Don't sell yourself short
Imagine yourself back to the interview table. You’ve just graduated from university. Or you’ve just done a coding bootcamp. Maybe you’re in your first two years as a developer.
You are, what the market calls, a junior developer.
Now, you know there’s this strong belief that junior developers are a burden to their employer. It’s on everyone’s lips. It’s on the recruiter’s who’s sitting in front of you. It’s on your lips too.
Nobody knows why. But everybody’s droning on about it.
Well, this is bullshit. And you’re in for a raw deal.
“The market is tough right now” and other fallacies
When I started looking for my first gig, many developers told me it’d be difficult.
The market is tough right now.
Companies don’t hire junior developers like they used to.
Teams want fake juniors: technically skilled, battle-tested, unwilling to properly negotiate their comp package.
At first, I didn’t pay attention to these. But after a few weeks of meeting people, I started to have second thoughts. After all:
- I’d never had a job title remotely related to coding.
- I was super picky about the team I’d joined.
- I have polarizing opinions (albeit diplomatically expressed) and, I say “fuck” a lot.
The more interviews I did, the more I felt like a burden to everyone:
We’d be investing a lot of money hiring a junior developer. We wouldn’t expect any return on that investment for the next 3 years.
(Note how they just - unsuccessfully - tried to talk me into not asking a raise for the next three freaking years?)
Then, out of all these sentences, one struck me as my escape route:
Since you’re a junior developer and have limited skills, we’d give you $some_amount per annum.
This is was my ‘aha’ moment! 💡
What changed? I realized that companies were only assessing my value out of my technical skills. Employers were overlooking my previous 15-ish years in the workforce and perceived me as a complete tenderfoot - something I couldn’t accept.
I decided to push back, own my story, bring attention to my full skill set, and move from the cost centers (“We’d be investing a lot of money hiring a junior developer.”) to the profit centers (“Sure, come on work with us and take our money. Please?”).
I believe that creating value is much (much) more than increasing revenues or cutting costs. But most companies don’t share that point of view.
You really want to be attached to Profit Centers because it will bring you higher wages, more respect, and greater opportunities for everything of value to you. @patio11
Show it or it doesn’t exist
Here’s a list of my non-tech skills and how they affect my technical work daily.
Writing: I love writing. I love when words chime and rhythm, and take me someplace else. So I try and write code that’s expressive, articulated and easy to understand.
Museology: After working in museums for years, I’m officially a nerd when it comes to taxonomy. This has proved handy when searching for the appropriate level of abstraction in code.
Design: Studying and designing stuff throughout my life has been one of my greatest joy. It’s taught me how to listen to problems, deconstruct them to first principles, and to find creative yet down-to-earth solutions. I also learned to be less domain-dependent and find inspiration everywhere. 1
Craftmanship: I worked for four years as a stained-glass master. During that time, I restored stained-glass from the 15th to the 20th century. There I nourished my love of building things, of honing the know-how, of patience and minutiae.
Entrepreneurship: Running a business for years has proved useful when dealing with employers. I can put myself into their shoes and avoid a paradox Calvin (as in Calvin and Hobbes) pointed out:
Even though we’re both talking English, we’re not speaking the same language.
- 15-ish career: Finally, working for 15 years has taught me a lot about working with people. And this proves an invaluable asset every day. Try and put a bunch of ego-loaded developers and business developers in the same room for 2 hours and see what happens.
Each of these skills, I talked about during interviews. I defended them and showed what they would bring to the table.
Find your skills
I can already hear you say:
But Remi, I don’t have any skills.
Well, let me prove you wrong, friend.
Make time in your schedule (a couple of hours at least). Grab some pen and paper. You’re ready?
Now, I want you to list every fucking job you’ve ever done in your lifetime. Next to each entry, list every task you’ve done and what you learned from it.
Worked in a pizza parlor? You’ve probably learned a lot about diplomacy, toxic managers, and being client-facing. So write it.
Got the garbage out for years at your parents’ house? This is dedication. Write about it.
Worked on a piece of software instead of getting a CS degree? You value real-world experience over grades. Write about it.
Write everything. First, this will give you a master list of your skills that you can return to. Secondly, when someone tells you you know nothing, it’ll remind you that they’re wrong (if only Jon Snow had made such a list).
Mine is four pages long, and I add stuff on it once a year. It’s always a treat to go back to it. So go and do yours now.
How do you feel about it? Lemme me know on Twitter. Noticed something? Create an issue on GitHub.
Many thanks to the people on dev.to for sharing their perspective on this topic.
Some of the design-y stuff I love: medieval stained-glass, frescoes, and architecture, the Bauhaus (hand-in-hand form and function), nature (waves building up, geological folds, forests), Fra Angelico, etc… ↩