Programming is one of the fastest growing industries. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates development and programming jobs to grow 17% from 2014 to 2024 which is faster than the majority of other industries. Even if you don’t have a computer science degree, you can make a career for yourself as a programmer.
With so much information just clicks away nowadays, you can learn how to program on your own time as long as you have some basic computer skills. Actually, you’ll probably never stop learning. As a programmer, technology is always changing, and what works today probably won’t work a year from now.
If you want to land a quality job as a programmer, you need to start learning. Because there’s a lot to master, it can take a while to feel you’ve reached an expert level where you can start applying for programming jobs. If you want to learn how to program faster, you’ll need to put your best foot forward with these 7 tips.
1. Stop waiting for the right time.
A lot of new programmers put of actually getting started because they’re waiting for the right time. In the age of the internet, there is no “perfect” time to jump in. Yes, it’s overwhelming when you don’t know where to start, but you need to actually get started in the first place.
The sooner you start playing with code on your own, the faster you’ll be able to master this skills. Think of coding like learning a language. This is the language of computers, and like any language, you need to know the rules and start trying them for yourself.
It’s not enough to know the basics. You need to also play with the code, learn how to make it work for you, and start experimenting. You’re going to make mistakes. Actually, you’re going to make a lot of them. This is good! This means you’re learning. Just make sure you get started.
2. Revisit the programming basics.
As we said before, programming is like learning a language. Like any language, you need to know the basics. You’ll likely need to keep learning these basics over and over again until they feel like second nature. Even then, it’s okay to keep revisiting them over time as you learn new skills.
The elementary skills are what forms your foundation. If you don’t have a strong foundation, you’re going to be prone to mistakes later in your career. No matter how competent you feel you are with parts of coding, don’t’ skip the basics. Make sure you save them somewhere so you can come back to them later.
3. Code by hand.
We all know how numb our brains get when we stare at a computer screen all day. Step away from the computer and get out old-fashioned pen and paper. Start writing your code and think about every line individually. Even though it’s hard, try not to check your code while you’re writing it. Put your critical thinking skills to work and test your understanding.
This is actually a great practice to get into since writing by hand is a standard of many job processes today. When you finally go in for that interview, you’ll be confident and ready to write by hand. It’s a true show of mastery.
4. Use online resources.
The internet is a wonderful resource for new (and experienced!) coders. You can find a multitude of online resources from YouTube tutorials to GitHub. You can find courses that will take you step-by-step through mastering this process, or you can just look for tutorials as you find yourself facing new questions.
One of the most beneficial parts of online resources is that they’re always changing. You can learn about anything from free log management to Amazon Cloudwatch. In this competitive market, you need to know as much as you can about the latest trends and industry changes. Thanks to the internet, this is possible.
5. Escape the samples.
Using sample code is a great way to learn. GitHub and other platforms make it easy to find new sample code to use on your own, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t push beyond this. Let’s face it: sample code isn’t learning. Understanding the code on the screen and actually writing the code organically are two different things.
As a programmer, you need to interact with your code on a deeper level. That means writing it yourself, testing it, and learning from your mistakes. If you’re not ready to write organic code yourself, start by altering sample code. Write new lines, make changes, and start building on what’s already there. This will help you grow as a coder until you’re ready to go solo.
6. Know when to ask for help (and when not to).
Asking for help is an important part of being a programmer. Sometimes you really do need a helping hand to get the ball rolling, especially if you’ve been stuck for a while. That being said, you shouldn’t jump on a programming forum the second you run into an issue. There’s a lot to be gained by working through these problems on your own.
Realize that as a professional programmer, you’ll need to know how to manage your own problems. Troubleshooting is simply a reality of working with computers. If small challenges trip you up or frustrate you, this might not be the right career path for you.
While you shouldn’t feel like you can’t ask for help when you really need it, don’t abuse it. A lot of the coding world is based on collaboration, so asking for help will teach you to work with a team. However, always try to work on your own bugs by yourself first to see if you can work it out naturally.
7. Step away from the screen.
Coding can be addictive, and this means you need to know when to step away from the screen. Yes, working on lines of code and bugs will help you learn faster, but there is such thing as burnout. You want to keep your mind fresh so you can tackle new problems with confidence, so know when it’s time to call it a day.
It’s easy to spiral into negativity if you’ve been struggling with a bug or error for a few hours. Let your mind refresh. Turn off your computer and do something else. Go outside, take a walk, or even just scroll through your phone. Anything that gives you mind a much-needed break.
Programmers need thick skin. Things will go wrong. Sometimes, those things are out of your control. As a programmer, you’re a problem solver. It’s okay if you need a break to clear your head for those problems, and it’s okay if you need to walk away sometimes.
Landing a Job
If you want to land that programming job of your dreams, you need to be willing to put in the work. While anyone can code, it’s still a lot of hard work. Not everyone will be up for the challenge and ongoing learning.
The best way to learn is to simply sit down and do the work. It’s a lot of practice and patience, but it’s well worth it. As long as you use these 7 tips above, you’ll overcome the doubts and find yourself with an exciting job offer.
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