October 28, 2020

Becoming a junior developer - navigating this tricky path

Finding decent junior development roles is difficult, whether you’re a graduate or entirely self-taught. We’ve got some pointers to help build you up and nab the job you want.

State of The Union

Every year, more junior developers enter the job market, but it seems like there’s fewer jobs for them by the day. Why is this?


Training

  • A lot of companies don’t like the idea of training up junior developers- because it means their senior developers are taking time away from development.
  • Teaching is one of the best ways to learn, but a good developer doesn’t always make for a good teacher
  • Add to this that training roles are often seen as less prestigious. There’s a gendered aspect to this, female devs tend to be pushed into these responsibilities and are rarely compensated properly for the extra work

Automation and Outsourcing

  • Junior developers cut their teeth on more menial work, learning on the job. Unfortunately, a lot of those jobs have been outsourced to different job markets, or entirely automated to save money

Industry Standards

  • The turnover rate for developers of any rank is really high. In a lot of companies, the rate of raises is measly, so the only way to advance in your career is to move to a new company as soon as you outgrow the old one.
  • This compounds the issue of training. When turnover is high, training can become untenable. 
  • It’s a problem, but this is more an industry-wide issue for you to be aware of!

What Skills Do I Need to Become a Developer?


The fundamentals of programming

  • Seems obvious, but you need to be able to convey confidence in a number of concepts.
  • Crucially, you need to be able to answer the question ‘Where do you go to find answers?’ 
  • You should also know at least one language to a good standard. Don’t be tempted to be a master of none right now, pick one and excel
  • Web devs should also know at least one framework

Understand technical terminology

  • The better you know the lingo, the easier it is to communicate. Avoid slang, and you’ll find it easier to meld into a variety of teams 

Troubleshooting and testing 

  • Junior Developers spend most of their time fixing other people's code. Get used to squashing bugs!

How to collaborate!

  • Lone wolf developers are a myth, having people skills will mark you as someone who can actually fit into a team.
  • If you can have work in your portfolio from group projects, that’s ideal.


know your worth, don't get lowballed.

How to Get A Job as A Junior Developer!

So you’ve got the skills, you’ve brushed up your application, you’ve found some jobs to apply for. You know the market is packed full of other junior developers, what else can you do to give yourself an edge and land a job that’ll help you grow?


Seek out other techies

  • Whether as possible mentors or just peers to help share news and leads, building up a network can be affirming. 
  • In the current climate, in person meetups aren’t really an option. Luckily there are various Slack and Discord channels designed to help developers find each other. 

Have a robust and relevant portfolio

  • Whether you’ve got a programming degree or you’re entirely self-taught, your portfolio is key to showing what you’re capable of. 
  • More importantly, you should be able to talk an interviewer through what the program is for and why you've made specific technical decisions.
  • Ideally, you should have some presence on Github

Follow industry news

  • This is just good practice regardless of the job you’re looking for.
  • Industry news can help flag up points of interest, whether it’s companies on the rise or companies to avoid, what skills you should be working on and more.

Find a job that fits

  • Don’t just take the first job that is offered to you. Always consider if it’s a good fit, and you’ll go much further in the long term.
  • Know your worth. Research the market rate in your area. Many companies lowball junior devs, especially graduates, because they know they’re keen to start work. Don’t be afraid to negotiate, using the market rate as your evidence.
  • Ask Questions- always remember that an interview is for you to find out about the company as much as it is for you to find out about them. Key is finding out what kind of company they are.
  • Ask about development methodologies, company culture, training processes…
  • AVOID listings noted as ‘junior developers’ that still want years of experience- these are usually companies trying to hire more experienced devs at an entry level wage.

Specialise

  • Don’t try to master everything, take the languages and roles you know and look for jobs that require them. 
  • If you’re a self-taught programmer with a background in another industry, consider how you can leverage this!

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