How to stand out from the crowd as a Junior Developer

A lot of friends would think that, due to the shortage in developers on the labor market, they would get hired as soon as they graduated, just by being there. The truth is, although companies are fighting to find developers, they’re above all fighting to find good developers.

I’m not talking about those companies dreaming of junior devs with the salary of a junior and the skills of a senior (let’s ignore them!). But what I’ve noticed is that companies are really searching for developers with some so-called soft skills as self-management, will to improve, organization, learning capacities, curiosity, team skills, readiness for change…

Also, as you may have no or little work experience, they need to know they can invest time and money in you.

Below are a few tips to feed your resume and your LinkedIn profile even when starting your career in IT.

Don’t assume they need you

I can really see a lot of friends having graduated in computer science, thinking a company will hire them just because they exist as a grad in CS. Then blaming it on the lack of experience or stupid recruitment tests or whatever for not getting offers.

Fact is, companies would lose money if hiring someone who won’t integrate in the development team or will not be willing to learn new things or can’t show ability to do so. You should work on differentiating yourself from the people who did the same studies. Especially because school doesn’t always prepare students enough in certain fields.

Here are the things I encourage you to do. Not all of them can apply to you, but according to what’s relevant to your situation, the field you want to work in and the needs of your local labor market, you might want to pick some.


I know some will argue about this one. Public speakers would often take the position that juniors shouldn’t specialize too early, should learn high-level concepts, and then later on find what they like. That’s not my point of view and that’s not how I decided to act. You pick…

This one really depends on your career goals. I, myself, could see ending my career as a Java Rockstar. That’s precise! So I decided to work hard on Java, because I love the language. I passed certifications, I did courses again and again on the topic. I used to be really stubborn and focus myself solely on Java. Which on the other hand was not totally stupid as there is a huge need for Java developers. As a perfectionist, I couldn’t accept to work with Java without having deep knowledge of the language.

At some point, understanding that particular technology allowed me, little by little, to apply the same concepts to other languages. Once I was at ease with most concepts, I could slide to other technologies to work on a bigger picture. Today I’m really open to learning new languages. At the same time, I can pass harder Java tests easier than most developers with my seniority.

Even though you might not want to focus that hard on one technology, being in front of a recruiter and saying that you’d take any job in any field just shows low interest and motivation, unless you can prove different and justify why is that. And apparent lack of motivation is really what’s making a lot of fellows lose opportunities!

On the same record, knowing your career goal also make good impression. It’s not necessarily about knowing the exact path you want to take (it might be, but not a must). But showing that you can project yourself in your upcoming career is reassuring for the employer.

There’s a huge difference between “yeah I don’t know, I just like to code…” and “Well, I’m really curious about DevOps, I wish I can learn some about it in my job and find out if that’s my interest” or “I think sharing experience is key in our field and I totally see myself being the lead dev and showing Juniors their way around“. If you’re not able to come up with such ideas, it might be that you need to find what you like more precisely, or investigate on the developer ecosystem. Developers who “like to code” are everywhere…

Do and show

You’ve heard it before, and that’s only because it’s true: do side projects, and show them. Prove that you can think of a problem to solve, start a neat project and go to the end. Start small, no one is going to read a hundred files of code anyway. Even just coding a utility class, or finishing a guided project (like the ones at JetBrains Academy) that you can show on your public Git and explain during an interview is far enough.

People often fear that their projects are too dirty, but I think that’s mainly because they start huge ones directly instead of doing a few little ones. And as a Junior, you’re not expected to know it all and to produce something perfect! Just being able to explain your way of thinking, show that you can use a git repo, explain things you had to learn to achieve your goal… is a great thing to bring to an interview, or to showcase on your resume and LinkedIn profile.

Each training is an opportunity to create and finish a project (which will lead to next point), as long as it’s not a copy-pasting that tons of other people will be able to display too and you did learn and understand.

Trainings and course (but wisely chosen)

Additional trainings and courses you may take are great assets. It shows that you’re aware of what your education lacks, that you want to learn the latest technologies, and that keeping up with innovation wouldn’t be a problem for you, in an always changing world.

On the other hand, if I had to recruit someone, I would much more value a profile with few courses, but relevant to the person’s goal and to current needs, than someone who does a lot of courses randomly. Let’s be honest, if you’re doing a lot, one might think you’re half paying attention and just want to stuff your resume with a huge list of courses. If you’ve done just a few relevant courses, and you’re able to explain how it made you evolve, that’s way more interesting.

Some certifications are also assets. Again, make it relevant. When I see someone with 15 years of Cloud experience bragging about passing the Azure fundamentals, it raises a lot of questions in my head (are those the level of challenge they’re willing to give themselves? have they learned things, while they’re supposed to be expert in the field? are they passing certifications just to brag?). When I did pass that certification, me not having technical background, not yet graduated, having focused a lot on development, having learned on-prem technologies in school, it showed that I had interest in new technologies, I knew what’s hot, I had the bases to understand cloud development.

Same thing when I see grads who brag about the Oracle Java discoverer badge while they’ve had hundreds of hours of Java development in their curses. Makes me think that they’re really insecure about their knowledge, so how could a recruiter feel otherwise?

My point is, not every course or certification will add value to your profile, and if you’re doing it just to check your level, it might not be worth sharing.

Learn English

If you’re reading my really wordy article right now, I assume your English is pretty good. Anyway, the more you can read, write, speak and understand English, the better. Developers isolated in a corner only reading documentation is over. They’re now part of a team, which is part of a department, which is part of a company with customers, partners, stakeholders, suppliers…

In a lot of companies, you’ll be expected to communicate (yeah, I know, painful, but that’s something you learn) in various contexts. For me, reading is an absolute must, because all the documentation is in English, then writing, for internal e-mail communications, to contact supports, and to post clear questions and answers on Stack Overflow! No kidding here.

Soft-skills and previous experiences

Never underestimate the importance of soft-skills. If you lack some crucial ones, work on them! You shouldn’t change your personality for your work, but there’s a sane balance to find here between being who you are and being functional at work, with other people, following some frameworks… For example, can you work with Agile methodologies?

This also means that any soft-skill you have is worth showcasing. You’re not expected only to be a technical beast, but to integrate in a functioning team. You have what it takes? Bring examples with you.

If you have previous work experiences (might also be an internship, voluntary work, scholar clubs…), those can also serve as examples of you putting your soft-skills into action or achieving things the way you were expected to. Even if no tech is involved, you can usually find examples of leadership, team collaboration, organization… you experienced.

Write about it

Had you not noticed, I’m a big fan of writing. I know that’s not for everybody. Others would also prefer the podcast or video format. Anyway, if you like writing or publishing podcasts/videos, showcasing your interest in IT is a great way to advocate yourself. I’ll let you read that article on the Stack Overflow blog, “How writing can advance your career as a developer“. Julia Evans laso wrote a great post about how to write to help others and why you are legit to write even if you don’t know it all.

Tech watch

Tech watch is really important. During. Your. Whole. Career. It means keeping up with the news in the field (either generally or, especially, in your specific domain). There are tools to subscribe to newsfeeds (blogs RSS feeds, Twitter aggregators, Google news…), which you can easily find be doing a little search (I cannot give references myself as I don’t use them). My thing is to follow “influencers” on LinkedIn. Sad enough, very few Java influencers are to be found on that network so don’t hesitate to share my posts there ðŸĪŠ.

For Java news, I follow JetBrains, as they publish monthly an aggregation of the latest news about Java (they do it for several languages their IDEs work with). As they sponsor Java and Spring related events, I can know about them thanks to their feed too. There are also groups of interest on LinkedIn which you can join (this one about Java eg). For JavaScript and Angular news, I follow Minko Gechev. For AI, I follow Reaktor. I also follow a few Java Rockstars, Java advocates, and Oracle employees. And Microsoft (know you enemy… kidding… kinda…).

On Facebook, I follow the Java magazine and I also subscribed the newsletter. On Youtube, I subscribed a few channels of Java and Spring related conventions, who publish the videos afterwards in free access! I also like a lot the content of Julia Evans (Wizard zines) and subscribed to her newsletters. She also does great content about evolving in your tech career (thinks like how to communicate with peers and your boss, getting a problem solving mind, writing about tech..).

Those are just accounts I found, probably while looking for some information. Most companies have their own blog. The articles might be about pure tech or about market news. Whenever you find an interesting blog or account, subscribe to their updates some way or another, and share interesting insights on your own medias (quoting the source) or share articles/posts directly.

When you’re being interviewed, as a Junior you cannot master 15 technologies, but just being able to say “Yes, I’ve heard of Kubernetes, I know it does that and it can work with this, I’ve watched an introductory video, but I haven’t used it yet” is way better than “No I don’t know what it is I haven’t learned it at school“.

What about the degrees?

Having a degree in computer science, or related field, is not always mandatory, although some companies still make it a must-have. I know this is specific to my situation and cannot be taken as universal truth, but I was able to get two jobs in IT before I graduated from evening classes, without any tech, scientific or mathematical background/degrees, and in both cases the proposal for interview came to me. I made efforts to improve, I dedicated time to my goal, I knew where I was heading, I showed motivation. I didn’t search for excuses or give up before giving it a try.

No career start is easy, whatever the need of the market. Anything you can do to stand out from the crowd will be rewarded.

And those advises are not to be dropped when you get a job if you’d like to get better and evolve.

Then good stuff, making efforts will also allow you to ask for more money! Read how to estimate your value and get that salary you deserve.

Pictures are from Pixabay cover marbles

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