How to Build an Online Presence as a Junior Developer
Sam Jarman 👨🏼💻 Jun 27 '17 Updated on Sep 30, 2017
As a developer in 2017, it’s important to have some form of online presence. This could be a GitHub (see my recent post), a blog, a vlog or simply just a Twitter account. I think gone are the days of Gamertags and secret online identities, and those acting as their true selves online, giving real, justified opinions, earn more respect. Subsequently having better careers as a result. Developers are makers by nature, but this doesn’t (and shouldn’t!) apply to just code, so creating content online to assist your career is well worth having a go at.
So, what, as a developer could you create for online? Twitter is trivial, LinkedIn you probably already know about and GitHub we’ve talked about. But how about a blog? A blog is a great way to share your long-form thoughts and they’re very easy to set up.
Getting Started with Blogging
“But Sam”, you ask, “What do I write about? I’m a junior, I don’t know anything yet?”. Exactly.
You need to document your learnings, not create advice for others based on what you’ve learnt. Stop reading here, and go watch Gary Vaynerchuk’s Document, Don’t Create video.
Back? Ready to start? Cool. Just go to Wordpress.com or Medium.com (OR THIS WEBSITE!) and start typing. What are you learning at the moment? For example, I was learning Elixir recently (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). Simply document your journey as a developer learning more and more. As you learn something, you’ll most like have some really interesting discussions with people also familiar with the topic, and that’s the really awesome part of being online — talking to strangers about cool stuff you both like! Employers will read this and think to themselves “wow, this person really likes X, and is making an effort to learn.” It’s easy to say you’ve done some reading on X, but if you have a blog post and a GitHub project to back those few hours of learning up, it’s so much more believable. Plus, writing about it really solidifies your learning, in the same way writing a talk does.
Creating not really your thing? Try distribution as well or instead. Find any good links recently? Share them! Distribute what inspires you. Write an entry every week or so of your top 10 links you found and a few sentences about what you got out of them. Some people call these Newsletters (PS, I love Charged!). Once again, It’s great to say you follow HackerNews or r/Programming, but have you really ingested the content, enough to form your own opinion on it? What do you think? What would you have done in that situation? What’s your take? Once again, the immediate benefit to you is comprehension of the content, and the benefit to others is a digest and summary of content they might not have time for.
So, you’re coding, reading and writing, and sharing a bit online, but who is your audience? Well, start simple, and start with your friends. They’ll hopefully be able to understand the content you’re putting out and give you feedback on it to improve. Once you’ve done that for a few months, you may have the courage to post to Reddit or Hacker News. There’s really no downside to this, but the chances of harsher critique are higher. Prepare for that, it can be very off putting, but it’s worth trying to get to the root of the critique and take it onboard.
As for a platform, if you’re writing for developers, you need to post your content to the places of the internet where developers go for developer stuff. This would be r/Programming (or a more specific subreddit), Hacker News, HackerNoon.com, Twitter and Slack groups. You probably won’t have much luck on Snapchat, Instagram, but that’s not to say these platforms aren’t good for showing off a bit of your human side (also, send me pictures of your pets please).
Keep it Human
No one likes a robot’s writing and commenting, so do inject a bit of personality into your content. Obviously, anyone can document learning about X and first impressions, so what makes your content stand out is you and your personality, and that’s what people keep coming back to. The nature of your online presence counts. Sometimes, this online presence can be known as a Personal Brand. And while that sounds like a logo and some graphics, it really isn’t. It’s about being an authentic you and treating others how you would like to be treated.
Keep it respectful
As a warning — It is as important to conduct yourself online the same the way you conduct yourself in person or with colleagues. I believe it is important to maintain an online personality consistent with the most respectful form of yourself and your passions. What you create and post online are hard to remove and hard to be forgotten, and anything you post may come back to bite you. More and more now, people (and employers) are using your online presence to judge a person and their personality and likeability. What we see of you online is important, so do think before you post.
I hope this has encouraged you to give content creating online a go. I’m, of course, happy to help in any way I can as well. If you want to read a bit more, the boot that really got me off my butt and start taking blogging serious was Gary Vaynerchuk’s “Crush It!”. While a few years old now, it’s still a great, short read. If you do end up making something, I’d really love to see it! Good luck!
Following folks on dev.to has always been key to customizing the kind of content you're more likely to see in your feed and notifications, but now that we have DEV Connect I feel like there is even more we can do by following folks with shared interests and willingness to be helpful.