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8 Mistakes That Can Ruin a Software Developer’s Career

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At CodeGym, we talk a lot about software developers' careers and how they can be long, fruitful, and full of opportunities if you invest enough time and effort into learning programming skills and getting practical experience. And it is generally true, as most developers are satisfied with their jobs and careers. We have previously mentioned that according to the data from job website Indeed, Java developers are the least likely to leave their profession among all professionals in general, not just in the tech sector. Their career-switch rate is less than 8%, while for the software developer profession in general it’s 27%, and for database administrators, for example, it’s 35%. 8 Mistakes That Can Ruin a Software Developer’s Career - 1Even when offered a higher-level managerial position, the majority of Java coders just don’t want to give it up. This proves that for the majority of coders that went with Java as their main programming language, it turned out to be the right bet. That being said, however, being a software developer is not so different from other professional careers in terms of general dynamics. Most developers have ups and downs throughout their careers, good choices leading to professional growth and bad ones resulting in your career being stuck or entering a decline. Bad choices and career mistakes software developers, both beginners and experienced coders, tend to make throughout their careers is what we would like to talk about today.

Junior Developer’s career mistakes

Let’s begin with the ones that are more typical for Junior software developers, although, generally speaking, programmers are prone to make them at any point of their careers.

1. Not being able to estimate what you’re worth adequately.

This is quite a natural problem to have when you’re just at the beginning of your career and don’t have enough experience and knowledge to estimate what you are realistically worth on the job market. It goes both ways, as Junior developers tend to underestimate and overestimate themselves. Those who overestimate themselves typically expect too much from the job they have, and their behavior reflects that. It is also frequent for beginners to underestimate what their knowledge and skills are really worth. As a result, they accept the first job offer they get and end up working for months and sometimes years for a much lower salary than they could be earning.

2. Ignoring soft skills.

Neglecting soft skills is quite common among software developers in general, but the most damage this mistake tends to cause to the developers in the beginning stages of their careers. Many programmers just think that having well-developed soft skills is not so important to their professional success. The latest data shows they are increasingly wrong as the importance of soft skills for software developers is on the rise. According to a survey conducted by consulting firm West Monroe, 78% of HRs and recruiters said they have become more focused on finding tech professionals with strong soft skills over the last several years. 43% of HR professionals surveyed also said that technology roles are harder to fill because candidates lack strong soft skills.

3. Failing to develop a career plan.

Developing a career plan and updating it once in a while is important if you are looking for quick career growth. The developers who don’t have a career plan typically tend to be stuck on the same-level positions for much longer.

4. Failing to accept criticism and feedback.

Being able to accept feedback is actually quite important for all software developers, as this allows them to gain a better understanding of their weaknesses, which is essential to achieve fast progress. Junior developers tend to make a mistake by taking negative feedback personally, and this affects their professional growth.

Middle and Senior Developer’s career mistakes

Middle and Senior Developers also make a lot of career mistakes. Here are some of the most typical ones.

1. Sticking to your technology stack.

As the software development industry is ever-evolving, professional software developers need to constantly learn and evolve with it if they want to stay successful in their careers. Those who stick to the same technology stack throughout the years and don’t learn new things eventually end up with outdated knowledge that is not in such a high demand on the market.

2. Staying in the same job for too long.

Even though having a long multi-year career in one company is still respected and viewed as an honorable thing to do, for software developers this typically ends up being a career sinkhole. Staying in the same job for many years will unavoidably limit your professional knowledge and expertise, making you less fit as a software developer looking for new opportunities on the job market.

3. Jumping jobs too often.

Switching jobs in software development too often, however, is also a mistake that can damage your career. It’s as simple as this: finding and hiring qualified specialists takes a considerable amount of resources for any company. So they are typically not willing to hire people who are ‘job-jumpers.’ They say that staying with one company for 4-5 years is an ideal time period for a software developer, 2-3 years is also acceptable, but switching jobs every 5-6 months is generally not.

4. Moving into a management role.

It is not uncommon for a promotion, which moving into a managerial position usually is for a software developer, to end up being their ultimate career brake. Being a good manager requires a set of talents and skills that most programmers don’t possess by default. When a great software developer turns into a poor business manager, this can set his/her career in both fields into a downward spiral.


Traditionally, let’s sum it all up with some interesting opinions on the matter from experienced software developers. Here are some additional career mistakes to avoid as a software developer. “Not thinking about the business perspective of your company. I have read many questions like: “Why does ASP.NET have 3.6% market share when Node.js has only 0.6% and offers much more performance than ASP.NET?” The reason is pretty simple, you don't think in the business perspective of your organization, but in your own preferences, you need to adapt to their needs and re-skill whenever you can to make your company better and help yourself to have better opportunities if you one day you need to move to another company. This second point happens very often and that's why the management doesn't want to give you any funds,” Federico Navarrete, a software developer and IT consultant, points out. “Following the hype for new trends/frameworks/languages and believing that I have to know it all. Wrong. Find and specialize in specific technology (or product) that you like and be able to sell on the market and stick to it. As long as it sells, you are in business. Specialization is a critical component of your success. Treating my code as a part of my identity, or my creation/masterpiece, or my baby. Wrong. Don’t ever get attached to your product. Whatever you create will be changed, overwritten, deleted, removed, become obsolete, ignored, disliked. It doesn’t matter, just let it go, don’t try protecting it. Your code is not your identity,” said Lena Keri, another experienced developer. “Accepting a job without having a private talk with someone already in the company with the (approximately) the same position. The people actually hiring you may have no idea of how the workers feel, or they may have a very idealized view. I’ve accepted a couple of job offers I shouldn’t have because of this. Waste of time and enthusiasm. Saying yes to more than you can handle workload wise. When taking on too much or too complex work, you position yourself to fail. You can put in a lot of very good work, but when you don’t meet deadlines, features or quality, that is what you get remembered for,” added Larry Stanson.
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