As a recent graduate fresh off of my practicum experience and a couple months into my first job as a developer, I thought it might be beneficial to share a few tips I picked up along the way that may help if you are in a similar situation. Your list may vary slightly, but I would like to outline five things that I have found to be a great help as I transitioned from college student to full-time junior developer.
This may not seem like much, but it is important. I made the mistake at the start, to assume that I would be able to remember what was being told to me the first time around and overlooked this, but as time went on I quickly learned this wasn’t the case. As a junior developer, chances are, most of your work will be something brand new to you. Even experienced developers go through a transition when starting at a new company and need guidance on things, let alone you. My first couple weeks I found myself asking the same question a few times before it clicked. Avoid this and take a few seconds to right down the file path, or the repo name, or whatever else the problem will be. Since I started taking notes, I have noticed a huge difference in the speed in which I can handle my work.
If you want to improve quickly and feel like a useful part of your team environment, this is a must. As a junior developer, your knowledge base is most likely limited, really limited, to almost the bare essentials. School can only teach you so much at a base level, the rest you learn from hands-on experience. If you currently have a job, you will probably have noticed most of the fixes we do as junior developers, aren’t simple. Why? Easy, the simple code doesn’t break. Usually. And as this is the case, it means any fixes you are required to complete are more complex issues. Now I know programming covers many different areas, so I am not suggesting that you go out and research everything, but I am suggesting you find something. I recommend choosing one thing a week that you are lacking experience with or that your company uses, and to research and learn more about it in your free time. You will notice improvements quickly, and if you are a graduate looking for a job, find a skill set that seems like a lot of companies in your area are looking for and try learning those. Some knowledge in areas companies are looking for could go a long way in your next interview.
This might seem simple, but knowing what you are trying to do before setting out to accomplish this goal, will save you a lot of time. Before I started taking this approach, there were many times I worked on a task for an hour or so, only to realize that the result I was trying to accomplish wasn’t what was being asked for and having to go backward and start again. Not only will you save yourself time and the company some budget, but a clear picture of an end goal goes a long way to accomplishing a task to the best of your abilities.
It is very easy to overthink things when you are at first starting out. Be it nerves at not wanting to mess things up, or the assumption we might not be able to do what we are trying to do, it seems at first that you will tend to overcomplicate an issue. To help me with this habit, my approach is to go back to my college way of thinking. When first starting, I quickly realized the code and the issues I was trying to look at/resolve, were far far more complex than any I had seen in college, and it made me nervous about my skills and took me away from my confidence in my abilities. What you need to remember is not that college taught you everything that you will see at a job, but it gave you a foundation (usually using simple solutions) to code and to work through a problem. As I started looking at issues with the same step by step approach I had taken in college, I found out quickly that even with much more elaborate programming, the concept was the same, and it helped bring my confidence back up.
Freshly graduated, it is easy to have a mindset of confidence in yourself and be eager to go and start your new career. Chances are a lot of you made it through your last few projects at school quite easily or without many complications, but as you begin your new job you will quickly notice that almost every task you get assigned to you frustrates you and gives you many complications. It is easy to look around and see senior developers handling their jobs and to compare yourself to them and to demand yourself to be better, leading to frustration and slowing you down. Just remember you aren’t a senior developer, at least not yet. You will have a lot of growing yet to do in your programming abilities, so relax, take a step back, breathe, and remind yourself of what got you to where you are today.