It's been nearly a decade since I started college for illustration, and even longer since I was beginning to take art seriously. Being new is exciting, but I had just really forgotten what it was like until I got into coding again this past year. Even with a rocky start, coding has been so satisfying for me every time I could overcome and make things work. Being new means many things, but could it also be bad for me if I stay? Ideally I want to advance, I'm looking for jobs still, but I find myself a little lost at times. I still feel too new to give myself responsibility, but tired of self projects in a bubble. Here are my thoughts on positives and negatives of being a beginner, at my current stage.
There is a saying that goes a variety of ways and I can't seem to find it again, but it stuck with me and it works like this: A beginner knows that a mountain is a mountain. An intermediate knows that a mountain is not a mountain. An expert knows that a mountain is a mountain.
A beginner does not know all the things they don't know. Seems simple, right? How can you know everything you don't know? However, if you've reached an intermediate level, you know for a certain fact the breadth of knowledge you don't possess. There's a lot more thinking involved in trying to navigate what you're learning and what should be important, a lot of theory on how to best learn. Beginners just learn and learn without thinking because they can never run out of things to learn before they become intermediates. When you start running out of things readily available to learn at every corner and have to begin searching, you have reached the next level. But before then, you just simply don't know. Everything you learn is something you know and it's that simple.
The problem with this is that I feel like it can lead to underestimating of your knowledge. Because you don't have a clear sense of what you don't know, you can think you're such a newbie you shouldn't be trusted when in fact you are more then capable and should be held to increasingly higher standards. You might miss out on opportunities because you feel like you don't have the experience, when you really could do a job at your level.
As you learn about code, you also learn about opportunities. I want to code! This is what I thought when I started, but now it seems like a silly sentiment. You want to code what exactly? Front-end, Back-end, websites, application, data analysis? Maybe I want to actually be a Developer Advocate as well. I simple just did not know the difference or the existence of these opportunities when I started, and while I still have endless possibilities, it might be time that I moved into a specific path.
While a newbie, the idea of a job or being a working professional seems like a far off dream. You can't really be preparing for a job you don't know about. Can you? I say that I want these jobs, but I haven't taken the time to consult someone and really analyze what's best for me, because I still feel so new. It doesn't seem like it's time yet, but it's possible that it's been high time to narrow your search for what you want to be for awhile, you're just not aware of it yet.
When you are new, you make a lot of mistakes. This is a natural part of learning, and fixing mistakes can help you accelerate your learning. Knowing what not to do is just as important as knowing what to do. If you make a mistake as a newbie, no one will (well some ruder people will) harm you for it. It's to be expected, and it seems like a lot of people are willing to help you see the light.
You have a lessened responsibility as a newbie. If you make a mistake it's because you're new. But what if it wasn't? What if you really are more capable then you think, and you're still making mistakes? This can be a fear that can stop you from advancing to the next level. The more you know, the more responsibility you have to make sure you're doing it right. That can be scary, and it's much more comfortable to call and declare yourself as a newbie for longer then you intend.
It means I might be on the cusp of entering my developer's puberty. Realistically, if I'm looking for jobs I want to convince them that I'm not just some newbie, but why then do I still label myself as such to everyone else? Having grown up once before for a previous career, I am more aware of the difference between intermediate and beginners. I know, therefore I have fear. Growing up means more responsibilities, and it sure is more comfortable not having those!
What's the solution to this?
I don't know.
I'm still a newbie, remember? :p
In actuality though, I have an idea, I just haven't acted on it. I should be looking for guidance at this time, though I am hesitant to be a bother on anymore nor do I have the money for professional mentorships. Reaching out in a non-annoying way is almost as hard as having responsibility it seems.
Anyways, I was inspired somewhat by these articles about knowing what level you are, and I suggest you give them a read!
I also want to give thanks to Ali Spittel for taking a look at my portfolio and helping to answer questions I had about where I should be at this moment. This moment of clarity helped me think harder about my current level.
If anyone has any advice for someone in this transitional period, please, I'm all ears!