Filling engineering roles is hard and takes a long time, and yet entry-level and early-career software developers also often have a very hard time finding their first role, many companies only looking to hire mid- and senior-level engineers.
I understand this hesitation. It takes a fair bit of time and commitment, and there is a period of time where they slow other teammates down more than they’re able to make up for with their contributions.
But this time period is so short, and can be made up for in spades if a team is intentional about supporting them well.
This is why I think my last point here may actually be the most important: “Junior engineers don’t stay junior engineers for long…”
The thoughts here are mostly my own, from being a junior engineer myself, from having conversations with so many other junior engineers over the years, both those whose first jobs have been great and those whose first jobs have left something (or a lot) to be desired. I can’t speak for everyone — these ideas might work for some people and not for others. The best thing you can do, no matter what, is ask the junior engineers how they want to be supported. Understand that they may not know the answer at first— that’s why I’m offering some starting points here. But once you’re rolling, check in with them periodically to ask what’s working and what’s not, and be open to their feedback.
Our industry has so much to gain from hiring and retaining new batches of junior engineers, including (especially!) those from non-traditional backgrounds.
Have other thoughts or ideas from your own experience? I’d love to hear them!
Have a single go-to person for questions
Giving new engineers one specific person who will be their go-to for questions can make the prospect of asking questions at all significantly less intimidating, especially if they’re told that that person is expecting it. Even though frequent interruptions can slow down your other engineers, if junior engineers are made to feel like they’re a burden for asking questions, they’re significantly less likely to ask questions, which will slow down their progress and be detrimental to everyone in the long-term.