Junior Developer Advancement: Here’s How To Get Ahead

You landed your first job as a junior developer and are killing it.  Now you might be asking yourself, “How do I advance and get into a more senior role”?  I thought the same thing when I was first starting out..  Now, I’ve been working as a developer for over 5 years and have come a long way.  I started out as a Data Analyst for a small company.  I was basically a Junior Developer, but it was a smaller company, so they could call me whatever they wanted.

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Starting out as a junior developer is great because you have the opportunity to work on many different projects.  There are many steps you can take to improve and build the skills you need to become a mid-level developer.  Most importantly, you should never stop learning.  Keep trying every day to learn new things, improve your code, and network with others.  All of this has helped me on my personal journey.

Here are some tips on how to advance as a junior developer:


Find A Mentor

Having a mentor helped me a lot when I was first starting out as a developer.  Whether you’re able to find a mentor from the team your on at work or whether you network to find one, it’s a smart move.  Having someone who has been in your shoes is extremely beneficial.  They can offer advice and guidance on how you can improve, what to work on, and give career advice.

How do you find mentors?  Well, there are multiple options.  You can seek out mentors from an online community.  I recommend CodeMentor because they have developers that can provide free help.  Another option to find a mentor is to attend meet-ups in your area to network with other programmers.  If you can’t find a mentor right away and get stuck on something, utilize the community on StackOverFlow for help.  Finding a mentor doesn’t have to be tough.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Approach co-workers in your department who have more seniority to ask for help and advice.  Trust me, I know first hand that most people are more than happy to give it.  I actually feel flattered when I’m asked for help.  Even if someone doesn’t seem approachable, don’t hold back.  Just ask.  The worst thing they will probably do is schedule a different time to go over things with you.  The person you reach out to doesn’t have to be a specialist in the same exact area as you.  Even if they’re not the right person to answer some of your specific questions, it’s good to have someone point you in the right direction.

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Get Certifications

Certifications are a great way for junior developers to learn and expand their knowledge while also boosting their resume.

First of all, certifications will give you the opportunity to be a bit more “selective” when it comes to getting a better job or title.  They give you an extra edge over other developers that are on the same level as you.

In addition, getting a certification can help you become more specialized.  For example, if you’re interested in working with Databases, you could get get certified in Microsoft SQL or one of the other database tools.  If you’re interested in designing apps for IOS you could get a certification on C+, Java or Swift.

You don’t necessarily have to pay a ton to get certifications either.  Sites like Udemy, Coursea, Plural Site and others offer courses to get certifications for a reasonable price.  I’ve even seen courses on Udemy for as cheap as $19.99.  Not bad right?  If you’re interested in learning the basics of SQL, check out my free course to get started setting up your SQL server.


Learn As Much As You Can At Work As A Junior Developer

If you’re already working as a junior developer then you have an advantage.  You get to learn additional skills hands-on while at work.  If you’re working for a busy company, then you have even more of an advantage.

I recommend trying to help with other tasks outside of your own responsibilities.  Ask your co-workers if there’s anything you can do.  See if your manager has anything additional that can be assigned or any projects that he’s been putting off.   Even if you end up taking on a ton and it’s a lot on your plate, it’s no big deal.  If you happen to make mistakes along the way, you’ll only learn from them.

Putting in the extra effort at work not only will help you gain skills, it could land you a promotion.  If there’s a job you’re going for within your organization, figure out what the requirements are.  Next, try to do as many responsibilities as you can that are required for that job.  I know that if you act like you’re already doing the job, you make a much better case for getting the job.


Get A Side Project

When I first started as a developer, I had multiple side projects going on at once.  Sure, this can be difficult to juggle in addition to a full-time job, but that just takes a little bit of time management.  You can also try to get side jobs doing freelancing projects.  I recommend that junior developers get a side project for several reasons:

  1. You get to gain experience
  2. You learn while doing a side job
  3. Most importantly, you get to make some extra money

You don’t need to make your side project as big of priority as your main job.  Even if you plan on only spending 30 minutes a day working on the side gig, that’s fine.  It’s still something and it’s still beneficial.  If you don’t already have a Github, I suggest creating one.  It’s a great platform to showcase your projects.

Not sure how to get a side project?  Make sure you read my article which includes tips on how to get a side project as a programmer.

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Write The Best Code Possible

Take pride in the code you write.  Make sure that it’s clean, clear, and concise.  It’s not just about taking pride in what you’re writing.  You’ll earn the respect of your co-workers too.  There’s nothing that frustrates me more than having to read other developers “spaghetti code” that lacks notes.  Commenting your code and keeping it clean can go a long way.

If there’s a program your company has that currently has “out of date” code, offer to help.  Take things like this as an opportunity to improve your code-writing abilities.  There are plenty of resources out there that can help you learn on how to improve existing code and also pick out bad code.  Reading other programmers code can help you learn and develop too.  I’ve actually looked through projects on Github when I was a junior developer, just to read the code.  It helped me to learn more about how languages I didn’t know about were written.


Above All – Have A Great Attitude

Having a great attitude is the best way to succeed.  Take constructive criticism well, be polite, be eager to learn, etc.  I try to stay positive no matter what when I’m at work.  People even comment on that, it’s pretty funny.  Being positive will make you well-liked and that’s important when it comes to career advancement.  You want to be the type of developer that your co-workers want to interact and work with.  Treat your team members with respect, and you will get it returned back.

Don’t get too bent out of shape when you make mistakes.  I happened to run an SQL query to update everyone on a certain medical plan, and it updated all the plans instead.  It happens.  The best way to grow and deal with these issues is to handle them gracefully and like a professional.  Take care of the situation, apologize, fix it, prevent it from happening again.  Everyone makes mistakes.  That’s life.  You learn, and you move on.  I have been through it myself.  We’ve all been there.


Figure Out What You’re Interested In 

A benefit of starting out as a junior developer is that you have time to figure out what you’re interested in.  When I first started programming, I wasn’t sure what path I wanted to take.  Did I want to be a specialist?  Or, did I just want to learn general fundamentals in several languages?  Luckily, even though I was new in the IT professional industry, I had time to decided what I wanted to focus on long-term.  I’m lucky it came so easy to me.

As a junior developer, figure out what you actually enjoy working with.  For example, do you enjoy working with databases?  If so, that might be something to look into specializing in.  On the other hand, if you enjoy web design, you might decide that you want to become a web-developer in the future.  You don’t have to choose one specific area, but figuring out what your main interests are will help narrow down your options.  It will help you for future career choices as you grow into a mid-level developer position.


Recognize When It’s Time To Move On

I’ve seen too many people stay at the same company when there’s no room for advancement.  Guess what?  They’re being taken advantage of.  Their boss is dangling a carrot in front of them that will lead nowhere.  It’s a shame.  People are worth more than staying at a dead-end career.

My best piece of advice is to have a clear picture of whether there’s opportunity to advance where you’re at.  This could be anything from a pay bump to a new title, to a promotion.  If there isn’t, you need to be ready to walk.  Obviously don’t walk after only working for a company for two months.  I’m saying if you’ve been working for a company for a year or more and there’s no clear sign of advancement, explore other options.

Don’t be afraid.  Don’t hold back on taking risks because you think “you’re not ready” or that “you’re not good enough”.  You are.  The real risk is not leaving a dead-end job to better yourself.  Trust me on this.


In The End 

Overall, advancing as a junior developer doesn’t have to be hard.  Sure, there will be bumps along the way when you’re first starting out.  It’s all part of the journey.  Asking questions, getting guidance, and figuring out your passions are key to growing as a developer.  All these things are what helped me to succeed.  Remember, you’re not alone.  Everyone starts somewhere.  By keeping up with some of the best-practices listed above, you should be in a mid-level developer position in no time.