Today – trainees, and tomorrow – senior. What could be wrong with self-esteem in newbies

There are two types of novice specialists: one – underestimate themselves and are afraid to take on more difficult tasks, the second – dashingly rush forward, forgetting about the real lack of skills and knowledge. In the first case, it is important for leads to motivate the guys and regularly reward the Juns for a job well done. What to do with others?

QA Engineer at NIX and a speaker shared his personal experience NIXMultiConf Sergey Mogilevsky.

I have been doing testing for five years, for the last three years for group leads and for two years for lead testing on a project. I solve complex technical problems and manage the management of the wards. I’ve noticed that some IT newbies overestimate themselves. They take on what they cannot do, in the end they fail and let the whole team down.

In this article, I propose to figure out why this is happening. These tips are great for leads who want to help their prospect evaluate themselves objectively. It will be useful for the beginners themselves who want to change and find out their real strengths and weaknesses.

Disclaimer: The examples and considerations below do not apply to absolutely all trainees and juniors. Rather, it is one of the possible scenarios.

Understanding the “symptoms” of high self-esteem

I often come across a situation when QA trainees come to me for training and after six months or a year they consider themselves to be extremely competent. At the same time, a real skill tester is constantly being shy, believes that there are still kilometers of professional path ahead. This “disease” is called the Dunning-Kruger effect. About 20 years ago, the American professor of psychology David Dunning, together with his graduate student Justin Kruger, deduced a pattern: the lower a person’s expertise in any area, the more they tend to exaggerate their skills. Such a syndrome of high self-esteem.

And now it’s the same thing, only in IT. As QA I will talk about testers, but other areas have suffered a similar fate. Let’s imagine a typical QA trainee. A fourth-year student (s), studying a profile specialty (for example, “Computer Security”) and knows how to program a little. The picture can be supplemented by factors such as “passed QA courses X” or “a friend works for company Y”. This gives the newly minted specialist confidence that he is, if not the best among all trainees, then at least 5% of the best. Getting into the team, he (she) grabs onto everything. The trial period is easy. Already you can call yourself a June, and then, you see, three months will fly by – and you are middle. But such a position is destructive for a beginner, and from experience I will say that it has never been useful to anyone.

A candidate should never speak disparagingly about his profession. I do not recommend going to an interview with a position in the spirit of “I do not have enough developer skills yet, but for QA work, you still don’t need to know anything difficult. I’ll spend a year here, finish my studies, and then I’ll go to look for another job ”. This is a deliberately false path. I described a slightly exaggerated position. But from personal experience, I often came across this attitude among the guys.

It is alarming when a person speaks about his expertise from the position of “I have mastered perfectly” or “I have excellent command” with a real experience of a couple of months. These people usually have a standard plan:

  1. Find a team.

  2. “Outgrow” it in six months.

  3. Try to get an extra raise with the same team.

  4. Go somewhere else.

  5. Repeat from step 2.

I believe that without at least three years of experience with a particular tool, in 100% of cases this is false confidence. Of course, the guys can be so green that they themselves do not understand what strange things they say. It can be difficult to cooperate with them, but it is possible. How exactly – we’ll talk further.

Tips for Lida: How Jun can help him evaluate himself objectively

Communicate regularly and give feedback. Communication is a key aspect of working with anyone. If you frankly discuss criticism and problematic points in the work of a young professional, such a conversation will help him to begin to sensibly evaluate his strengths and skills. Because of the lack of communication, a person will continue to “cook” in his own conjectures and alone experience resentment against colleagues.

Give Jun the opportunity to be independent. A newbie should have space for personal ideas from time to time and different ways of how to organize their daily work. This will allow him to see the strengths and weaknesses in different tasks, help him understand what specifically lacks skills, and what needs only to be tightened up a little, and everything will be fine.

Constantly show possible paths of development. In a team, the leader must demonstrate through his own experience where he can grow after three, five and ten years of work. It is important to convey the idea that you can develop in any direction and the career ceiling is still far away. For a young specialist, there are unique opportunities at every step. Try new technologies, frameworks, tools. Even from a seemingly standard project, you can squeeze out a lot of useful information.

Offer completely different tasks if the person is convinced that they have outgrown their current position. But choose from what will really be up to him. For example, if some type of testing is not yet used on the project, invite the specialist to try new tools and approaches. There can be several stages: study the tools, show the concept, calculate costs and ROI. There is always the possibility that uncovered areas in a project are not a deliberate decision, but a missed opportunity. And it’s never too late to catch up.

Listen carefully to the person. If he is very persistent in his statements that he has outgrown all the current tasks, and the project situation does not indicate this, try to re-assess the level of his skills soberly. Perhaps this particular June is the brightest star that every team wants to get, and he strives with all his might to show his interest in more complex, creative tasks. In the meantime, you do not help him to develop and give exceptionally simple, uninteresting tasks. Just pay attention to what your ward is focusing on.

Always leave a chance for error. People tend to be wrong – this is the norm. Blunders help us to assess our capabilities and abilities sensibly. It is imperative to remember this. Lead, like any other specialist, is not omnipotent. He cannot know in advance the answers to all questions and always make decisions without mistakes. So it is with the junami. By allowing a person to tackle a difficult task, a lead gives him new facets for development and improvement, a chance to show himself (in case of success) or helps to see growth zones (in case of failure).

Maybe in the text I sound like an angry and even offended guy who barks at students. In fact, I am trying to convey an important point. Yes, it can be difficult with junami. Some want everything faster: jump between companies, “get offers” and “relocate abroad”. There is no getting away from this. But the situation is not hopeless. In most cases, any difficulties in working with a beginner can be fixed if the problem is noticed in time. Someone leaves the team without having understood themselves, without speaking the critical moments with the lead. Attention to the ward and his initiatives, regular communication with a young specialist help him to objectively assess himself and, gradually increasing his skills, move up the career ladder.

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