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Developer Careers Guide 18: Hack your career – join a developer community

For all new developers, the crucial first step on the path to a successful career is getting their first job. If you have just got your first job you are probably, and quite rightly, feeling pleased and proud. Your job and your new colleagues will be central to the path your career takes but there are many things you can do outside the workplace to hack your career, so you get the most satisfaction and reward from it.

The single most important decision you could make is to join the right community outside work. RecWorks has set up, and actively supports, communities that could be just right for you as a new developer: the London Java Community (LJC) and the Front Endgineers London (FEL). These communities are free to join, and require no commitment from you whatsoever, but offer plenty. They are welcoming and supportive, so there is no need to be nervous if you have never been to a meetup before.

Learning opportunities.  One issue everyone in the software industry faces is that the ecosystem is huge and fast-moving. In your day job it’s likely that you’ll get deeply into a fairly limited range of technologies, so how do you follow everything new that comes along? How do you decide which new technologies you need to learn?

The LJC and FEL both run meetups in London, with events where you can hear from industry leaders about what’s hot. There are both introductory and more in-depth talks to suit different levels of experience and interest and, of course, opportunities for questions afterwards.

The communities also send out regular event lists, with details of talks, workshops and coding groups being run by other organisations that you might not hear about elsewhere.

Networking opportunities. There are good reasons why you should develop a network outside your workplace. Forging links with like-minded people is a sure way to hear more about what’s going on: what people are thinking, and what opportunities are available. With a strong network, you have access to trusted second opinions, and people you can bounce ideas off, and this can only benefit you as you develop your work and interests. The LJC and the FEL are perfect places to start building your personal network.

Every meetup session has huge networking opportunities. Even if the subject of the meetup is very technical there is always time to chat, and what better way to meet people you are going to enjoy talking to than at an event that is of mutual interest?

In addition, the LJC and FEL jointly run the Developer Sessions on Tour; friendly, sociable evenings sometimes in a pub very near you (the location changes every time). These are designed to be really relaxed, informal evenings where you can just chat with other developers, do some coding, or even chat about job prospects and the job market with a representative from RecWorks, if you’d like to.

And more…

Some of the activities in the communities can lead directly or indirectly to more visibility for you, more opportunities to do the things you love and potentially an increased reputation in the industry.

Give lightning talks. Becoming a public speaker is one of the best ways to become known in the industry. If you join the LJC you’ll be able to hear lightning talks on a wide range of subjects, and flex your own public-speaking muscles by giving a short talk yourself. This could even be your first step to finding an audience on the international conference circuit. We have written a post on lightning talks in the RecWorks blog where you can find out more.

Mentor/work with school/student coding groups. There are plenty of opportunities to help mentor and support budding young developers, and the communities can help put you in touch with the right groups. While the direct benefits to you may not be immediately apparent, working with young developers is in fact an awesome way of finding out how other people interact with different languages and technologies, and this can give you insights that you can use directly in your own work. In addition supporting mentoring schemes will definitely help to develop the community vibe in our industry as a whole, and increase your professional network. An example of a mentoring opportunity is given in this post.

Blog. Do you have a blog yet? If you do, do you struggle to find material to include in your posts? A great way to get started and to gather material is to get along to community meetups. Conversations nudge your thinking in new directions, and open up new ideas which is all potential material…

Another superb way to start blogging is through writing book reviews. After all, the decision on what to blog about is made at the moment you choose the book to review! There are added bonuses: knowing you want to write a review is a spur to get books read, and you will also focus and clarify your thoughts and opinions through the process of planning your review thus getting more out of the book. We explain more, and tell you about the LJC Book Club, in our post on book reviews.

So – get involved in a community today! There really is nothing to lose and everything to gain.

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