Lies Juniors Hear: “we need someone to hit the ground running”

When you’re chasing your first job in development, there are so many things you may already be nervous about.

Will there be a coding test?

What should I wear?

What tech stack will they talk about?

How dumb am I going to sound?

Where even is this office?

But the latest trend going around is what you’ll hear in your feedback. Usually after you’ve had one or two rounds of interviews. You may have even survived the tech test. And they call you up. The feedback is great overall. Then the but… comes:

We need someone with more experience. We need someone who can hit the ground running.

Ok so it’s not always a lie.

There are many benefits to hiring a developer who has worked for a few companies. You’d generally expect those developers to be used to working with large code bases, understand how to work in a team, independently, understand how to function in a workplace. Never mind the assumption that someone else will have trained them so the hiring company won’t need to worry about them too much.

But those are all assumptions a hiring manager makes. And even though that feedback may knock down your confidence (how could your few self taught projects compete with a seasoned developer, right?) I’m going to tell you something:

Being paid to be a developer does not make you a good developer.

Years of “commercial” experience is just another filter junior developers have to work their way through.

You see, developer roles can vary.

A lot.

Someone with 20 years experience may automatically qualify as a senior developer on paper but in practice they may have as much knowledge as a junior.

For example, let’s say Fred the developer works at the same company for 15 years. We’ll call the company TechXYZ. TechXYZ likes to have each developer work on one application, which is built using the same tech stack as when it was created. It keeps things simple, if there is an issue you just go to the developer who is responsible for that application.

Fred has worked on the HR2ME application since he started and while he has considered converting it from WinForms it’s just.. Never happened.

And because Fred has never explored any other tech stack, his CV is says he has 15 years experience but it’s actually pretty minimal. It would be difficult to integrate a developer like Fred into a new company which has several projects, trials different tech stacks and expects a lot of team collaboration.

On the other hand, an “inexperienced” developer could have the knowledge about new technologies. They may be able to come into a company and introduce a new framework or bring a new perspective as a fresh pair of eyes.

In my experience, when I started at my first developer job I was surprised that senior developers were just being introduced to React. I was not an expert by any means, but I had assumed that since I had been taught it that it must be a universally used framework (that was before I became entrapped in the world of dot Net!).

So while you’re job hunting as a new developer I would offer you this advice: don’t be put off by the idea that you don’t have experience. You do have experience. Have the confidence to back yourself up and challenge that idea, by highlighting areas you have taught yourself, worked to your own deadlines, and your self motivation.

Because once you get your foot through the door, you’ll be the “experienced” developer.

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