Skip to main content

Job Lesson 5: You Start Losing Options

·5 mins
Table of Contents
This is the last part of the 5 Lessons after 5 Months of a Full-time Job series.

Finally, the fifth thing that I’ve observed in my short time working as a software engineer is that I already feel like I’m losing options. What I mean by that is that despite being a junior software engineer, I’m already starting to feel scared when I think about trying to do something different. This sounds like path dependence is already in play 😬.

I find this quite interesting. I haven’t even been doing this for a year, I’m clearly no pro at it, and yet I already feel like this?!? I would love to think that this feeling is resulting from me being better at my job, hence feeling more confident and competent at it, but I don’t think that that is the full story. I feel that there are also some general lazyness and comfort-zone shenanigans going on!

When I think about some other jobs I was considering before, for example more businessy stuff like consulting, something in me immediately responds with “Ehh, think about how much more you’d have to deal with people, that’s exhausting…”, or some other negative thought1. I think that just demonstrates that despite being in what I’d consider a team of quite well-rounded people, there are obviously some skills you’d develop more in some other jobs — you are just getting used to what you’re doing now, and slipping a little into your comfort zone.

To reiterate, on one hand, this is good, as it shows that you’re getting more comfortable with your job, but on the other hand, it shows opportunities for improvement. I like to consider myself a well-rounded person, but in the past years, I’ve also started recognising that some of my skills are now mostly only my ego being stuck in the past:

You don’t use it, you lose it.

That is the mantra — and I really think that it’s true. I used to be good at many things, and many of them are fading away. For example, I used to do quite a lot of presentations in front of people — now I do it much less, and when a recent opportunity to speak in front of multiple peaple arised, I was surprised at how nervous I got! “Whoa, this is not me!”, I thought. But it is. In some areas, it’s much more objectively obvious to see. Just as I can’t frontsquat 100kg now like I used to, I similarly am slowly losing a myriad of different skills that I’m not currently using.

That sounds sad, but hey, what can be done about it 🤔?

I think the answer to that is to never stop learning, and balance the learning of profession-specific skills with the ones you’re not actively cultivating in your job. That is, obviously, a difficult task, as there is always too much stuff to learn, even just in your job, but I think that proactively expanding the scope of your work can be helpful here.

Even as a software engineer, you can find opportunities to write, record videos, or to do public speaking in various forms, or you can learn more people skills. I think that the latter is useful in pretty much any walk of life, and probably pretty crucial for those that want to transition into management later on, no matter how technical the given field is.

Returning back into path dependence, I also think it might be sensible to look at people around you, and think whether you want to end up like them in a few years. Not only can I see some truth to statements like “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”, I think that people don’t realise how easy it is for one’s life to be shaped by support structures. Looking at people around you, in particular the senior ones, not only as professional role models but also as a vision for your future self might be a good test to whether you’ve chosen the right team, company, or even the right career!

Conclusion2 #

Taking up a full time job can be a daunting experience. You will most likely be battling imposter syndrome, experiencing significant life changes, and generally having a lot of scary stuff going on 👻. Just make sure to do small, continous improvements, rather than big steps. It will all start making more sense as time progresses!

After my first week at the job, I was “complaining” to a friend of mine who is a senior engineer at a large company that there’s so much stuff that I don’t understand, and that it is so overwhelming, and he told me: “It just takes around six months. After that, you’ll be familiar with enough to feel much better.”

It has now been more than six months, and I can wholeheartedly confirm that that is indeed the case. The world still ain’t all sunshine and rainbows yet, but it’s slowly getting there 😎☀️🌈!

  1. Even more interestingly, I’m also starting to feel this way about data science/ML/or even general engineering, which are things I spent four years studying at uni! ↩︎

  2. Of this series↩︎