliver high-quality programs.

For example, I mainly learned Java and PHP for three years during my studies. By the end, I was able to code any solution in either of these languages. When I started working, the company I joined was using Angular and Kotlin. I was completely lost. I took some hours of my free time after work to read some articles in my spare time, attempted to complete one topic per week from an online course, and read one file from the project per week. At the end of the month, I was able to start working on my own and review my coworkers' codes.

You will begin to consider other languages or concepts as your appetite for learning grows. For example, after you're at ease with your tech stack, you might want to learn more about DevOps. Starting with one hour of learning per day makes a significant difference at the end of a month.

3. Do not rush when reading documentation or articles

Articles, documentations, and videos are your safety nets. Remember that articles, docs, and videos are here to help when you do not understand something. A quick search on the internet gives you countless results that can help you.  

For example, searching for 'substring in Javascript' will return many resources for articles and videos. Most of the time, people open the first result, do a Ctrl+F (search) on the page, get a code snippet, and Ctrl+C (copy) and Ctrl+V (paste) it into their code. Sure, following these steps helps complete the task, but these resources also provide additional information on the subject. For instance, an article can show us various approaches to searching for a substring in JS. It can also tell us what we should and should not do. This is not the information we need right now, but it may be helpful later. Remember that being a newcomer gives us more time to learn, not more time to complete stories.

4. Do not compare yourself with others

When you start working, you will team up with people with varying work experience levels. Some may count their number of years of experience in decades. It is important to accept that it is absolutely normal that they are sharper than you, that they debug faster, and even complete 8-point stories in a single day. This is possible because they had made mistakes, encountered issues, and resolved them at least 10 times before you wrote your first line of code. There are indeed a lot of things on which you need to skill up, who does not? The comparison between the experienced developers and you do not stand.

You are unique, and it is advised that you compare like with like. It would be best if you compared yourself with yourself. Once you start doing so, you will notice how much and quickly you grow. You will never be able to bridge the year of experience gap between your team members and yourself. Time does not allow this.


Graduates are sometimes in a rush to advance in their careers. This mindset can be detrimental to their career. From the moment you join the company or a new team, being a junior with the right attitude is the first step toward becoming a great team member. The promotion and all other titles will come eventually, in due time and with effort. All juniors should be proud when called so.

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