You’ve just graduated or completed a programming course and are looking for a vacancy to apply for. However, it looks like you can’t get a job offer without previous experience and you get stuck thinking about how to become a proficient junior Java developer and start a career.
In this post, I will share several reliable methods for solving the problem of insufficient hands-on expertise. So, you’ll end up having a working approach to improving your skills. Let’s look at what you can do to get a junior developer position in the company.
The first step to gain hands-on experience while mastering programming languages is to work on independent projects. I first recommend contributing to an open-source project, then starting your own project, and, when it is ready, sharing it on Github.
In the beginning, avoid choosing complex projects or ones requiring more profound knowledge. Everything needed for a junior Java developer is practice. Once you feel less or more confident about your skills, it’s high time to scale to advanced ideas. You can make most of the projects by listing some of them in your CV. This way, you can demonstrate your skills to potential employers.
Even though most job openings feature certain numbers of years of experience, it’s not the main requirement. Hiring managers often take notice of the specialists who have a clear idea of how to work with their own and someone else’s code. They also expect applicants to be good at using different tools.
Hard skills in one way or another must also be accompanied by soft skills, such as empathy, the ability to collaborate, and effective communication. To improve your soft skills, learn to work together with other programmers on projects that would respond to real problems and require that you stick to real deadlines.
With soft skills and a desire to learn and grow professionally, you can be interesting to employers even if you have a lack of specific tech skills or a strong theoretical base.
When students start to learn Java or any other programming language, they are often offered to build their own projects to hone their skills. These so-called “pet” projects show that a future coder is engaged in programming and interested in continuous professional growth. Other than that, these personal projects add weight to specialists’ CV.
For junior Java developers, having personal projects under their belt is often desired or even mandatory. Potential employers expect them to be eager to code and learn.
So, at the beginning of your journey, I recommend writing the projects to practice as much as possible so you have something to present during the interview. Think about a project that could solve a real-life problem for yourself or for someone you know. If it has some clear use case and/or idea of commercialization, it would look even better and may attract hiring managers.
Here are some of the project ideas you can take into account.
Your own version of popular games, such as Minesweeper, Snake, 2048, tic-tac-toe, or even Super Mario Bros or Flappy-Bird. You can try to create clones of the first three games using the CodeGym Game section. The platform contains 15–20 subtasks that make up each game task. Once the last subtask is completed, your game is ready and you can publish it and share the link with the other coders to get feedback.
- Currency Converter. This project will let you practice Java on building a calculator for currency exchange. When the converter is ready, the user will be able to input one currency and get its equivalent after selecting different currencies.
- Billing System. If you’ve ever thought about establishing a system that would automate bill calculation, this project is a way to go. After you build the one, users will be able to get the bill once they enter the item, price per item, and its quantity.
- School Management System. The idea of building SMS is to connect students with mentors and allow tutors to implement a money management system for the institute. The project gives you the possibility to master Collection methods in Java and OOP concepts.
- Sports Management System. This project will help you create a system for scheduling and handling sports-related events. The administrator collects information about events, players, and prizes. Users can access players’ details and subscribe to events. After subscription, they will be informed about the coming sports activities via email.
- Recipe Management System. Like the previous project, the recipe management system has both users and administrators. Users submit their recipes for publication, while the admin decides if they can be added to the system.
- Inventory Management System. This is the system that helps businesses keep track of stock, product sales, and purchases. With a good bunch of built-in modules and features, they can apply any possible changes to the items in the database.
- Library Management System. LMS allows establishing a database with electronic files and putting together all the information about books and borrowing records over there. Multiple modules included in the system make it possible for both librarians and students to find the necessary book without trouble.
- Banking Application. When working on a banking program, you will code corresponding operations by requesting the necessary details from users. You will also learn Scanner class, String basis, variables, loops, and other concepts while working on a project.
The truth is junior Java developers often experience difficulties finding a full-time job. In this case, they can start with freelance websites to gain practical expertise and find paid projects.
However, I still feel ambiguous about freelancing. When junior Java developers start working individually, without being supervised, they are more likely to employ bad practices. What they need at the beginning is to do freelancing in the contractor part-time job with a team and a tech lead. The tech lead usually accepts the developers’ tasks, reviews their code, and gives constructive feedback.
Other than that, a good team lead forces the specialists to do good planning, research before coding, do thorough testing, and encourages them to learn new things all the time. In this well-organized workflow, a poorly-written code is not allowed into production until it is cleaned up.
If you don’t feel you can handle a project all alone, join a team of developers. The specialists may have the same skill set and level of knowledge or they may have more qualifications. The choice is yours. Working in a team involves collaboration and knowledge exchange, which allows you to progress faster. Besides, programmers usually support each other, and this makes the team members stay motivated.
There is no doubt, teamwork is important and helps a lot, but you still should be careful choosing the project you want to join. Newbies, due to inexperience, happen to share bad practices one to another, which may hurt their future studying.
This is where mentorship is a way to go. It is quite common that one or especially a group find a senior programmer who would be their mentor, supervise, and guide them. Another way is to share the code in the community and ask for feedback.
Now that you have a diploma or completed course certification, as well as independent or personal projects under your belt and teamwork experience, it’s the right time to put together your CV and apply for Trainee, Junior, or Graduate positions. You should be well-prepared: put a well-done educational project on, accompany it by CV, solve some leetcode tasks, etc.
Don’t get upset if something goes wrong during the interview — remember the questions you could hardly answer, correct mistakes, and try another interview. One more attempt and you’ll succeed. Only those who don’t even try won’t succeed.
So, now you see that programming is all about practice. That means you should code regularly and work on as many projects as possible to gain that practical experience requested by recruiters. The projects may vary from group open-source to individual ones — the choice is yours.
I hope everything that I’ve mentioned in this post will help you figure things out and choose the methods best suited for you. Share your thoughts in the comment field if you have other ideas on how to gain hands-on experience.
First published on Java Revisited.