Five tips after five years in the industry

Introduction

Five years ago I got my first job. Many things have changed since that. I learned a lot of new things and gained working and career experience. I changed several jobs, met many new people, and work on different kinds of projects. Today I will give you five tips from that period that you can use in your career.

Learn concepts, not definitions

After finishing school, university, or boot camp, some people still have that ‘school’ mentality when they start to work. Most of the time, at school, you are learning things to get good grades or to pass an exam. Usually, you forget most things after a few days.

This is not how you should do at your job. You don’t need to learn definitions or even read everything from documentation or books. You should understand concepts in a more general way so you can apply that knowledge in the future. You will not have any tests and you will not be fired if you don’t know the answers to everything. You will have time to learn about some things that are important for your job.

When you are reading and learning about some topic you should learn it in a way that you can easily explain that topic to somebody else. Sometimes you will have to make a presentation about your research and explain it to your team or even to the whole company. You can check any tech talk on YouTube to get a general idea about it.

Google is your friend

It really is. Everybody is using it. Whatever you don’t know, look that up on Google. Maybe don’t look up your medical symptoms, it will tell you that you are pregnant.

But seriously, knowing how to use Google is an excellent skill to have and it makes you independent of help from other people. If you are stuck on some task, try to google other people’s ideas or check if somebody implemented something similar in another programming language.

If your IDE threw you some error message, you should copy it and paste it into Google. There is a high chance that others had the same error and somebody wrote a solution to that.

There are so many other things you will use Google for. I already wrote about some tips for better Googling in my previous post, you should check it up.

Learn to say NO

May is mental health awareness month and there are some things about the workplace that we need to talk about more.

It is really hard for some people to say ‘no’ without feeling anxious, guilty, bad, or uncomfortable. Especially if they just started working on a new job. People don’t want to say ‘no’ because they are afraid of other people’s reactions. That is usually mentally exhausting. However, you need to know that it is not your thing to worry about how other people will react to ‘no’. If you don’t say ‘no’, people will (unknowingly) abuse that, usually for their own benefit.

Of course, I am not saying that you should say ‘no’ to everything but only to things that you know are not right and you know 100% it should be another way round.

Also, you can’t just say ‘no’ without any explanation. I would suggest you use one of two templates, depending on the situation:

  • No, (I won’t do that) because I think…
  • Yes, (I will do that) IF…

The first one is used when you know that something is wrong. In that case, you need to explain in detail why it is wrong until you prove other people wrong. You need to have good arguments about why you think something is wrong and also sometimes you can propose a better solution.

The second one is technically a ‘yes’ but you need to request conditions to be fulfilled before you start doing that. Until conditions are fulfilled, it is still ‘no’.

I will give you some examples, so it will be clear:

  • “No, we should not deploy the new version of the application on Friday because there is nobody in the office during the weekend in case something goes wrong.”
  • “No, I will not hardcode something in the database because it will probably cause problems in the future”
  • “Yes, I will change that button if you open a ticket for that and the designer sends me a new design.”

As you can see, you would get in trouble in the future if you said ‘yes’ in the examples. There is a high chance that things like this would repeat in the future because other people are used to that. Don’t hesitate to say ‘no’ when you think you are right. Be patient and explain your arguments in a kind way.

Don’t stay overtime voluntarily

This one is pretty simple. If your contract says that you need to work 8 hours per day then don’t stay overtime if you don’t need to. Of course, there will be times when the deadline is near and something is not done yet so your whole team will work overtime. But in that scenario, somebody asked you to work overtime and you will be compensated for that.

Staying overtime on your own rarely benefits you, even if you don’t have anything better to do. Everything can wait for the next morning. Your free time and rest are very important. Your time on this planet is a limited resource, don’t gift it to some company.

Leave for a better opportunity

This is something that I did very often. You come to some company, things are going fine at the beginning, you are enjoying your time there. However, after some time you notice that some things are not okay anymore. Things can go ‘wrong’ pretty fast. It can be poor management decisions, lack of people and overworking, low salary compared to the job market, etc.

It does not matter what is the cause of the problems. I would suggest you talk with your superiors, point to them those problems and ask them to fix that. If they don’t fix those problems or if they promise to fix them but always delay then I would just leave.

I know that changing jobs is not the most pleasant thing in the world but you are doing that to improve your situation. This is especially important for people who stay at their first job for a long time, no matter if the situation would be better if they change the job. Don’t ignore red flags and step out of your comfort zone for a bit. The grass sometimes really is greener on the other side.

I already wrote a lot about this problem in my previous post – When is the time to change your job?

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