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Invest Now, Not Later: Growing Junior Developers

Part Three in the Series: Increase Your Stock by Investing in Your Future Struggling to find qualified candidates for a senior technical position? Your company is not alone. The market for senior technical employees is drying up. Searching the job market for individuals with lots of experience has become both tedious and difficult. This challenge […]

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October 30, 2018

Part Three in the Series: Increase Your Stock by Investing in Your Future

Struggling to find qualified candidates for a senior technical position? Your company is not alone. The market for senior technical employees is drying up. Searching the job market for individuals with lots of experience has become both tedious and difficult. This challenge can be explained in one sentence: Not enough companies are hiring junior technical workers. You may be asking yourself, “What does the junior tech market have to do with the senior market?” Well we can’t have senior people without first starting with junior people, can we? Here’s another question for you: Have you struggled to keep senior technical employees? This has also become a problem with some firms – their top-valued employees are leaving for other opportunities. Let’s take a look at how we can solve our two problems by hiring more junior developers.

Before we continue, here’s a little bit of stock market wisdom that has a great parallel to our situation: “Time in the market is almost always better than timing the market.

In financial terms, this simply means there is value in investing early, rather than trying to wait until you get the price you want for something. So, how does this relate to hiring senior employees?

What’s In It for You?

You will need experienced talent when building the company, this is true. Yet, by hiring more junior employees – along with some more senior assets – you will be securing the future of the firm.  This reliable strategy for building talent is where you are “investing now” (to bring us back to the stock metaphor) because you are effectively investing in a younger employee with more time to grow and mature. As a junior developer’s career continues to progress, your company has a great opportunity to show this new-to-the-industry individual why they should stay with your company for as long as possible. If you can accomplish that goal… you’ll have a senior resource (eventually) that will know everything there is to know about your company and domains. The value of this cannot be understated.

Time for the Payout

Your company will also see “returns” on this investment in the form of company loyalty. When you show someone new to the industry that you care about their success and development, they will respond in kind. It’s not necessarily a conscious decision, but it’s an intuitive one. Caring promotes caring. This loyalty can be in the form of better brand representation, higher retention, and a much more natural form of business development.  As an example, have you ever heard someone talking about their employer so positively that you felt compelled to look them up?  That’s what I’m talking about.

Continuing the clearly-overused-analogy of the stock market: if hiring junior talent is the “investment”, then consider the returns over time, such as loyalty and in-house domain advantages as “dividends” that payout and provide consistent value. However, the ultimate return on this investment will be entirely dependent upon how much work and care you put into those junior developers. The more you invest, the more you’ll see a payout in the end.

How to Make it Work

If it was as simple as “Hire more junior developers and reap the rewards,” then everyone would do it. Growing junior developers takes a little more effort, but it is worth it! There are a few key things a company needs if they’d like to build a foundation of junior developers into great, senior resources.

  1. Compatible mentors: The junior developer will need a mentor to show them the way. Not just any senior person is ready to be a mentor, though. Check out our blog post on what makes an effective mentor.
  2. Planning: Your company will need to devote time and energy to making sure the junior developer has the right tools and people available to help them grow.
  3. Space: Giving a newcomer the opportunity to grow requires a low-stress environment where they can ask questions and stumble on their own without huge repercussions while they learn. This understanding is part of caring about their growth.

If your company can get these components together, then you will have the winning formula for building junior employees into senior leaders that love your company!

You Aren’t the Only Winner

All of the above explanation shows how your company wins (not to mention the career of a newly passionate individual also wins) but there is something even greater going on here. Remember how we all agreed that the market for senior technical talent is shriveling up? Well, what if more than a few companies decided to invest, as you should be, in junior developers? Give it a few years, but that market will explode, and we’ll have a very healthy industry. In short, everyone wins!

We can see that no matter which strategy you employ – hiring only senior talent instead of growing junior into senior talent – you will eventually have some experienced developers, but wouldn’t you rather have senior developers that represent your brand well, and know about your business more than anyone? It’s well worth the up-front cost of hiring some new people.

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This blog post is part of our “Increase Your Stock by Investing in Your Future” series. Here, consultants at Excella’s Extension Center (XC) at Virginia Tech share their experiences developing an award winning internship program, lessons learned, and tips you can apply when building your own program!

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