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  • Lokajit Tikayatray

The Average Developer’s Guide to Career Success

Updated: Nov 26, 2023

I recently got a message from a colleague at work asking if I could mentor him. Let's call him Sam (not his real identity).

Sam was looking for some career advice, feeling stuck and frustrated. He felt like he was putting in a lot of effort but wasn't getting ahead at work. He wanted advice on how to improve and get the promotion he deserved.

We decided to sit down for a mentoring session to hash things out.

As soon as we got into the session, a wave of complaints and frustrations started pouring out. He felt undervalued and overlooked despite burning the midnight oil consistently.

Sam said his hard work and significant contributions were invisible to others. He was not getting the much-deserved recognition and career success.

"My manager doesn't understand," he sighed, a mix of exhaustion and exasperation. "I've put everything into my job. I work late nights and weekends, immersing myself in code and projects. But it feels like I'm running in circles, with the recognition and promotion I deserve always out of reach."

When I suggested that there's more to career success than hard work, he seemed taken aback. In fact, he became defensive.

Sam believed he was doing everything right. But the results did not align with his expectations. And this mismatch was difficult for him to accept.

I could recognize the common sentiment of frustration in Sam's voice. Countless hard-working average developers often feel unrecognized for their efforts.

Sam felt upset because he believed in the myth that working hard always leads to promotion. When the formula didn't work, he assumed that the system was set up to work against him.

Here’s the deal: No one cares about your marathon coding sessions or how many hours you give to the company.

If you want to achieve career success as a software engineer, then you need to understand the right way to approach your goals.

Recognize the Unseen Efforts Behind the Curtain

Like Sam, many struggling software engineers think others have it easy. But that's not true.

Everyone hustles and puts in effort in ways not always visible. Many software engineers spend tons of time improving their skills. They connect with others, practice presentations, do coding exercises, and improve their visibility.

They work on all this without much fuss or spending long hours in the office.

Hence, assuming that others have it easy is a misconception that leads to frustration. Instead, you must focus energy on how to enhance your ability to perform better.

To avoid making the same mistake as Sam, remember that career success isn't all about hard work. Showcasing your contributions and achievements to your team and superiors is equally important.

Taking appropriate action in this regard can help you get recognized and promoted.

Break Free From the Loop of Monotony

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results – Albert Einstein

Sam is stuck, doing the same tasks day in and day out, waiting for a miracle. But waiting around isn't a strategy. Miracles in career success don't happen. You need to make it happen.

If Sam wants different outcomes, he needs to change his approach.

Many software engineers find themselves trapped in a similar cycle of monotony. They expect their plain hard work to translate into career progression.

But, if you continue to work hard without any improvement strategy, you are doing it wrong.

You must break free from this unproductive loop that chokes your progress. Instead, create a growth plan and take proactive steps toward your career goals.

To do so, first, find the skills gaps that are holding you back from moving up in your career.

Since you’re stuck, get a mentor to spot your weak areas. Get their help to set clear, achievable goals that you can measure in short intervals. Next, create and follow a step-by-step plan, adjusting as necessary by regularly evaluating your progress.

This proactive and planned approach to self-improvement will get you out of your rut.

Implement Small, Impactful Changes

You don't need grand gestures or massive leaps to achieve extraordinary growth. Small, consistent changes can have significant impacts on your career trajectory. Sam and others who struggle with growth need a mindset change about how they view promotion.

Most of the time, subtle, continuous improvements lead to meaningful, positive changes.

Apart from that, it's important to express your thoughts and work well with others. Developing collaboration skills helps you stand out and move up in the organization.

Remember, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. To grow in your career, start by making small, intentional changes in your daily work.

Act, Don't Overthink

Many software engineers never get past the starting block of their growth plan, much like Sam. They trap themselves in a maze of overthinking and procrastination. They wait forever for the "perfect" moment when someone will hand them the opportunity.

This approach is fundamentally flawed.

Here’s the deal: Action breeds clarity and insight.

When you don't take concrete steps to improve, you limit yourself to being a spectator. You watch from the sidelines while competent engineers continue to succeed.

All you will be doing is criticizing the people who are trying. Instead of fixing your approach, you keep feeding your ego by finding fault in the system. This will only make you more negative without any growth.

By taking action, you progress and learn valuable lessons for professional growth. Without action, you're stagnant. And stagnancy doesn't lead to promotion or recognition.

Embrace Open-Mindedness

A lot of software engineers, Sam included, won't ever tap into their full potential.


They lack something fundamental: open-mindedness.

Remember how Sam became defensive when I pointed out that hard work alone is not enough to get a promotion?

Most average developers believe they have it all figured out. They remain stubborn and refuse to consider new ways to advance their careers. This rigid mindset holds them back as opportunities pass them by.

Open-minded individuals are willing to take risks. They embrace new ideas, try out strategies, and are eager to step out of their comfort zones.

But let's be honest: changing your mindset isn't a walk in the park.

It requires acknowledging that you've been on the wrong track. Maybe you've been a bit naive or even delusional about your career trajectory.

Accepting this truth requires humility and a willingness to see things differently.

In the end, it all comes down to your mindset.

If you let daily frustrations and blind pursuit affect your mindset, you won't get a promotion. Working sixteen hours a day without being open-minded will lead to burnout and disillusionment. Sam's situation proves this to be true.

So, here's your takeaway - be daring enough to keep an open mind. Embrace the principle of continuous learning and improvement. Navigate your career smartly to avoid getting stuck or frustrated.

Conclusion: Average Developer's Turn to Shine

For every average developer feeling stuck like Sam, remember: hard work is not enough to get a promotion or career success.

Sam has realized it. That is why he sought a mentor who could guide him in the right direction.

If you want to break free from your losing streak, you, too, must change your approach. Put in the right effort and strive to work on improvement. When you do this, you will enhance your skills and find new growth opportunities.

For all the average developers out there, career success isn't as far away as it seems. You can succeed in your career by having a positive attitude and taking action. All you need is the right guidance and the mindset to go from being ignored to being celebrated.

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A must-read guide for junior developers to succeed in their career


What is the typical career path for an average developer?

The career path for an average developer typically begins at a junior level, progressing to a senior position, and then advancing to lead or managerial roles. Achieving career success for an average developer requires a commitment to continuous learning, actively networking within the industry, and consistently showcasing one's achievements and contributions at work.

How can an average developer achieve career success?

An average developer can achieve career success by improving technical skills and understanding the business aspects of their role. Networking with peers and superiors, actively seeking feedback, and effectively communicating the value of their contributions are also crucial for career advancement and success.

What sets successful software engineers apart from average developers?

Successful engineers often distinguish themselves from average developers by proactively seeking and utilizing feedback, engaging in continuous learning and skill development, effectively networking within the industry, and adeptly navigating workplace dynamics. These qualities are essential for achieving career success and standing out.

What should average developers focus on for career success?

Continuous skill enhancement is critical to achieving career success as an average developer. This includes staying current with industry trends and best practices, networking with other professionals, and developing soft skills like effective communication and teamwork. These elements are crucial for career advancement and recognition in the workplace.

How important is networking for an average developer's career success and promotion?

Networking is crucial for an average developer's career success and promotion. It opens up career advancement and professional development opportunities, providing access to valuable industry insights and connections with experienced colleagues and professionals. Networking also enhances visibility and recognition within the workplace and the broader industry.


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